Re: Power <debate> <long>

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Tue, 5 Mar 1996 23:51:52 -0500

On Wed, 6 Mar 1996, John McCreery wrote:

> What, then, is power? To me it is simply this--the ability to
> overcome resistance. As Amatai Etzioni reminds us, overcoming
> resistance may be achieved in several ways. Mao (and Hawk and
> Justice Holmes) are right that power grows from the barrel of a
> gun. But force is crude and without other supports only effective
> in one on one battles (a parent versus a child, a schoolyard bully
> versus his victim). As soon as force is organized, other elements
> enter in. Shared perceptions and values are, indeed, important. If
> the queen is recognized as queen by most of those around her, it
> is likely that her authority will carry the day in disputes with her
> subjects. But so is wealth. It is not for nothing that a good deal of
> political history is a running series of battles over who gets to
> collect and distribute it. (Those budgets Mike Cahill was talking
> about.)

I think I would offer a somewhat different definition of power than John
does. I would define power as the ability to deny something that a person
or group wants. That ability may be carried out without force, and most
often is. You only have power over me to the extent you can deny me
something that I want. It may or may not be coupled with control, which I
take to be a different concept.
Ralph Holloway