QUESTION: What is power?Discuss the instruments of power?

ANSWER: Power is a key sociological concept with several different meanings. The most common definition comes from Max Weber, who defined it as “the ability of an individual or group to achieve their own goals or aims when others are trying to prevent them from realising them”. Power is a thing that is held, coveted, seized, taken away, lost, or stolen, and it is used in what are essentially adversarial relationships involving conflict between those with power and those without.
From this Weber identified power as being either authoritative or coercive. Authoritative power is exercising power which is seen as legitimate. By being legitimate it is effective because those who are subject to the power do so with consent. In contrast coercion is where someone exercises power through force – you’re forcing someone to do something against their wishes.
In contrast authoritative power isn’t coercive and Weber argues it manifests itself in three forms:
1.  Charismatic authority – this type of authoritative power is based on ‘charisma’ – for example the personal qualities an individual has in order to influence a group or person.
2.  Traditional authority – this form of authoritative power comes from established customs passing power down on a hereditary basis – for example British monarchy
3.  Rational-legal authority – this form of authoritative power comes from certain groups having certain positions of power over subordinate groups – for example a policeman telling you to move

In contrast, Karl Marx used the concept of power in relation to social classes and social systems rather than individuals. He argued that power rests in a social class’s position in the relations of production. Power does not lie in the relationship between individuals, but in domination and subordination of social classes based on the relations of production.
A third definition comes from Talcott Parsons who argued that power is not a matter of social coercion and domination, but instead flows from a social system’s potential to coordinate human activity and resources in order to accomplish goals.

For R.J. Rummel (politolog; political scientist) there are different forms of power. Here you can also see the different instruments used by the various powers. Every form of power uses its own instruments.
It consists in viewing power as an ability to make others do what they would not otherwise do. This view centers attention on means of coercion, such as on weapons, the military, the police, jails, sanctions, threats, and so forth, and misses or confuses coercion with the other forms of power, which involve cooperation, love, exchange, and the like.
Coercion is characterized by two negative interests connected by a threat. Bargaining power is characterized by two positive interests connected by a promise. Bargaining power involves two people having positive wants they can exchange. Each can forgo the gratification of one want in exchange for the other. Such exchange relationships not only refer to goods and money, but any positive interests whatsoever. E.g.: a girl may yield to a boy's overtures in return for his promise of love; a man may provide another with security in return for deference; a colleague may be highly supportive in return for similar support. All these are positive interests or in economic terms, goods.
When we persuade another to do something we want because we have made their interest clear to them, this is a form of power. For example, you have intentionally affected another self if by reason you persuade him that he should always obey the law because either in his moral scheme it's wrong not to, or because of the consequences for all if each takes it upon himself to decide what law is to be obeyed. You have not generated an alternative interest; you have clarified his interests to him. We not only persuade people to do (or not to do) something, but we may persuade them about what is true or false, right or wrong, good or bad, beautiful or ugly. In any of these cases, persuasion is the generation of understanding, ideas, or beliefs that clarifies one's choice of interests. Persuasion may cause another to change their mind, or their preferences among interests, to, say, go to college rather than join the army. But this does not constitute bargaining or coercion, since no exchange relationship is involved, except insofar as you show that a person's previous preferences would lead to deprivations or less reward. The basis of persuasive ability is intellectual. Expertise, logic, intelligence, knowledge, verbal and numerical fluency surely play a role in convincing others of the correctness of our view. Of course, conformity with the evidential norms governing the interests in question is also required. Even an ordained minister can hardly expect to persuade a scientist about the revealed truth of an empirical proposition.
Authoritative power is a capability to use legitimacy to convince a person to do something. It is understood that "legitimacy" is as seen in the other's perspective. Intellectual power works on another's interests. Another form of power similarly affects interests. This is authority. Authority is often defined relative to a position, such as that of policeman, judge, boss, and so on. In this sense, authority is then the rightness of a request or command associated with another's role. One obeys the request or command because it is thought proper legitimate. Legitimacy is not only a function of role, but also of a person's background, dress, and manner, evident expertise and knowledge, and condition. Authority is not only associated with a role but with a situation.
It is the power of love. The basis of love power is no other than love itself: the unification of selves. It is no stimulation of a need alone, such as sex or security or protectiveness, no simple triggering of superego, no posing of alternative interest, no changing salience in an interest. It is simply love. Altruistic power is then a capability to use love to induce a person into doing something.
Power can operate unseen in two ways through control over the situation and thus another's perceptions; and through control over what is possible, and thus over behavioral dispositions. Considering the first, parents often exercise considerable power over their children's situation. By not allowing them to see violence on television, keeping explicitly sexual material out of reach, and taking them to church every Sunday, parents try to affect their children's interests and behavior. Such manipulation is not limited to children and is carried to extremes under totalitarian governments, where rigid control over the media, people's movements, education, and so on affect what people perceive.
Hi. Cristina.

