Importance of Power:

The concept of power is the most influential one in the whole of Political Science. Socrates. Plato, Aristotle etc. have admitted the importance of power in their own way. In our country Acharya Kautilya (Chanakya) threw sufficient light on the importance of power in his famous book Kautilya Arthsastra because it was the basis of whole human life.

In the modern age Machiavelli, Hobbes, Treitschke and Neitzche have emphasised the importance of power. In the present century Catlin, Charles Marriam, Harold Laswell, H.J. Morgenthau etc. have accepted power as one of the fundamental concept.

According to Catlin, concept of power is fundamental in Political Science. MacIver is of the view that everything that is happening around us is in some way or the other concerned with power. It is power which vests the state with order and peace.


Power defined and explained:

It should be noted at the outset that there is no unanimity among the political scientists regarding the definition of power. Like other people, political scientists use a variety of terms: power, influence, authority, control, persuasion, might, force and coercion to convey the same meaning.

Following definitions still hold the field:

1. According to Laswell and Kaplan, “The concept of power is perhaps the most fundamental in the whole of Political Science, the political process is the shaping, distribution and exercise of power (in a wider sense, of all the deference values or of influence in general)”.


2. According to H. J. Margenthau, “power politics was rooted in lust for power which is common to all men and for this reason was inseparable from social life itself.”

3. Erich Kaufman say, “The essence of the State is Machtentfaltung (development, increase and display of power)”, along with the will successfully to maintain and assert itself.

4. Karl Baker observes, “The simple fact is that politics is inseparable from power. Slates and Government exist to exert power. In each country and in the world at large there is either a balance of power, as unstable balance of power, or no balance of power at all. But there is always power—- political power exists in the world and will be used by those who have it——.”

5. According to Herbert and Edward Shills, “Power is the ability to influence the behaviour of others in accordance with one’s own ends.’


6. Catlin adopts Mas Weber’s definition of politics as “the struggle of power or the influencing of those in power.”

The field of political science, according to him, is “the field of study of social controls or more specifically, of the control relationship of human and even animal wills”. It must be remembered that power is not something absolute. It is only relative and used in relation to something. For example, we can say that Union Public Service Commission has power to select officers belonging to I.A.S. and Central Services.

In the words of “Friend-rich power is a certain kind of human relationship”, therefore we can say that the power is the capacity of an individual, to modify the conduct of other individuals or group in the manner which he desires.

M.G. Smith believes that “power is the ability to act effectively over people and things using menas, ranging from persuasion to coersion”. Following Max Weber, another writer defines power as the possibility given to an actor, within a determined social relation, of ruling as he wishes.


Difference between Power and Force:

In Robert Bierstedt’s opinion, “Force is manifest power- Force means the reduction or limitation or closure or even total elimination of alternatives to the social action of one person or group by another person or group”. Sometimes a dacoit asks a person whom he wants to loot, “Whether you want to give your money or life?”

When a man surrenders his money to the dacoit in order to save his life, then the dacoit has achieved his objective by merely a threat of force without using it but when the dacoit has to resort the force actually in order to snatch the money and other belongings, he has used the force. Therefore, the actual manifestation of power is force or we can say that force is power in action or force is power exercised.

Difference between Political Power and Military Power:


There is a lot of difference between political power and military power. The basis of political power is psychological influence, leadership and its will power. Political power also includes the power of money, arms and ammunition, material and influence regarding votes. In democratic countries the power is gained through elections in which the money and various other methods are frequently used.

In the political power the military power plays a secondary role because the military authorities have to obey the President and Prime Minister. However, when one country attacks another country, then the military of both the sides comes into action and military power or force is used.

Some examples of Force:

In 1939, Hitler used force against Czechoslovakia to get back the parts of Germany handed over to it after the treaty of Versailles (1919). Hitler was able to subdue Czechoslovakia and get back his territory. Similarly, Hitler asked Poland to return the German territory given to it by the treaty of Versailles. Poland refused to give it.


