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Volume 2

Expanded Contents


1. Introduction and Summary
2. The Concept of Field
3. Reality and the Intentional Field
4. Freedom and Intentional Humanism
5. Perceiving Another
6. Intentions, Attitudes, and Interests
7. Perceiving and Behaving
8. Behavior
9. Social Behavior and Interaction
10. Types of Social Interaction
11. The Equation of Social Behavior
12. The Transition to a Sociocultural Field
13. The Sociocultural Space
14. The Field of Social Forces
15. The Sociocultural Field
16. Distances
17. Status Distance
18. Status Distance and Behavior
19. The Fundamental Nature of Power
21. The Family of Power
22. Social Fields and Antifields
23. Groups and Antifields
24. Class
25. Social Class And the Class-Literature
26. Conflict
27. Conflict in the Sociocultural Field
28. The Elements of Social Conflict
29. The Process of Conflict
30. Social Fields and Types of Societies
31. The State and Political System
32. Societies, Politics, and Conflict
33. Societies in Empirical Perspective
34. Testing for the Existence of Exchange, Authoritative, and Coercive Societies
35. Is Conflict Manifest as Theorized?

Other Volumes

Vol. 1: The Dynamic Psychological Field
Vol. 3: Conflict In Perspective
Vol. 4: War, Power, Peace
Vol. 5: The Just Peace

Other Related Work

The Conflict Helix: Principles and Practices...


Chapter 20

Social Power*

By R.J. Rummel

The history of our time is a history of phrases, which rise to great power and then as suddenly pass away: the "merchants of death," the "malefactors of great wealth," ,"monopoly, " "reactionaries, " "liberals, " the "labor power, " "America First, " "cash and carry, " "unconditional surrender, " "peace in our time, " "collective security, " "bring the boys home, " "disarmament, " "the red menace, " "the atomic potential, " etc., etc. At the time of their currency, few men have had either the courage or the resources to stand up to these tremendous shibboleths. They develop unpredictable authority.

Men are destroyed by them, and others are raised to power, and others are rallied to a fighting cause, and wars are declared, and people driven from their homes. And after all this havoc has been wreaked, suddenly the phrase disappears and is powerful no more--indeed, is lost and forgotten and replaced by something else, very likely its exact opposite.... It is terrifying... Where, in all this, is truth.
---- Russell Davenport, The Dignity of Man


To put it simply, we found the essence of power in a capacity-to-produce-effects. This defines its genus. Social power as its species must also be such a capacity, but one with special attributes. These are two: intentionality and orientation towards another person's self, apart from their body.

As pointed out in Chapter 9, what distinguishes social behavior is an intentional orientation towards another self. This orientation takes the other self into account in one's acts, actions, or practices.

Clearly, the essence of social power should be parallel: social power is a capacity to produce effects through another self. Power is physical and not social when purposely employed to affect another bodily without going through the other self; physical power applied in opposition to another's will is force, or what has been called "naked power." Getting a person to willfully give you something is using social power. But knocking them unconscious and taking something from them is the use of force. Social power works on the other's perceptions, dispositions, interests, will, and all the other aspects of a person's self. Physical power, however, disregards the other's self and uses physical means to take or get whatever one wants.

Depending on what capabilities are employed, social power has different forms. These will be elaborated on in the following sections.


If any commonality exists among the various definitions of power, it consists in viewing power as an ability to make others do what they would not otherwise do. Yet this is a narrow and recent view of power, although it seems to dominate among contemporary political scientists.1 Unfortunately, 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.

It is no wonder that a focus on coercion has tended to emphasize the coercive basis of the state and state relations, to the neglect of the other basis of power such as competence, altruism, love, and rewards; that love and power have been seen as opposites, rather than essentially entwined; and that justice has been seen as ideally independent of such power, rather than as based on effective power.

To focus more specifically on power as coercion, consider two individuals i and j and two interests x and y. Now both x and y can be negative or positive interests. That is, the underlying attitude may be a positive "I want . . ." or a negative "I do not want. . . ." Let x be positive for i and negative for j. For example, x may be j's wallet which i wants and which j does not want him to have.

