Re: power (long)

Ralph L Holloway (rlh2@COLUMBIA.EDU)
Wed, 6 Mar 1996 11:08:18 -0500

On Wed, 6 Mar 1996, thomas w kavanagh wrote:

> Instead of Ralph H's somewhat negative definition: power as the ability to
> *prevent* someone from doing something, a wider view would have it as the
> ability to influence the actions of others, both positively and negatively.

Actaully, my point about the power as the ability to deny things, was
what I hoped was the positive message that nonone has power over you
except to the extent that they can deny you something you want.
I didn't want it to be the only possible definition of what power was,
but simply to root part of the perception of what power can be in the
contexts of choice and desire, and some range of dyadic and larger social
relationships. I've no arguments with Tom's points on what power is.
Ralph Holloway to >

> >From there we can look for the bases of power. On the one hand we can
> distinguish force, simple physical strength, from other culturally defined
> sources. That dichotomy closely parallels (but not always) the dichotomy
> between illegitmate and legitimate uses of force in social/political
> relations. Richard N Adams distinguishes "skill authority"--the assignment
> of influence on the basis of a perceived knowledge or skill in the matter
> at hand--versus "power authority"--the assignment of influence on some
> other basis. While I like his distinction between influence based on
> perceptions of skill and other kinds of influence, I do not really like
> the term "power authority". To my mind authority is a particular kind of
> power, based on a linkage with ideological premises, with what Rappaport
> called Ultimate Sacred Propositions. That is, authority is "legitimate",
> but not all power is legitimate:
> power (influence)
> / \
> force authority __________________
> / \ | |
> illegitimate legitimate = "power authority" skill authority
> Having said that it should be obvious that different cultural systems
> recognize different bases for authority, different definitions of
> legitimate uses of power. Among other things that also includes different
> definitions of what is public and political and what is private and
> domestic, [as well as debates about whether a particular situation is
> public and political or private and domestic.]
> tk