Here, ‘Power’ has been used in a popular coercive sense. It is separate from Power in general sense. Power as ‘force’ is indicated by the small first letter: power. It is force, based on physical sanctions or severe deprivations. Influence is non-coercive power, mainly persuasive.
Both power as coercive force, and influence as non-coercive power, can be distinguished in the following manner:
1. ‘Power’ (as force) is coercive. It carries severe physical sanctions which can probably be applied in power-situations. When power is exercised on a person or group, there remains no alternative available to him except complying with it. Influence is psychological, persuasive and voluntary. A person or group under influence always has alternatives while accepting a particular compliance. It is persuasive and imbued with milder sanctions.
2. ‘Power’ remains with the power-wielder in an independent manner and makes him autocratic and undemocratic, as it is exercised against the will or wishes of other person. If not legitimate, it invites counter-action, either in the form of counter-power or counter-force. Influence is dependent, being relational. In a way, the influencer plays a greater role than the influence. As it is accepted voluntarily, its legitimacy is implied and is totally democratic.
3. ‘Power’ is based on fear of pain or deprivation, as the power-wielder stands against the values of the other party. When it is exercised, influence ceases. Influence comes out of similarities of values or ideological commonness. When influence operates, there remains no need of force or coercion. Both are antithetical to each other.
4. ‘Power’ has greater limitations from the point of cost – money, energy and time. Still it may or may not be successful, as the other party may not yield to threats, manipulation, etc. In comparison with it, scope of influence is unlimited or broader. It is largely inexpensive. It is often successful and its output in the form of cooperation or compliance is greater.
5. However, power has the quality of being definite. It is “general by nature, in the sense whosoever holds it will be fearfully effective. Nevertheless, influence remains indefinite, fluid and fuzzy. It is interpersonal, and not-transferable.
As both can bring about change and control of human behaviour, there are certain common features observable in them. Both become effective when they are legitimate. Otherwise, force as power can operate, but influence cannot. In a general sense, both are relational, rational, and relative. Though there is no demarcating line existing between them, yet both need each other. Sometimes, influence does not operate on whom power activates. If, it is seen seriously, it will be found that influence generates power and power influence.
Certainly, influence coming out of power is qualitatively different from power generated by influence, being persuasive, democratic and emotionally attached. But the ultimate effect of influence is power, as it can be at any time transformed into coercive force. Non-coercive aspects of influence continue to make it more effective, but it also augments its power as a potential force so much so that sometimes influence may have greater effect than power as such.
In this sense, at one time or other, Gandhi, during freedom movement of India, and Mujib during war of liberation in East Pakistan (Bangladesh) had greater effect in view of their influence over the masses than the adversaries on the basis of their power. During the middle ages, the Pope was more powerful than the Emperor.
However, at the analytical level both have been regarded as independent variables. Influence is preferred because cost incurred on it is always less than on exercise and accumulation of power as force. Consequences are almost identical when influence is transformed in forms of power, and exercised in actual practice, but such occasions rarely arise, particularly, when it is already widespread, enveloping a large number of people.
Influence can prove ineffective in the last resort, when a diehard adversary finds that the influence is determined to stop its conversion into coercive power. When situation goes beyond the control of influences, it becomes obvious that influence can take the form of power in its various aspects. Power as force is occasionally used when influence fails to influence the diehards, fundamentalists or rebels.