For i to overcome j's negative interest x, while avoiding force, i must tie x to another positive or negative interest y, such that j will on balance prefer x to y. This can be done by threatening that if j does not do x, then i will do (or refrain from doing) y.

For example, a robber threatens to shoot (y) if i does not give him his wallet (x). Now a threat of sanction or deprivation of some kind is the usual manner in which one is coerced into manifesting a negative interest. For many, accepting official law is such a negative interest manifested only because of the connected threat of sanctions if the law is broken.

Since a threat implies a negative interest y--that which i will do to j if j does not do x--this coercive situation for j is characterized by an inescapable linkage between two alternative negative interests between which he must choose. The outcome then basically depends on the relative strength of the two negative interests. Between your money or your life, the choice is clear. Between lying to convict a friend or a long jail term for oneself, the choice is not so clear.

Coercion is more than a threat of some future sanction, however. A tortured spy can be threatened with additional suffering unless he yields the desired information. Here, as in kidnapping or posting bond, a deprivation is first applied, followed by a threat to continue (a negative interest y) if you do not accept the negative interest x (giving the secrets, paying a ransom, or appearing in court). This kind of coercive situation for j is also characterized by two negative interests between which he must choose.

Figure 20.1

In both situations of coercion, the threat of future or continued deprivation, j's self is placed by i's threat between two powers, both of which are negative interests. And escape from this situation is explicitly or implicitly prevented by two barriers, as shown in Figure 20.1. In the Figure the two negative interests are shown as vectors bearing on the self. The length of the vectors indicating their strength. As shown, the interest in not being shot far surpasses in strength the self's interest in not giving up his money

As in all psychologically conflictful situations, when i is coerced he would prefer to "leave the field," to run away from the threat. But this may be blocked, as shown by the barrier in the figure, by one's physical weakness or by physical surroundings, thus forming a barrier to escape. Another possibility may be counteraction, such as grabbing for the gun, producing one's own gun, calling for help, and so on, but this "escape route" also may not be possible, forming another barrier. With these counteractions blocked, only a choice between the threat and demand may be left, and the choice will depend on which of these two negative interests is stronger.

Negative wants are outside powers bearing on the self; they are powers imposing undesired goals, as shown in Figure 20.1. Positive wants, the interests that the self would gratify were no other interests in conflict, are then powers moving out from the self. When being robbed, both "escaping from the field" and others counteractions are positive interests, and thus moving outward. If positive interests are blocked, as in the figure, one must choose between negative interests. Then the choice will depend on which negative vector is strongest. In this case y is the stronger negative interest, the more powerful "I do not want . . . ," and thus x would be chosen over y by i.

Note that coercive power confronts the self with a double negative bind. Nonetheless, the self has a choice, even if between two evils, and therefore chooses willfully. A coerced individual's will is free, and in this lies the great unpredictability of coercion. On the other hand, force is predictable: a person hit on the head hard enough will be immobilized; enough policemen can carry a person resisting arrest into the wagon; a person's opposition can be eliminated by killing him. But in coercion, a self faced with two negative alternatives controls the final choice.

Nonetheless, the choice of an interest x can be made more probable by increasing the power (negative interest) of y. We do not know what j will do if i demands he turn over military secrets (x) or be shot (y). He may be a patriot. Honor or self-esteem may simply not allow him to betray his country to save himself. But, if j is threatened with the slow torture and execution of his family and is himself undergoing torture, his choice of x becomes more probable.

In total, then, one form social power takes is coercion. And I can now define coercive power as a capability to threaten a person into choosing one undesirable behavior over another. The success of coercive power depends on the strength of the barriers against escaping the threat and the strength of the two negative interests. If one negative interests is much stronger than accepting the threat, then coercion may be defeated. For example, a POW threatened with being shot if he doesn't divulge military secrets (a threat from which there is no escape), then he may say "Never! Go ahead, kill me."

My discussion of coercion has so far emphasized its nature as power, but not its psychological basis. Coercion is fundamentally a coupling of expectations and motivations; it works through another's expectations to affect his interests.2 Expectations, the anticipated outcomes of our potential behavior, are directly engaged through the threat of deprivations if one does not manifest a particular negative interest. It is of the form: "If you do (or do not do) x, then y will follow." For example, "If you do not pay your rent, I will evict you." The link between the resulting expectations of deprivations and the negative want is through the psychological field.

