Dominance is a psychological concept as its locus is in the individual. It appears in interpersonal relations. It is a function of personality and temperament. Dominant individuals play roles in powerless informal groups. Power, on the contrary, is a sociological concept. It appears in statuses which the people occupy in formal groups or organisations. Force involves application of sanctions.
Force is manifestation of power and not power itself. Power is the ability to employ force, not its ‘actual employment. Power is latent force. Force is manifest power. Unlike force, power is always successful. Power that fails is not power. It has to accumulate, aggregate and augment. Force and influence are its operational and manifest aspects, and provide base to use power.
Power can be formal or informal. Formal power is known as authority. Power is transformed into authority through the formal organisation of human associations. The right to use force is attached to hierarchical statuses in the organisations. Power is formally allocated not to persons but to positions or statuses by specified norms, rules and laws.
Power, thus, is institutionalised as authority which can be exercised by any man occupying that position. As there are informal organisations and groups, informal power and informal authority also exist. Power remains un-institutionalised in informal organisations. It does not take the form of authority. However, authority itself cannot exist without the immediate support of power and the ultimate sanction of force.
Herbert Gold Hammer and Edward A. Shils have stated three major forms of power on the basis of extent to which behaviour is influenced. It is (i) force, (ii) domination, and, (iii) manipulation. In force, one influences the behaviour of individuals by physical manipulation like assault, confinement, etc. In domination, he influences their behaviour by making explicit to others what he wants them to do, such as, by command, request, etc. In manipulation, he influences the behaviour of others without making explicit the behaviour which he thereby wants them to perform, such as, by utilising symbols or performing certain acts as in propaganda. Legitimacy is the ‘right to rule’.
When the subordinated individuals recognise that right, the power exercised by the weilders of power is regarded as legitimate power. In case, it is not recognised by them, but exercised, it becomes coercion. Legitimate power further appears in three major forms. It is legal when the subordinated individuals recognise it on the basis of a belief in the legality of the laws, decrees, and directives given by the power-weilder.
When the recognition of legitimacy rests on a belief in the sanctity of traditions by virtue of which the powerful exercises his power and in the traditional sanctity of the orders which he issues, it becomes traditional legitimacy. Charismatic legitimacy rests on devotion of subordinated individuals to the personal qualities of the powerful.’ A weilder of power whose authority is recognised as legitimate can exercise any form of power, such as, force or domination.
From the viewpoint of the flow of power-relationship, power can be unilateral, bilateral, multilateral, and bargaining. It is unilateral if only one party to that relationship exercises power over the other. When two parties exercise power over each other, it becomes bilateral, as in case of a bargaining event. In multilateral power-relations, many parties mutually try to influence each other’s behaviour. When the power-weilder alters the behaviour of others without bringing in any intermediary, the exercise of power is called direct.
When it is exercised through subordinates or intermediaries, it is regarded as indirect. From the point of view of control or autonomy, power can be concentrated or diffused. When power is exercised through a large number of subordinate units, it tends to become diffused as the power-weilder is rarely able to exercise control over them. The subordinates begin to exercise some amount of independence and take initiative. Power is concentrated when the power-weilder exercises ways and means to have control over it.
Geographical areas also shape form and extent of power. Power spreading over the whole globe or dominant among nations is known as international power. Power of a country may be dominant in some region, and get the status of regional power. Power limited within the territory of a nation is popularly designated as national power. Extent of influences rule, and their comparative weight make powers of various nation-states as super, major, medium, and ordinary. Consequences of the behaviour of power-weilder can be intended or unintended.
As power is social and relational, it is also distributive. Political Science is interested in knowing who gets it, how much, in what way and the bases of its distribution. It cannot be possessed like a thing or commodity. It arises out of relations existing among human beings, called by Lasswell as ‘interpersonal’. If we go deeper, it would appear that ultimately, it, belongs to the areas of human mind – psychological, pathological, even neurotic.
Power can be generated even by withdrawing from it, thereby generating a sense of veneration, loyalty and personal commitment to the powerless power-weilder. In this sense, both Buddha and Gandhi wielded power. When analysed further, we would find that such power is based on similarity of ingrained values, directly or indirectly, operating in the minds of both power-weilders and their followers. In this sense, power requires cooperation or non-cooperation, as the case may be, and the inculcation of certain values which may not be fully understood by them at all.
They should somehow feel and acknowledge those values and some faith in them. Ultimate acknowledgement of the will or capacity of the superior power-weilder to influence others is final arbiter of power. Acknowledgement, which may be given in a direct or indirect manner, is more important than the possession of power as a material thing. The acknowledgement, according to Hacker, can be based on the consideration of power-weilder’s knowledge, skill, physical powers, property, personality, fear, etc.
