Key notes on the meaning and nature of political power

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In recent years, the foremost theoretical and practical concern in international politics has been the analysis of the problem of power. It is the most vital and inseparable element of politics, and is the most important concept to a proper understanding of international politics.

There is a large and wide-ranging literature on power. In fact, the great interest in power has resulted in persistent investigation of its foundations. These investigations hive gone so far as to raise challenges to the validity of the concept.

One. investi­gator has been led to remark about the conception of power, “that we are still not at all sure of what we are talking about when we use the term.” Riker’s following comment states the problem and also a partial answer:

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“The final question, once the full complication of the antiquities is revealed, concern; the appropriate scientific attitude towards the conception of power itself. Ought we to redefine it in a clear way or we ought to banish it.

But this suggestion will, I am sure, find little sympathy among my colleagues, Alternatively, I suggest minimally, that each definition specifies clearly the kind of theory or cause it reflects.”

The modern contribution that the power idea can make lies been emphasized by James G. March, a scientist. He has spent over a decade in the effort to develop its formal definition and has remarked: “On the whole, however, power is a dis­appointing concept.

It gives us surprisingly little purpose in reason­able models of complex systems of social choice.” Harold and Mar­garet Sprout express a similar disillusionment when they say, “It might help to think more clearly about the the relations of states if the world- power could be stricken from the vocabulary of international politics altogether.”

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Power Defined:

To define power is not an easy task. It is a very complex term. In fact, we cannot define it in any commonly acceptable way. We will, therefore, discuss various definitions of power given by different writers.

In doing so, we will certainly have a broader idea of the term ‘power’. According to Herbert Goldhamer and Edward Shrills “Power is the ability to influence the behavior of others in accordance with one’s own ends.”

Schwarzenegger defines it as the “capacity to impose one’s will on others by reliance on effective sanctions in case of noncompliance.” R.H. Tawney defines it as “the capacity of an individual or group in the manner which he or it desires.”

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Prof. Hans Morgenthau, the chief exponent of the realist school of thought, who characterizes international politics as a struggle for power, defines power as “a psychological relation between those who exercise it and those over whom it is exercised.

It gives the former control of certain actions of the latter’s mind.” Thus Prof. Morgan- thou defines power as a special value. According to him, “By power we mean the power of man over the minds and actions of other men .” For him, it is a possession but not in tangible form like money.

However, in a broad sense, power can be defined as the capacity to control the minds and actions of others It refers to the ability to accomplish the desired objectives and for that purpose to wield various types of means to shape and influence the behavior of others.

It is different from influence. Influence refers to the fact of per­suasion to achieve one’s objectives. Persuasion may or may not have the desired effect. It is on the sweet will of the other party whether it is willing to do what you ask it.

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Power, on the other hand, refers to the fact that the other party feels compelled to do by of punishment, deprivations or the actual use of force. It implies threat not present in influence and yet stopping short of actual use of force.

National Power: The main characteristics of a modern State are sovereignty, nationalism and national power. It is in sovereignty that the loyal justification for the power of State is formed.

It is sovereignty which makes a State omnipotent. In other words sovereignty confers the right and duty upon State to be powerful in order to maintain its independent identity. There is ethical justification also for national power.

It is the State which is responsible for the security of its people and integrity of the country. Security and integrity can be maintained only through national power. Moreover, power is a natural impulse.

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The lust of dominance is the basic element of human nature. Acquisition of power is, therefore, inherent in every individual and human associations including the State.

However, power of a nation does not refer to the total power of all the individuals residing in that State. It refers to the power of certain individuals who act as agents of the State in the formulation of domestic and foreign policies, define its goals and adopt suitable measures to achieve them. With that end in view, they acquire, maintain and consolidate and increase power in the name of the nation.

Importance of National Power: All political activities revolve round the concept of power. It is because it helps in the attainment of political objectives. In international politics, it plays still greater role because international politics is essentially a struggle for power.

Whenever a nation becomes weak, it loses its independence. The countries of Asia and Africa lost their independence one after the other during” the 18th and 19th centuries because they were weak.

Whatever be the motive whether of national security or even of peace, power plays its role. Power is justified on ethical grounds also because the State has to discharge its responsibility of the defence of its inhabitants.

Power in international politics is as necessary as money in economic life Certain nations seek power to achieve their national objectives as do the individuals seek money to fulfill their economic needs. Certain nations make keep it in reserve to achieve future objectives. Still, there are other nations who like to have it like a miser for its own sake. They have only a lust for power.

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