The nature of a negative want depends not only on j's attitudes, but also on how he perceives it; on his other attitudes, self-esteem and superordinate goal; on his temperament, abilities (the negative want may be unintelligible, as may be the command in English "Put your hands up" to a captured Chinese soldier), mood, state (he may be too sick to respond), and will. In short, a negative want does not stand alone: the psychological field of coercion involves fundamentally another's behavioral dispositions and his expectations. His actual behavior, then, is a weighting of these dispositions within the coercive situation by his associated expectations of the outcomes.

The success of coercion, the relative aspect of coercive power, is then a function of these two variables: a person's behavioral dispositions, which is the negative interest x transformed through the person's psychological field; and his expectations, which relate negative interest y to x within this dynamic field. This success will depend not only on the strength of the negative interest, but also on the credibility of its threatened manifestation--the expectation that the threat will be carried out. If an indulgent parent uses hollow threats to keep his children in line, they soon will ignore the threats: the parent's coercive power over the child will be weak. Credibility is a crucial concept in understanding coercive power, for the degree to which another expects a threat to be carried out determines how seriously the negative interest will be taken. If the threat is incredible, then from j's perspective there is no coercion, for he has no opposing alternative negative interests to choose between.

Coercion is a posing of linked negative interests x and y (as in "your money or your life") such that if x (your money) is not manifested, then the threatened y (your loss of life) will follow. If the threat is perceived as empty (if the robber is a frail boy with a toy gun), then there is no coercion. Since the negative interest y has no strength, only x (giving him your money) remains, and this can be ignored. An incredible threat provides a third choice: ignoring both alternatives.

Here is the eye around which swirls much of the tactics and strategy of conflict. How does one make his threats appear credible so that his coercive power is effective? How does one deter or compel others? Surely, such is strengthened by making irrevocable commitments, developing a reputation for executing threats when called, making only reasonable threats, forming coalitions to back one's threats, and so on. It is not my concern here to deal with such topics,3 but simply to suggest their relationship to the psychological nature of coercion.

To conclude, I have pointed out the following:

(1)We can define a person's negative interest as some goal he does not want in some circumstance and the strength of this feeling or desire against it.

(2)Coercion is then the intentional generation of two alternative negative interests between which a person must choose, where one is generated by a threat in order to make the other a likely choice.

(3)The existence and success of coercion, its effectiveness, depends on the--expectations of the threatened negative interests being manifested--the threat's credibility.


Coercion is characterized by two negative interests connected by a threat. Bargaining power is characterized by two positive interests connected by a promise.

Consider again two individuals i and j and now two positive interests x and y, each being of the form "I want. . . ." Let the situation be such that for i to gratify one interest, he must give up the other. For example, in order to buy a new car (one positive interest) you must give up considerably money (another positive interest). To get money, you must give up some of your time to work. To develop a skill, you must devote considerable time to practice. And so on. Our lives are full of such trade-offs. Only in heaven are all our positive interests satisfied, and in hell denied.

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. Thus, 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.

Figure 20.2

To clarify the bargaining situation, consider Figure 20.2a, which shows two individuals i and j and their positive interests x and y, which are projected as vectors from each self towards the other. The length of each vector measures the strength of each interest, that is, how much each wants to gain (x for i and y for j) and how much each is willing to give up (y for i and x for j) accordingly. For example, if x is a radio and y cash, then the vectors would show how much cash (y) i is willing to give up to buy a radio (x) from j. and how much cash (y) j wants to give up the radio (x).

If the points of the x and y vectors touch as in Figure 20.2a, then there is only one determinant solution to the bargain. What one is willing to give up to gratify another interest, the other wants to gain for giving up the interest. There is no other exchange solution; each is equally satisfied and both have equal bargaining power. It is irrelevant how an outsider views this exchange or whether one party thinks he is getting a better deal. If one is exchanging ten strings of beads for one thousand acres, and if this is the bargain where the interests of each touch, then they have equal bargaining power. Incidentally, this is not an abstract example. Some have given up tens of thousands of dollars in money (which could purchase hundreds of acres of land) for a small stone--a diamond.

