What is Power? - Introduction

in psychology •  last year  (edited)

Social Reality: Violence, Power, and Change
What is Power? - Introduction
1 - An Introduction to Power

In the last series of posts, we have been immersed in the world of Violence in individual and social life.
Now we will talk about Power a different crucial player on Social Reality Dynamics.
In this introducing chapter, we will be more focused in philosophical and unstructured perspective, as a pre-reflection for the next posts, that is more oriented to the field of social psychology studies about power.

Power, from the Latin potere, which means "to be able to" a verb with the conjugation in the present: possum, pots, potest, possumus, potestis, possunt; and in the infinitive "posse" that curiously in the Portuguese language means property or possession.
In sociology, Power is the ability to impose the will of one or more individuals on others, and there are several types: social power, economic power, military power, political power, among others.
Here is a quote from a known fascist war monk, genocider and gun dealer about his view of the Power.

"Power is an aphrodisiac" - Kissinger
Power is the interface of social control as the coercion of the dominant structure.
Rational Power is social agreement legitimated by coercion, norms of reference, rewards and sanctions or information and knowledge to achieve compliance.
The greater the dependence of one person on another, the greater will be hisPower over the other.
Power is the possibility of imposing a will on a social relationship, even if there is resistance or no consent.
"When the power of love overcomes the love of power the world will know peace". - Jimi Hendrix
Some sources of power are, for example, violence, aggression or aggression, propaganda, money, influence, social or political status, information, and knowledge, etc.

Despotic central authority and governments have an oligarchy of coercive and violent power, but they can keep the illusion that people are free to choose their destiny, confusing "social order" with security to justify aggression and surveillance control.

"Power never takes a back step only in the face of more power". - Malcolm X
The shaping of Power with its rules defines our rights and it exists only because people do not assume their autonomy.
Society and Power will always try to the pursuit and crash of people that dare to dream.

The modern state is reacting to the inequality tensions he generates, with an increasing compulsion to control, by surveillance, media propaganda and creating armies of militarized police to face peaceful citizens as contenders in a war zone.

" In politics, the central and fundamental problem is the problem of power.
Who is to exercise power? And by what means, by what authority, with what purpose in view, and under what controls? Yes, under what controls?
For, as history has made it abundantly clear, to possess power is ipso facto to be tempted to abuse it. In mere self-preservation we must create and maintain institutions that make it difficult for the powerful to be led into those temptations which, succumbed to, transform them into tyrants at home and imperialists abroad."
- The Politics of Ecology - Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963)
Power always uses its Justice and Violence to steal Truth, Equality, and Liberty.
There are three pure types of legitimate Power domination, the legal, the traditional, and the charismatic.
Some reasons for submission to legitimate domination( transformed into conformism) that may be voluntary and rational (needs and personal and analysis of pros and cons by those who have to obey) traditional (by habit or blind habit) or affective (related to the personal identification of a submitted to the dominator).
"All power is theft" - Herman Hesse

2- Power and its manifestations

Power is always a concept embedded in the dynamics and functioning of social life.
Social Power manifests itself in people's conduct shaping and in the surrounding social context, and with leadership and authority, it influences the compliance of behaviors with coercion or rewards.


Power is impregnated in every social phenomenon, and it's difficult to be conceptualized in social psychology is regarded more as a philosophical notion that seems to influence the studies and experiments in this area.
Power shape acts upon and drives social life interactions.
You abdicate of your personal power when you waive, annul, or transfer it to another person.

"Where love rules, there is no will to power; and where power predominates, there love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other" - Carl Jung
Max Weber in 1965 said that "power signifies all the possibility of imposing one's authority, even if it finds an opposition inside the social relationship". So, Power is not a key concept in social psychology is just a variable in studies about influence and group social dynamics. Gustav Fisher cites Bulgakov from his book "La Maitre et Marguerite" "All power is a violence exercised over others".

Power is the genesis and main feed of the conflictual relationship in the social tissue of Reality and uses violence to attain conformism and submission.
World Information Intelligence Services and the Power of Money increasingly have more awareness about the manipulation of cultures and masses.

"Where the masses can exercise no control over their rulers, these powers are used without compunction to enforce ideological orthodoxy and to strengthen the dictatorial state." - The Politics of Ecology - Aldous Huxley (1894 - 1963)
There will always exist autonomous beings inside a culture that will revolutionize, will be self empowered and will be rebelling against Power.
Arts and Music can change the cultural structure of the grids of power and sustain non-conformism
"I wanted to prove the sustaining power of music". - David Bowie
The next three posts are about the notions, dimensions, and foundations of Power in Social reality.

Last posts in this serie on Social Reality, Violence, Power and Change

Social Reality: Violence, Power and Change


An Introduction to Violence
The Concepts of Violence, Aggression, and Aggressiveness
The Theories on Violence
The influencers of Violence -Part One - Culture and Social Context
The influencers of Violence -Part Two - Social , Cognitive and Environmental Factors
The rise of Today's Violence
What is Power? - Introduction- this post

Articles from the next series of posts about Social Reality, Violence, Power and Change:

The Nature of Power
  • Part I - The Notions of power
  • Part II -The Dimensions of Power
  • Part III -The foundations of Power

The Dynamics of Power
The Effects and Consequences of Power


Change and Culture
The Theories and conceptualization of Change
Factors determining Change
The ways of Change
Social Change

References consulted:

