power <debate>

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)
Fri, 8 Mar 1996 16:38:26 +0900

Tom Kavanaugh writes,

"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 electrical engineering metaphor is interesting. But where
I'm coming from is the, I think, more usual contrast between
influence and authority. Metternich, for example, was a
diplomat of enormous influence but was still forced to defer to
the authority vested in Francis II. In a similar way, at
Hakuhodo (the Japanese advertising agency where I work), I
am, as a foreigner and contract employee, doubly barred from
possessing authority. I can, however, have considerable
influence based on skill in organizing and making
pitches. I have won often enough that people take what I
say seriously. Still, that doesn't mean I have the final yea or

I stick by my observation that anthropologists rarely pay
sufficient attention to the mechanisms by which influence is
wielded, falling back instead on discussions of authority, for
which data is more easily gathered, or on elegant chains of
logical implications that are , in my experience, a very
imperfect mirror of how things are actually done.

John McCreery
March 8, 1996