However, as often is the case, there may be overlap in the interests of two people, as shown in Figure 20.2b.4 One may willing to give up far more to gratify an interest than the other wants; or one's desire to satisfy an interest may far exceed the other's willingness to give it up. If through bluff and haggling, i, say, is able to exchange the minimum y he is willing to give up for the maximum gratification of his interest x, then j has given up his maximum x for a minimum y. Then i has more bargaining power than j.

For example, let us say in looking for a new house you see a suitable one that you and your mate both decide is worth as much as $40,000, a sum you could handle in your budget. The owner, however, is asking for $38,000. Knowing that the initial price on a home is always negotiable, you offer $34,000. Finally, after bargaining, you both agree on $36,500. Since you were willing and able to go $40,000, you had more bargaining power than the owner in this situation: you paid less than you were willing to pay; the owner received less than he could have had.

In sum, a person has bargaining power if he can exchange his interests with others; he has greater power than another if he gets more for less than he was willing to give up.5 I can now define bargaining power as a capability to use promises to entice a person into choosing one behavior over another.

Note the similarity in bargaining and coercive power. Both work through another self. Both involve two alternative interests tied together. Coercion, however, involves two negative interests; bargaining, two positive. In coercion, one generates a negative interest to cause another to select a connected undesirable alternative; in bargaining, one generates a positive interest to cause another to select it over a connected desirable alternative.

Psychologically, how do coercion and bargaining compare? Coercion works through expectations. By posing a credible threat of something unwanted, one tries to get another to select an alternative negative interest. In bargaining, however, one uses promises of rewards rather than threats of deprivations; one hopes to induce another to accept the reward in exchange for another positive interest. And as in coercion, credibility is crucial: a person by reputation, previous behavior, commitments, or capability must show that he can and will follow through on his promises.

Before moving on, I should stress the domain of bargaining power. This form of power is often confused with economic exchange, such as in bartering possessions or buying and selling goods and services. This is only one arena for bargaining power. The domain of bargaining power comprises all social relations. It is present in the exchange of status deference for protection, sex for security, or agreement for promotion. It is involved in the exchange of compliments, greetings, dinner invitations, letters. Indeed, it underlies all social exchange, all situations of social reciprocity.

Implicit in social exchange is a promise of a reward in exchange for some action. The promise need not be enunciated, but may be implicit in the other's field of expression or in the social relationship. Economic exchange is usually explicit ("I'll give you five dollars for that book"), but this does not constitute a difference of kind, but of degree. The same form of power is involved, as in "I'll scratch your back, if you'll scratch mine." The commonality is the presence of some mutual positive interests x and y, such that one person can exchange x for y and another y for x.6


Knowledge is power.
---- Francis Bacon, De heresibus

One manifests both coercive and bargaining power through the generation of an alternative interest by creating the expectation of deprivations or rewards. Not all social power, however, involves alternative interests.

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.

Psychologically, persuasion focuses on the interests of another. Recall that an interest is an attitude plus its strength to be manifest. And the attitude's ingredients are situation, self, want, and goal. Persuasion, then, works on the cognitive connection between situation, want, and goal, as they are linked to each other and to other attitudes, in order to change the strength of an attitude. The goal of one attitude may persuasively be shown more instrumental to a higher goal than other attitudes ("College graduates earn a higher lifetime income than non college graduates") or a particular goal can be argued to be gratified through another attitude ("Join the army and see the world"). Or attitudes may be brought to life by stimulating the relevant underlying needs. These different ways of persuading, called advertising, propagandizing, converting, proselytizing, convincing, brainwashing, and seducing, are a means to alter the balance among a person's interests--to strengthen some interests and weaken others.

Let me call this ability to persuade another intellectual power. This power is a capability to persuade a person into believing or doing something. .


Intellectual power works on another's interests. Another form of power, beloved of political scientists, similarly affects interests. This is authority.

Authority is often defined relative to a position, such as that of policeman, judge, boss, and so on.7 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.