Therefore, Hitler invaded Poland and consequently 2nd World War broke out. Hitler was defeated in it and Germany was divided into two parts, East and West Germany. East Germany was occupied by Russia and West Germany was occupied by the Allied forces.

Pakistan occupied by means of force 32,500 square miles of Indian Territory in 1947. China occupied 14,500 square miles of Indian territory-in Ladakh sector by invading it in 1962. That territory continues still in the occupation of these country.

Argentina invaded Falkland Island in April 1982. It was under the occupation of England. Britain sent his forces to liberate it. Consequently, there was a war between the two countries. Argentina was badly defeated in it and Britain occupied Falkland on June 5, 1982.

There were military bases of Palestinians in Southern Lebanon. Palestinians frequently intruded into the territory of Israel and attacked her from these bases, the main reason being that they wanted to liberate Palestine from the occupation of Israel. In order to meet the challenge of Palestinian guerillas, Israel invaded Lebanon on 6th June, 1982. Israel occupied Beirut, the capital of Lebanon after a few days’ fighting. This is another example of using force.

Measurement of Power:

Measurement of Power is also an important question. It we want to measure power in India and Pakistan, then we will have to judge who is ruling actually Delhi and Islamabad. We will then find that in Delhi Cabinet type of government prevails where Prime Minister is the head. The Prime Minister, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi is also the President of the Congress Party.

So he controls his Cabinet and his party as well. In Pakistan, there was military dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq. The second way to measure power is to rely on judgment made by the people. Several observers can be asked to judge the power of certain people.

It was a section of the people who thought that Sanjay Gandhi was an extra-constitutional centre for power. The third way to measure power to study the actual decision-making process. For example, the decision to impose Internal Emergency on 25th June, 1975 was taken by the Prime Minister, Mrs. Indira Gandhi, on the advice of Sanjay Gandhi, Siddhartha Shankar Ray (West Bengal Chief Minister) and Bansi Lal (Haryana Chief Minister). When Mr. Dev Kant Barooah, Congress President was criticised by his opponents for the rout of the Congress in 1977, then he remarked that the fault lay with the decision-maker i.e. Mrs. Indira Gandhi.

Importance of the concepts of Power and influence:

Robert A Dahl holds the men often disagree about the proper use of power, its consequences, influence and authority. One often hears about the powers of the President, Prime Minister, Judiciary, State power and student’s power.

Lord Acton in a letter written in 1887 said, “Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and authority. Among all the causes which degrade and demoralize man, power is the most constant and the most active”.

All of us will agree on one point that power, influence and authority are very much important concepts of Political Science. Dahl rightly observes, “Nothing is “lore likely to lead to bad political strategies than to misunderstand, ‘power’, to misperceive ‘the power-structure’, for to be misled about ‘power’ is to be misled about the prospects and means of stability, change and revolution”. He also adds that those persons who used their powers judiciously .succeeded while those persons who did not do so failed miserably.

In his own words, “the grave-yards of history are stewn with the corpses of reformers who failed utterly to reform anything, of revolutionaries who failed to win power, of revolutionaries who successfully seized power and failed to make the revolution they intended, of anti-revolutionaries who failed to prevent revolution men and women who failed not only because of the force arrayed against them but because of the pictures in their minds about power and influence were simplistic and inaccurate”.

Power is associated with coercion and coercion with painful sanctions. The length of Coercion Sectors will vary from culture to culture depending on the range of penalties considered to be coercive in quality. The value of sanctions will vary from man to man and society to society. Another category of political influence is that where the sanctions used are so weak relatively as not to be considered coercive.

A person may be affected in his action by the introduction of well presented new evidence, though the only consequence of ignoring it may be to appear unreasonable. If the evidence is accepted, the outcome will be affected and the person who introduced it has exerted political influence.


Political influence is the suitable outcome of possessions-Wealth, health education, charm and other things and the skill with which they are made use of. We have also seen that power is the ability of an individual or groups to influence another individuals or group. In this way influence is a relationship.

