SOCIAL POWER

social science and politicspower is the ability to influence or outright control the behavior of people. The term "authority" is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to humans as social beings. In business, power is often expressed as being "upward" or "downward". With downward power, a company's superior influences subordinates. When a company exerts upward power, it is the subordinates who influence the decisions of their leader or leaders.

The use of power need not involve force or the threat of force (coercion). At one extreme, it closely resembles what an English-speaking person might term "influence", although some authors distinguish "influence" as a means by which power is used. One such example is soft power, as compared to hard power.

Much of the recent sociological debate about power revolves around the issue of its means to enable – in other words, power as a means to make social actions possible as much as it may constrain or prevent them. The philosopher Michel Foucault saw power as a structural expression of "a complex strategic situation in a given social setting" that requires both constraint and enablement.

© Georgina Rowlands, all rights reserved