The notion of legitimacy is important, for authority is more than balanced power; it is directed power which can be employed (legitimately) only in channels defined by the norms of the group. A person holding such authority is commissioned; he does not simply have the right to rule or govern--he is obliged to. Thus, authority emerges as a transformation of power in a process called "legitimation".
---- Emerson, 1962, p. 38

However, legitimacy is not only a function of role, but also of a person's background, dress, and manner, evident expertise and knowledge, and condition. For a drowning person to yell to me for help is legitimate, and I would respond with as much help as I could give. In this situation, he has authority, as does a reader asking that I refrain from disturbing him in a library. It is legitimate for a recognized scholar of classical Greek to demand the evidence for a critical comment I may have made on Plato, and I am obligated (by my own values) to respond. A mathematician (not by position, but by training) asking for the derivation of my theorem has the legitimate power to do so. They have authority.

Thus, authority is not only associated with a role but with a situation (a drowning person, a library). However, these senses of authority are still independent of the individual. Regardless of who is the police officer or the judge or the drowning person, his request is authoritative. However, authority can also inhere in the individual who because of his particular attainments or image can make legitimate requests or even commands.

Consider the charismatic leader. His power comes from promising others a better future which evidently only he can achieve. He connects with the superordinate goals of others and holds out in his person their gratification. His commands are therefore just and proper routes to his, and thus their, success. Of course, such a person soon has an official role as head of a group, party, or government. But this should not mask the source of primary authority that is in the leader and not his position.

We thus have three kinds of authority: that associated with role; with situation; with the individual. Since they share a similar basis in legitimacy, they are aspects of authoritative power. Later I will emphasize a particular aspect, as for example in defining class in relation to authoritative roles. However, the more general concept of authoritative power should be seen as encompassing these three kinds and will suffice for my immediate purposes.

As described, then, 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.

Psychologically, authority works through the superego. By virtue of person's field of expression, his clothing such as a uniform, or his station behind a desk, we culturally endow his requests or commands with legitimacy. Because of that cluster of attitudes defining what is right and wrong, good and bad, in a moral or ethical sense, we feel that the person should be giving us commands or making requests, and that we have an obligation to obey.

Authoritative power thus comprises two interests. One, which may be positive or negative, is that commanded or requested. The other is the moral or ethic which endows the command or request with legitimacy. Note the difference from bargaining, coercion, and persuasion. Persuasion involves changing the salience of an interest wholly through generating a re-evaluation of its constituents and relationship to other interests; coercion involves two alternative negative interests; bargaining two positive interests. In persuasion and authority, a negative interest may be involved. One is persuaded, however, to do what is undesired because of the relationship of the outcome to one's positive interests ("Drink your milk, sweetheart, and you'll grow up to be a healthy women") or because it is shown to be the lesser of two evils ("If you don't work, you must accept charity"). In authority, one may be commanded to do something undesirable, but will do it anyway because one believes he should. Thus, the prison warden obeys the command to execute the prisoner sentenced to death.


What is ignored by most social scientists is the power of love. Everyone knows we can coerce others. We can use authority. We can bargain. And we can persuade, as too many forget. But what about power of love, perhaps one of the strongest and most prevalent social powers known? All experience it, our literature, poetry, and art manifest its many aspects, but few social scientists have given it scientific status as a power.8

Yet, a person who is loved by others has the power to intentionally affect their interests simply by virtue of this love. Yet, when someone you love asks you to do something, you do so not because of persuasion or legitimacy or bargaining or coercion, but because your loved one asks. You want to do whatever helps the other; together you form a whole and whatever interests the other, interests yourself. Two selves are united into one so that an expressed interest--an "I want . . ." of one is the interest of the other.

Thus, 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.

Now, such power is not necessarily restricted to a person loved by the other. The other's love for humanity, his nation, or group can induce such love based interests. Indeed, such interests are a basic force in social relations that serve as the basis for reform movements, ideologies, politics, and conflict.

The person who labors long for a welfare bill, who suffers through deprivations to promote communism, who gives up all he owns to be a missionary in Africa, who demonstrates against the Vietnam War, or who goes to prison to protest a bad law may act from altruism, a basic integrative feeling--a love--for humanity. This love, and not aggression, is one of the roots of mass conflict. It is because people want to do good that they sometimes fight others en masse, and not because they are selfish or evil.