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------

QUESTION: Discuss critically the debate between Verrier Elwin and G.S Ghurey regarding tribes in India?

Dear Shari,
I'm not an expert in sociology in India. I could be an expert in sociology in Russia....As You can deduce from my professional profile. I can answer questions on general sociology. However, if You are unable to contact another colleague expert in sociology in India, I could try to meet Your request. Let me know....


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dr. Cristina Carpinelli


Cristina Carpinelli is a sociologist/politologist. She deals with research works, from economic and social point of view, concerning Central-Est Europe (Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland), South-Est Europe (Bulgaria, Romania, balkan Countries), Russia and all Former Soviet Union Countries. She has also become an expert on social welfare and gender and family politics in Countries mentioned above. She can't answer the questions relative to other geo-economic and political areas or about other questions outside her competence/knowledge. She lives and works in Milan (Italy).


Cristina Carpinelli wrote many articles and essays on the Ussr and on the transition of the Fsu from a planned economic system to a free market one. She wrote some books published by Nuovi Autori, Franco Angeli, Achab, Sedizioni, Zambon, Mimesis, Amazon.

She is a Scientific Committee Member of CeSPI (International Problems Study Center of Sesto San Giovanni - Milan ) as an expert on CEE (Central-Eastern Europe) and South-Eastern Europe (including Russia), and a monthly contributor to “noidonne” Magazine for gender and family politics in CEE (including Russia). She is part of the team experts of the U.S. Site “AllExperts” for the categories: “Sociology” and “Russia (News & Politics)”. She was part of the teaching staff for the training module “Objective Russia” (professional diploma for economic operators - ISPI school; module suspended from 2015) and now She is part of the teaching staff for the training module “European Union and ethnic and national minorities” (diploma in “European Affairs” - ISPI school). She is a member of the Italian Association for History Studies on Central and Eastern Europe (AISSECO - Since May 2015) and a member of the editorial staff of Mitteleuropean Social Watch (OSME - since January 2016).

La società sovietica negli anni della perestroika (Nuovi Autori, 1991); Donne e famiglia nella Russia sovietica (F. Angeli, 1998); Donne e povertà nella Russia di El’cin: l'era della transizione liberale (Franco Angeli, 2004); “Identities in Transition: Fsu Countries after the Collapse of Real Socialism” (CeSPI, 2004); La Russia a pezzi (Achab, 2008); “L’allargamento dell’Europa ai paesi dell’Est” (CeSPI, 2008), paper presented at the Conference “Quo vadis, Europe?”, organized by Municipality of Sesto San Giovanni - Milan, November 18, 2011; “Paesi Baltici tra integrazione europea e ‘apartheid’” in: Ripensare l’Europa dalle fondamenta, Mimesis, 2014 (Conference proceedings “Ripensare l’Europa dalle fondamenta”. Conference was organized by CeSPI and Municipality of Sesto San Giovanni - Milan; November 30, 2013); “Ucraina: un paese spaccato in due” (CeSPI, 2014), paper prepared for the Conference “Crisi Ucraina: quali possibili chiavi di lettura?” (May 16, 2014) organized by the Municipality of Sesto San Giovanni (Milan) and by CeSPI; “Nato, Ucraina, Russia” (CeSPI, 2014); L’Unione Europea e le minoranze etniche: Case Studies: Ungheria, Romania e Paesi Baltici, co-author Massimo Congiu (CreateSpace - an Company, May 18, 2016). Coming soon: Russia as told through the history of its mass media.

Cristina Carpinelli graduated during the academic year 1983/84 with the thesis "Alcuni aspetti del processo di invecchiamento della popolazione in Unione Sovietica: demografia, previdenza sociale, occupazione e salute" (Some aspects of the ageing process of the population in the Soviet Union: demography, social security, jobs and health) - State University of Milan, Faculty of Political Sciences (Statistics Department). The thesis of degree was elaborated in the Ussr, at the State University Lomonosov of Moscow.

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