Political influence is the power sought for by politically active persons like legislators, ministers, leaders, etc. For some persons it is a source of enjoyment for its own sake, while for others it may be a means to determine or affect a policy.
Power is the capacity to produce intended behavior. This capacity can be exercised on the basis of coercive or non-coercive sanctions. Force is based on coercive sanctions. Influence is related to non-coercive sanctions. Both are the two main forms of power. However, some regard power as a form of influence, and other treat influence as a form of power. They appear different when power is identified with force, and influence as unrelated to power. Influence and force, both are treated as variants of power.
Influence is persuasive. One submits voluntarily to influence. Influence does not require coercive power. It is attached to an idea, a doctrine, or a creed. It has its locus in the ideological sphere.’ Christ, Buddha, Marx, Gandhi and the like had influence. By ‘influence’ is meant ability to get others act, think, or feel as one intends. From this point of view any cooperative activity – any organisation, formal or informal, ephemeral or lasting can be looked as a sphere of influence.
Lasswell uses the concept of ‘influence’ in a generic sense: ‘The study of politics is the study of influence and the influential. He is aware of the distinction between power and influence. According to Lasswell, ‘influence is the value position and potential of a person or group. It aims at affecting the policies of others by persuasive means. Rowe includes power and authority in the concept of influence.
Political influence is the power sought for by politically active persons like legislators, ministers, leaders, etc. For some persons it is a source of enjoyment for its own sake, while for others it may be a means to determine or affect a policy. It intends to decide what interest it shall serve, of what value, and with what form of expression. Political influence is unevenly shared. Often a vast majority wields very small influence, whereas a small minority, known as the elite can rule over a whole political system. Catlin has observed that influence contributes to building up a control system, especially of a consensual, habitual, or cooperative order.
It is distinct from ‘command’ and ‘coercion’. It has potentiality, but remains on the verge of power as coercive force. It is rather potential power, less than actual control. Potential power appears in persons or groups when someone evokes their attention on some just and suppressed cause. Such causes often stand in suppressed, secondary or unconcerned manner.
They are not immediate but mediate or next to currently conflicting causes. Probable potential power (PPP) exists among a very large number of un-organised people. It belongs to masses. It may erupt in an organised or unorganised manner. Even state power may stand helpless before its avalanche. Successful influence is a form of mental control: authority, leadership, political party, legitimacy, etc., are its various manifestations.
In a general sense, as ‘capacity to induce behaviour’, both power and influence are identical. In order to conceptualise both as one, we propose to use it as ‘Power’ (with capital ‘P’). Analytically, ‘power’ as capacity is a noun while influence is both a noun (fact) and a verb (process or activity). In the elaborate explanation of interrelationship between power and influence, both views can be adopted.
The power view regards influence as a form of power, which is largely indirect and unorganised. Some scholars like Weber, Maclver, Bierstedt, etc., take wider view of power. Morgenthau views all politics as struggle for power. Others distinguish two variants of power, as coercive and non-coercive. In politics, non-coercive power is more important than coercive power. The influence view observes influence as an all-pervading phenomenon. The second view also involves two perspectives.
One finds all behavioural changes as related to influence. Rowe finds it an umbrella concept covering power, authority, etc. According to him, power is coercive influence. The other view is specific, and acknowledges both power and influence as independent variables. Influence is different from power in the sense that man voluntarily submits to influence, whereas power requires submission. Karl Marx and Gandhi had influence, not power.
Influence in this sense does not require power. Power can exist without influence. In politics and political organisations both are found in a mixed form, as m actual practice influence also has power and vice versa, though consequences differ in nature and impact.