For now, however, I simply wish to point out that this love for others is a source of power. Those seeking power for themselves or their ideas can tap this love through a political formula: a promised solution to humanity's problems. Whether it be freedom, equality, justice, a communist utopia, democracy, Christianity, Islam, the welfare state, a minimum wage, eliminating tax loopholes, or foreign aid, the formula promises to improve our lot. He who wields the formula then can affect the interest of those who share its vision.

We do not exist simply to manifest our selves. We also live to help others. As Adler noted decades ago, our self-esteem, our drive for perfection and completion, is not wholly selfish and egoistic. In the healthy individual it is bound up with a social interest (Adler, 1970), with a goal of an ideal community, with a love that reaches out to unite with others. The one who controls the formula for achieving this has altruistic power. For to serve his own ends or satisfy his own vision, he can intentionally induce within others love-based interests. Thus, people can be induced to confess crimes they have never committed for a cause (such as happened in the Soviet purge trials of the 1930's), to bear false witness against their friends, to turn in their relatives to the secret police, and to kill. Indeed, what force can never do, what is beyond coercion, and what cannot be bartered away can be affected by love: the willing sacrifice of oneself.

Love, then, in the service of a higher cause or another person, is the seat of inductive interests: of altruistic power. From where does this love come? One of our fundamental needs is protectiveness, the need to help others and protect them. This need, as basic as sex, hunger, and security, must be the source of love's energy.

But love is not just a need that is gratified and temporarily satiated. It involves the total self, the gestalt, structure, and process that combine the dynamic psychological field. It manifests itself through the reaching out, the integrating with another, the uniting of selves. It involves the total field. This makes love so fundamentally basic and so powerful, wholly capturing the life--the soul--of a person. A person in love cannot be distracted; a person working for humanity cannot be deflected. Love engages our total field and orients it towards love's end.


So far social power has been manifested through the will of another who has been an intentional participant in power. Social power, however, may be oriented to another self, invisibly. It may operate offstage, setting the lights, determining the scenery, and selecting the play.

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.

Power over perception is also an ingredient in social interaction. It is manifested by the person who does not tell another bad news, who employs symbols to project status (e.g., Rolls Royce), who creates a seductive situation (soft music, low lights, wine), or who chooses the side of the court that places his tennis opponent with the sun in his eyes. Indeed, this power is developed to a high degree in the fine arts and theater, where the goal is to create a specific situation influencing the perception, interests, and emotions of viewers in a particular way. Then, of course, there is democratic politics, where the success of a politician and his policies depend in part on the image projected.

Not only through manipulating the situation, but also through actual control over opportunities does one affect another. Parents may avoid sending their children to a particular school for fear of the kind of group they may encounter; provide them with piano and art lessons to broaden their opportunities; and send them to college to ensure their later success. Administrators may set the rules of administrative appeal or hearings, which effectively load the dice in his favor. He who sets the rules has power over the process.9 Teachers may try to increase a student's opportunities by increasing their cognitive complexity (say through mathematics and logic), the sophistication of their conceptualization and their knowledge. Citizens may work to decrease the potentiality for fraud and bribery by new election campaign laws.

Clearly, the form of social power manifested through control over perceptions or opportunities is a manipulative power. Such power is a capability to control the situation and opportunities of a person to cause him to do something. By controlling the situation, manipulative power works through another's perception. A person only responds to what he perceived, and thus by influencing his perception one affects his interests and behavior. Controlling opportunities, limiting or expanding a person's behavior potentials, will affect his interests and dispositions.

It has been often said that coercion is the greatest evil, for we are given no choice but two evils. Of course, this is an extreme generalization, since bringing up a child often requires coercion to protect him against himself. Moreover, traffic laws, or those protecting property and the person, ultimately are based on coercion, and justifiably to the benefit of most people. Similarly, manipulation in certain contexts can be justified. But as norms of behavior or as the rule of government, both coercive and manipulative power are to be minimized. While sometimes necessary, they, like medicine with potentially dangerous side effects, should only be of last resort in human affairs. 