It is a relationship between individuals or groups which can make another to act in a way that he may not do otherwise. We can distinguish between power and influence by saying that those who have got power, they can influence the conduct of others more easily than those who do not possess any power. It is admitted on all hands that power and influence are co-related terms but influence turns into power when sanctions enter. Suppose A is an officer and asks B (another subordinate official) to obey his orders, then if B refuses and A suspends him, then A has used his powers.

So it is a process of sanctions which differentiates power from influence in general. Any how, power and influence are supplementary. For example, India has no power over the non-aligned countries out India exercised considerable influence over these countries, when she was the President.

Authority and Legitimacy:

In day-to-day language we use the word authority. For example, we say that parents have got the authority over their children or elder brothers and sisters have got authority over their younger brothers and sisters. Similarly, we find the teachers using authority over their pupils and the doctors exercising authority over his patients. The patients accept the authority of doctors without any hitch in order to get the disease cured.

Prof. Carl J. Fredrick in his treatise Man and his Government suggest that “the person wielding authority possesses superior knowledge or insight. This may be often true, but it is probably more universally appropriate to say that people are usually willing to accept that person do have such knowledge or insight, without asking for proof.”

Authority is always legitimate and backed by the power of law and common consent. Legitimate power or influence is generally called authority. For example, if a policeman stops a truck which is going on the wrong side or carries banned articles, then he is using his legal or legitimate authority but if a robber stops the laid vehicle and loots it by means of force, then he does not exercise any authority but rather uses the force illegally.

Authority, being legitimate is based on consent and thus commands more respect than the illegal force exercised by intruders, thieves or dacoits. Therefore, authority is not itself power, rather it is the embodiment of reason, that is why, C.G. Fredrick says, “The man who has Authority possesses something that I would describe as the capacity for reasoned elaboration, for giving convincing reasons for what he does or proposes to have others do”. In simpler words, we can say that we obey the authority because it is reasonable.

Different types of Authority according to Max Weber:

Max Weber has given the following three different types of authority:

(i) ‘Resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of the status of those exercising authority under them;

(ii) ‘Belief in the “Legality” of patterns of normative rules and the rights of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands’.

(iii) Based on ‘denotion to the specific and exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person’ and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him.

Traditionally and in the legal terminology the stress is on rules and in others, mentioned by Weber, the stress is on, personal qualities – charismatic’. In practice to the political authority is the mixture of the two. In India, Shri Jawahar Lal Nehru and Mrs. Indira Gandhi exercised large charismatic authority coupled with legal authority.

Authority is thus power exercised with general approval. The essence of authority is not that it is power (force); it is that authority that those who are affected acknowledge the authority of those who affect them. Acceptance of authority, So to say, is the recognition of moral right.

The Authority is effective because of legitimacy:

The Authority can be easily distinguished from the coercion, power and force on one hand, and leadership and influence on the other hand on the basis of legitimacy. Everybody knows that it is the right of the superiors to issue orders and the obligation of the subordinates to offer willing obedience but this is generally applicable to the family.

In the political field the authority has to be legitimate in order to command willing obedience. This is so in a democracy but not in a military dictatorship. In dictatorship of such a type, the General seizes power by means of force and makes others obey with the help of military.

Military dictatorship is not based on the consent of the governed but solely on force. Such an authority is not legitimate. So any power which is backed by law is authority. If it is not backed by law, it is illegitimate power.

Regarding it, Robert A. Dahl observes, “A commands B and B feels A has perfect right to do so and which he has a complete obligation to obey. Power of this kind is often said to be legitimate. But when B feels A has absolutely no right to ask him to obey, which he has no obligation to obey, and which perhaps, he actually has an obligation to resist. Power of this kind is often said to be illegitimate. Legitimate power is often called Authority”.

So we can conclude by saying that the Authority will be transformed into power if it is not legitimatized. Therefore, the Authority has to be legitimate under all circumstances.