Sociologists make distinction between two types of Power

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Power and Authority

In ordinary usage, the term ‘power’ means strength or the capacity to control. Sociologists describe it as the ability of an individual or group to fulfil it§ 3Rcl implement its decisions and ideas. It involves the ability to influence and / or control the behaviour of others even against their will.

Max Weber has defined power as, ‘the chance of a person or a number of persons to realize their own will in communal action even against the resistance of others who are participating in the action.

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So, power is an aspect of social relationships. An individual or group does not hold power in isolation, but hold it in relation to others.

Power is present in social interaction and creates situations of inequality since the one who has power imposes it on others. The impact of power varies from situation to situation. On the one hand it depends on the capacity of the powerful individual to exercise power. On the other hand, it depends upon the extent to which it is opposed or restricted by the others. Weber was on the opinion that power can be exercised in all walks of life. Power is not restricted to a battlefield or to politics. It is to be observed in the market place, on a lecture platform, at a social gathering, in sports, scientific discussion and even through charity. For example, giving alms to a bigger is a most obvious way of exercising your superior economic power. You can bring smile of joy to the beggar’s face or a feeling of despair by refusing alms.

Weber discusses two contrasting sources of Power.

(a) Power which is derived from a constellation of interests that develops in a formally free market. For example, a group of producers of sugar controls supply of their production in the market to maximise their profit.

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(b) An established system of authority that allocates the right to command and the duty to obey. For example in the army, a Jawan is obliged to obey the command of his officer. The officer derives his power through an established system of authority.

Sociologists make distinction between two types of Power:

(a) Authority is that form of power which is accepted as legitimate, that is as right and just and therefore obeyed on that basis.

(b) Coercion is that form of power which is not regarded as legitimate by those subject to it.

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‘Constant Seem’ concept of power propounded by Weber holds that there is a fixed amount of power, and if some hold power others do not. ‘Variable Seem’ concept of Power propounded by Parsons Regard it as something possessed by society as a whole, for the attainment of social goal. Authority also implies a reciprocal relationship between the rulers and the ruled. The rulers believe that they have legitimate right to exercise their authority. On the other hand, the ruled accept this power and comply with it, reinforcing its legitimacy. There are three systems of legitimation, each with its corresponding norms which justify the power to command. It is these systems of legitimation which are designated as the types of authority. They are:

(a) Traditional

(b) Charismatic

(c) Rational-legal

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The legitimacy of traditional authority rested on the fact that, it has always existed and having always binding upon the members who lived within it and upheld it. Examples are king and tribal chief, who occupied the position of authority by virtue of Inherited Status.

The legitimacy of Charismatic Authority arises from the fact that this type of authority possessed qualities held by super human and have personal magnetism, which set him/her apart from others.

Legitimacy of Rational-legal Authority rests on the validity of a consistent set of abstract impersonal principles and rules.

Their kinds and degrees of authority were clearly defined by rules.

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Elements of Authority

(a) An individual ruler or master ruler or a group of rulers / masters.

(b) An individual / group that is ruled

(c) The will of the ruler to influence the conduct of the ruled which may be expressed through commands.

(d) Evidence of the influence of the rulers in terms of compliance or obedience shown by the ruled.

(e) Direct or indirect evidence which shows that the ruled have internalised and accepted the fact that the ruler’s commands must be obeyed.

One can note here that, the authority implies a reciprocal relationship between the rulers and the ruled. The rulers believe that they have legitimate right to exercise their authority. On the other hand, the ruled accept this power and comply with it, reinforcing its legitimacy.

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