* Scanned from Chapter 20 in R.J. Rummel, The Conflict Helix, 1976. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. The chapter has been extensively revised.

1. Cf. the definitions by Lasswell and Kaplan (1950) and by Dahl (1957). Carroll (1972) has written a pointed analysis of this focus on power as dominance, and has suggested in its place a more appropriate concern with power as competence, security, and autonomy. These are close to what I call identive and assertive power.

2. The link between power and expectations has been noted by others, such as Simon (1957) and Abramson et al. (1958). Parsons (1963, p. 256) treats power as a symbolic medium "like money in that it is itself 'worthless,' but is accepted in the expectation that it can later be 'cashed in,' this time in the activation of binding obligations" (italics added). Parsons is talking about authoritative power, as I define in Section 20.5.

3. The whole strategic literature of international relations deals with how to make one's coercive power effective through credible threats: thus is the essence of deterrence and compellance, the twin concerns of politico-military analysis. See, for example, Schelling (1960; 1966).

For an excellent generalized discussion of such tactics and strategy, see Kuhn (1963, Chapters 17-19). Note that Kuhn subsumes what I call coercive power under bargaining power, which I will consider next. By doing this he masks the important shift from the negative interests of coercive power to the positive interests of bargaining. This difference between positive and negative interests is the gulf between open libertarian social relationships and closed coercive ones.

4. This substantive analysis is similar to that of Kuhn (1963), while the analytic framework is quite different. Moreover, Kuhn defines coercion as a bargaining power, while I make it a separate form altogether.

5. All this can be made more specific by defining net bargaining power as the difference between x and y vectors before the bargain, and the bargain as the difference between them agreed upon. Then by comparing the difference between the net for i and j to the bargain, an explicit statement about comparative bargaining power could be made. But this degree of precision is unnecessary here and would be of no use to me later.

6. On social exchange and power, see Blau (1967). My view of social exchange and the role of power in it is close to his. The major difference is that I include economic exchange, where Blau feels (p. 93) that social exchange "differs in important ways from strictly economic exchange. The basic and most crucial distinction is that social exchange entails unspecified obligations. The prototype of an economic transaction rests on a formal contract that stipulates the exact quantities to be exchanged. The buyer pays $30,000 for a specific house, or he signs a contract to pay that sum plus interest over a period of years. Whether the entire transaction is consummated at a given time, in which case the contract may never be written, or not, all the transfers to be made now or in the future are agreed upon at the time of sale. Social exchange, in contrast, involves the principle that one person does another a favor, and while there is a general expectation of some future return, its exact nature is definitely not stipulated in advance." Given that Blau defines (p. 6) social exchange as "limited to actions that are contingent on rewarding reactions from others and that cease when these expected reactions are not forthcoming." I cannot see a meaningful distinction (for understanding social processes) in type between economic and social exchange. But there is a meaningful difference in degree of explicit promises and rewards.

I view economic relations and exchange as simply an aspect of the social field. Compartmentalization of the economic, the political, and the social which are based on an assumed difference in structures, processes, and powers is unwarranted and misleading, especially in understanding conflict.

7. "The institutionalization of the normative order ... thus comes to focus in the concept of authority. Authority is essentially the institutional code within which the use of power as medium is organized and legitimized. It stands to power essentially as property, as an institution, does to money" (Parsons, 1963, p. 243).

On power, authority and imperative control, see Weber (1947, pp. 152-53 and p. 224ff). The translator of Weber equates "authority" with Weber's "Legitime Herrschaft," which is authority in Parsons terms.

8. One exception is Sorokin (1967). Oddly, Sorokin gives considerable weight to love, but virtually none to social or political power itself. Note his index to Sorokin (1969), his major summary work, does not list power. For him, power gets absorbed, somehow, at the supercultural system level in the grand dynamics of meanings-values-norms. And at the individual level, the basis of interaction is love and differences and similarity in meanings, values, and norms.

9. See Bachrach and Baratz (1962). They point out that control over the rules of decision-making, rights of appeal, etc. is a face of power. This would be manipulative power, in my terms.

For citations see the Vol. 2: The Conflict Helix REFERENCES

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