What is your impression about social power?


Social power is a universal aspect of social interaction. It plays an important part in shaping relations among the members of a group. Power differences enter into determining the relations between father and child, employer and employee, politician and voter, teacher and student.

According to K. Davis power is the determination of the behaviour of others in accordance with one’s own ends.”

Sheriff and Sheriff say that “power denotes the relative weights of behaviour by member in a group structure”.


E.A. Ross says that “power is a certain kinds of human relationship.”

From the above definitions it is clear that power is a very broad concept. In general it means the ability to get one’s wishes carried out despite opposition, if any.

It is not necessary that a man who has power in one situation will be powerful in all the situations. A father may have power to impose his will on his children but he may have no power to influence the behaviour of his employer. Thus a man is powerful in one situation may be powerless in other situations.

There are some bases from which power originates. These are called as bases of power.


(a) Wealth –

Wealth plays an important role in creation of base for power. In capitalistic society power is determined through wealth. It is also a fact that those people who have more wealth are more powerful in the society. He gets more respect, high position in society.

(b) Power –

Power creates more power. A powerful person by exercising his power becomes more powerful. Therefore power acts as the base of power.


(c) Outstanding skill –

Persons who have outstanding skill are different from a common man. An artist through his art influences the behaviour of others. Therefore outstanding skill acts as a base of social power.

Kinds or types of power

Lunberg and others have mentioned three kinds of power.


1. Coercive power

2. Utilitarian power

3. Identitive power.

The coercive power is that power which uses or threatens the use of physical means to obtain compliance. The utilitarian power uses material rewards.


The identities power uses symbol that are not physical threats nor material rewards but which influence people to identify with the organisation, viewing its interests as their own.

On the basis of influence power can be classified ihto4hree types –

(a) force

(b) domination

(c) manipulation.

The person influences the behaviour of others through physical force is called force. When power is exercised through order or advice it is of domination type.

For example the power of teacher over the students is domination power. When a person influences the behaviour of others without telling his own intentions is known as manipulation, e.g – propaganda or advertisement.

From legal point of view power has been classified into two types –

1. Legitimate power

2. Illegitimate power .

Legitimate power may be of three kinds. They are :-

(a) Legal power

(b) Traditional power

(c) Charismatic power

Legal power is the power given by the law and the constitution of the country, for example the power of the- army or the police. Customs and traditions of the society are called traditional power.

For example the power of parents or the teachers is traditional power. The source of charismatic power lies in some peculiar quality. For example the power of ‘religious guru’ like Sai Baba over his followers.

Illegitimate power is one which is not recognised by the society. For example the power of dacoits is an example of illegitimate power.

A democratic social order is totally rests upon power structure. There is submission to overall power in democratic as well as authoritarian society. The majority submit to over all power because they have no alternative.

Throughout most of the, part a majority have submitted, obeyed blindly and suffered a continual injury. Overthrow of the holders of power has been rare. Once established every power structure tends to continue because of habit and inertia as well as indoctrination.


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