Les concepts fondamentaux de la psychologie sociale - Gustave-Nicolas Fischer
La psychologie sociale - Gustave-Nicolas Fischer
The social-violence dynamics, power, change - Gustave-Nicolas Fischer Planeta / ISPA, 1980
Gustave-Nicolas Fischer is Professor of Psychology and Director of the Psychology Laboratory at the University of Metz.
French, J. R. P., & Raven, B.H. (1959). The bases of social power.
Raven, B. H.& Rubin, J. Z. (1976). Social psychology: People in groups
Castel, R. The metamorphoses of the social question. Voices, 1998.
Moscovici, S. (1976). Social influence and social change. London: Academic Press
Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison
Festinger, L. (1954). A theory of social comparison processes.
French, J. R. P., Morrison, H. W., & Levinger, G. (1960). Coercive power and forces affecting conformity

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Yeah, that point with abdicating power to another person is very true. Actually entire society is modelled in a way that the ego butters up on the greater ego and slaughters the lesser. But of course this power is illusory, because it is not inherent within. So we have a self-perpetuating cycle of artificial power always dependent on the external.

Power seems to be the only structure that remains forever in life, even after big societal changes.
Power just reconfigures itself but he is king of permanence in human life because it is a disease of Human nature to ascend the stairs of power like a super addictive drug.
Look at the comment of a big addict and violent power perpetrater:
Political power is born from the barrel of the shotgun. - Mao Tse-Tung

Yeah, they literally treat people like chessmen with no emotional attachment to anything but winning the game at all costs.

Do take competence into account when considering power dynamics and hierarchies. In the sense that the authority can also stem from being good at the game, so to say. The postmodern philosophy, on the other hand, seems to be aiming at self-destruction.

Foucault, I hope, was not particularly good at expressing himself. His use of language, whether in English or his native French, lacked structure. Surely a person with a high IQ can do better? But then, if what he claimed was his honest and best view of reality; that there is nothing but top-down power (evil oppressors and innocent victims), how is one supposed to maintain their sanity? I always got the feeling he did not quite accept himself and chose to remain in chaos to avoid judgment.

The postmodern thinking of Foucault, Derrida, and the other French philosophists, has, almost as a side-product, produced some interesting questions about existence and reality. Their attempts to provide answers, as far as I am concerned, were clumsy and misguided. Perhaps we can still learn from them.

I found Chomsky's thoughts on the subject of power and the human nature more cohesive already in the 1970s. That is when Chomsky debated Foucault, who spontaneously refused to have the conversation in English (as was originally agreed upon). I frown upon such tactics. Especially since the switch to French did not seem to make his speech any more coherent. Even the moderator of the debate got confused. Foucault would dismiss any questions he considered too personal - even when they were not.

I am glad others, after the 1970s, have been able to articulate these matters more clearly. Some, of course, already managed to do that ages ago in the form of prose and poetry. Revision may be painful, but it is necessary. Have you by any chance come across Jordan Peterson, the Canadian psychologist?

About competence, there are references in the next post about the Foundations of Power.
I've seen the debate between them several years ago but I remember, i was shocked by the unfair move of Foucault changing the rules of the game when it starts, in a way to diminish Chomsky thought and intervention.(But anyway he could understand French very well.
Most of the French sociologists and utopists have always embedded the French way of thinking everything in the light of the bureaucratic influence of their culture, based in the power of signature and paper rules consolidating a Power that only wants to revive the death of France's influence in the destinies of the world.
Chomsky is more concerned with how to change and act against power, while Foucault is focused on the metaphysical analysis of power as a voyeur that do not interfere.
Chomsky for me was always a more consistent view with the frame of intervention in the social order.
But I'll be back to the panopticon of Foucault to show the concept of surveillance and control of the masses.
Macron is using again the language of violence to be seen as an ally in US/UK monks of war and to restore a deceased and moribund empire.

Thank you for the reply and the original article as well. This part was the first text of yours I came across. I'm glad people are digging around this topic.

Your comparison of Foucault and Chomsky sounds fair and accurate. Voyeur is an excellent word choice here.

I have not been hearing any recent political news from France, but what you are describing is rather worrying. Similar political ideologies seem to be in operation right about everywhere. Lately, my particular focus has been on Burma/Myanmar, following George Orwell and Edward R. Murrow. Monks of war is an interesting expression.

Thanks a lot for the comments of a connoisseur.
I would like people to be more aware of this subject because it has never been so important to understand and deal with the growing centralization of Power.
And thanks for the motivation and cumpliments

The greater the dependence of one person on another, the greater will be hisPower over the other.

True dat! Dependence makes one vulnerable to obeying the will of the one being depended on. SO many people are dependent on handouts form the state, like welfare, that those people can never act to bite the hands that feeds them.

Yes, dependency is the way to drown the inalienable right to our personal Power.
Institutions have the power of resources dependency and the administrative-bureaucratic machine, as a basis for the control of the discontent.

G'day @charlie777pt! This post is awesome. Gladly i found this on steemit. Will definitely resteem it!

Thanks a lot, for the promotion and motivation
This will be a long series of posts. Hope you like them.

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Thanks for a great article


Relationship POWER and POWER are sugar with sweetness, like salt with salty. Both are inseparable. Effective power is realized when a leader with power employs the power that can inspire his followers to achieve satisfactory performance. The dilemma between power and power is that in social relations there is what is called power, it is inseparable from influence. The narrowest of power depends on the "thing" it has. Something here is a Political Resource that is owned such as money, food, physical strength, important information, weapons, friendship, voting in elections, position in society, the right to make regulations, science, etc. and territories. So in my opinion, the power is very close to the power and in power there is certainly power but in power there is not necessarily power.

Power is a centralizing framework for making policies and applying them to an organization, but it becomes destructive if there is abuse and corruption leading to institutional outcomes that only generate poverty, injustice and inequality.