4 Important Qualities of “Power in Politics” That Makes It Different from Influence

(1) Power is relational;

(2) Power is reciprocal;

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(3) Power is relative; and

(4) Power is both potential and actual.

(1) Power is Relational:

(1) Power is a Relationship:

It is not something concrete or tangible thing like wealth. Power is a relationship between individuals or their groups. It exists only when a minimum of two actors are present, one of whom has the ability to secure a desired change in the behaviour of the other by the use of coercion or threat of use force.

Power cannot exist if there is no other actor upon whom the first can make claims. A power relationship is fundamentally a relationship of super-ordination and sub-ordination, of dominance and submission, and between the governors and the governed.

(2) Power is Reciprocal:

Since power exists only as a relationship, it is almost always reciprocal, although one person or group may clearly be superior and the other subordinate. Power relationship is a two way process, each actor has power to some degree. The persons under the power of a powerful person are not totally powerless.

They are only less powerful than the power-holder. No one is powerless. The fact is that only some have more power than others and they are in a position to change the behaviour of others. There cannot be a power holder without the persons who are under him, upon whom he exercises power, and who obey his orders.

(3) Power is Relative:

Power is always relative. A powerful person does not mean that he has power over all others and that he is not under the power of someone else. One person, who has power in relation to another actor or group, does not necessarily have power over every possible opponent or all other opponents. He may have power over some people and none over others.

Further, power of the power-holder is also relative to several factors:

(i) The ability of power-holder also depends upon the relative power of his subordinates. In other words, power is relative to the people involved in the conflict.

(ii) Power is relative to the type and scope of activity that the power-holder wishes to control. One may have power in some areas but not in others. One may have power in his mohalla or his work place but not in the locality as a whole; one may have power in one sphere or only in some spheres. One cannot have power over all spheres.

(iii) Further, Power is relative to time. It keeps on changing. It can increase or decrease with the passage of time. A leader can become more powerful or less powerful with the passage of time. No one is and cannot be all powerful at all the times and in all the spheres. Power is always dynamic.

(iv) Power is relative to the resources on which it is based. The power of the actor depends upon several sources wealth, family, knowledge, affection, influence, social status, leadership qualities or personality and authority. All these are the determinants of power. While analysing the power of a person, all these resources have to be analysed, related and evaluated.

(4) Actual Power and Potential Power:

While analysing the power of an actor, one has to analyse its two dimensions Actual Power and Potential Power.

(i) Actual Power means the power which the power-holder is actually and currently using in a situation. It has to be analysed in terms of the resources which he is using for influencing the outcome of a particular situation.

(ii) Potential power means the power which a person can use. It is analysed in terms of the resources possessed by the actor which he can use or employ, if he wants to do so.

From the above discussion, we can conclude that Power is a human relationship. In it one actor or group called powerful, has the ability to secure a desired change in the behaviour of others who are less powerful. Power always involves some kind of force, coercion and domination. The power-holder has the ability to get his orders obeyed by the less powerful persons by the use of force or threat of use of force.