When a person acts in deference to the wishes of the power-weilder, it implies acknowledgement of the superiority of the will or capacity of the power-weilders. If there is no obedience to his wishes, and the affected party is ready to undergo all the consequences, no power exists. Power very much depends upon proper assessment of the contours of obedience. A power-weilder has to keep an eye on them.
To make power effective, it is necessary to use it. Its non-use renders the powerful powerless. Power is concreticised in action or activity, which must have some aim or objective in view. As such, power instead of being an end-in-itself, is instrumental to gain other objectives. Politics understood as ‘struggle for power’ does not convey its proper meaning. It is rather a struggle to launch certain values through power over others.
These values may include narrow self-interests or broader social interests or a mix of the two. These values also have an intimate relationship with the needs and demands of human nature. Man wants both liberty and social order.
Therefore, conflicts as well as cooperation become ingredient of power. In order to realise those values or objectives, power mainly depends on organisation. One may have knowledge. Divine grace, ideology, manifesto, ideals, etc. but cannot realise them without organisation of a church, a political party, or other a band of followers. Political power comes out of an effective organisation and by adopting tactics appropriate to sustain it. It requires great skill and refined techniques to keep organisations attached with pre-determined goals.
There can be many goals of power, such as:
(i) Collective good,
(ii) Conscious pursuit of self-interest, or
(iii) Pursuance of unconscious motives.
These goals can be modified or reformulated in view of change in leadership or prevailing circumstances. Either the weilders power, or subordinates or clientele can bring about change in goals consciously or unconsciously, even by procedural set-up. It requires unusual statesmanship to realise these goals. Power has to be restructured, applied, augmented and allocated in a proper manner.
In sum, power can be visualised in many ways. Felix E. Oppenheim has summarised various views on power, as:
(i) Exercise of control;
(ii) Exclusion of rational persuasion;
(iv) Intentional control;
(v) Relationship between preferences of the powerful and respondent’s behaviour;
(vi) Involvement of conflict with respondent’s intentions or interests.
But Terence Ball is not satisfied with Oppenheim’s conception of power as ‘all relationship in which one actor determines another actor’s behaviour by almost any means and for any end whatever.” Ball finds it as unduly broad, as all instances of influences are not instances of power. Not all instances of power are instances of influence. Oppenheim makes his conception of power as coextensive with social causation, and renders it too broad to be useful for empirical analysis.
Force is different from power. The latter is ability to employ force. Force and other manifest forms of power remain invisible in the lap of power like electricity in clouds. To make power or one’s capacity effective, one has to develop all traits to employ, force properly along with adequacy and availability of all means of power, such as personality, influence, force, organisation, etc. Power has to be supported by sanctions.
A sanction is a power-act initiated primarily as a reprisal for non-conformity with a prior act of power. It results either in the deprivation of values already possessed or an obstruction of values which otherwise would have been realised. There are several forms and levels of sanctions. Military power represents the apex of coercive sanctions, socialised and trained in an effective organisation.
In fact, there are several sources of power: brute force, position, connection, ‘persuasion and influence, self-confidence, charisma and reputation, consciousness and will, and coefficients of power. Through legitimising processes, it transforms into Law and Authority. About non-justified Power, Lord Action, long ego has said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” In fact, it corrupts both, those who exercise it and their victims.
Power, in general, is what make things go, wheels to turn, ships to sail, man to move in particular ways. It is energy. Energy becomes power only when it is harnessed, guided, and controlled. Out of control energy is not power. Negative or out of control power is negative and destructive. In order to be usable, it has to be made creative constructive and directive.
Power in human affairs involves the control of human behaviour for particular ends through the express or implied threat of punishment for those who refuse or fail to comply. But this can be done through education, indoctrination and influence. Power is the ability to take and enforce decisions – laws, decrees, rules or regulations. Power serves as a protection against the danger of feeling or being regarded as insignificant.
There can be public or private power systems. Public power claims jurisdiction other over all persons who reside in a given territory. Political power, says, Locke, is the right of making laws with penalties of death and consequently all less penalties for regulating and preserving property and of employing the force of the community in the execution of such laws. Persuasion is more common than the use or threat of force. It is more effective and enduring. Therefore, we talk of will, consent, consensus or deference.
All this makes the power system legitimate, investing it with authority. Without authority, political power appears as naked force. This is accomplished by political socialisation through family, schools, churches, other voluntary groups, political parties, pressure groups, media, charismatic leadership and symbolism.
To keep power away from being corrupt, constitutional limitations through laws and courts are imposed. Its scope and domain is made limited and fixed. Its operation can be liberal, conservative or authoritarian. It may or may not come under the influence of outside forces.