Re: Power and influence

thomas w kavanagh (tkavanag@INDIANA.EDU)
Thu, 7 Mar 1996 21:55:05 -0500

On Fri, 8 Mar 1996, John McCreery wrote:
<long snip>

> Tom Kavanaugh:
[minor point: no u]

[back to the point}
tk>"A wider view would have it as the ability to
tk> influence the actions of others, both positively and negatively."

JM> *I'd be willing to rephrase my own definition to power=the ability
JM> to overcome resistance or prevent others from achieving their
JM> goals.

JM> *I would, however, reserve the term influence for separate
JM> consideration.

I am interested in exploring the sociological implications of the
electrical engineering metaphorical difference between power as overcoming
*resistance*, that is ohms, and *influence*, that is gauss.

The reason I chose the word "influence" as a descriptor of power was
to suggest that sometimes its presence as observed ex post facto
(?is there such a thing as *potential* sociopolitical power; are threats
power?) is not via such overt actions as "overcoming resistence" but is in
covert, or at least in more subtle actions as pursuasion, agreement not to
publically disagree, etc.

Ultimately, as anthropologists, while we can make all sorts of angels-
on-the-head-of-a-pin distinctions about general kinds of power, sources
of power, etc., what our observations come down to are descripotions of
individuals with more power to influence someone with lesser power [yes
both parties in power relations have power, therefore it is a matter of

And, of course, it is both tautological (If you didn't have the power, you
wouldn't have the influence, if you do have the influecne, its obviously
because you have the power) and ephemeral (just because you had the power
last time does not mean that you will still have it next time).