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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
20. Social 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 19

The Fundamental
Of Power*

By R.J. Rummel

My notion would be, that anything which possesses any sort of power to affect another, or to be affected by another, if only for a single moment, however trifling the cause and however slight the effect, has real existence; and I hold that the definition of being is simple power.
---- Plato, Sophist, 247

Power is productive of effects. It is a component of social space--a status. And in conjunction with wealth, it can generate antagonism. So much has been discussed.

Power as productive of effects has had sufficient meaning to carry the burden of my discussion of status. However, power in relation to class and politics, and especially to the process of social conflict, is a far more complex and subtle concept than this definition would imply. Accordingly, the purpose of this and the subsequent chapter, Chapter 20, is to unfold the meaning of power, to get beneath power as producing an effect, in a way to facilitate our later understanding of class and conflict. This means that I will deal with the ontology of power in a way probably unfamiliar to the reader. But this will lead to a better understanding of power as having an effect upon reality, especially when this raises the question as to what kind of effect and on what reality. Answering these two questions will lead us to a very useful and practical discrimination among a variety powers.


As a word conveying meaning about a person, power is clearly understood. To say that Mary has power over John, Bill has power in the church, or Jack is a powerful politician is to communicate. Moreover, we sense our own power, whether over physical nature or other people. To send a spaceship to the moon or to carve a road through the Amazon is to manifest power over nature; to be elected a senator or to rob a bank is to manifest power over others.

It is through the idea of power and its derivatives and correlates such as force, influence, energy, control, strength, cause, pressure, authority, coercion, and insight that we make intelligible the dynamics and momentary stabilities of society and nature. But yet, though power be so fundamental and meaningful, attempts to agree upon its definition have failed.

Just focusing on power as manifested in our interrelations, we find as many substantively different definitions as there ARE those writing about it. Consider the following sample, selected from among the major works on power.

"Power may be defined as the production of intended effects" [Russell, 1938,p.18].

"Power is the ability to employ force" [Bierstedt, 1950, p. 733].

"For the assertion 'A has power over B.' we can substitute the assertion 'A's behavior causes B's behavior' " [Simon, 1957, p. 5].

"My intuitive idea of power, then, is something like this: A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do" [Dahl, 1957, p. 202].

The "power of 0 over P with respect to a given change at a specified time equals the maximum strength of the resultant force which 0 can set up in that direction at that time. The strength of the resultant force on P is determined by the relative magnitudes of the forces activated by 0 to 'comply' and to 'resist' " [Cartwright, 1959, p. 193].1

Power is "the ability to satisfy one's wants through the control of preferences and/or opportunities" [Kuhn, 1963, p. 317].

Power is "the processual relation between two parties modally characterized by (1) asymmetric influence, in which a perceptible probability of decision rests in one of the two parties, even over the resistance of the other party; and (2) the predominance of negative sanctions (threatened or actual) as a feature of behavior in the dominant party" [Schermerhorn, 1961, P. 12].

Power "is the process of affecting policies of others with the help of (actual or threatened) severe deprivations for nonconformity with the policies intended" [Lasswell and Kaplan, 1950, p. 76].2

Power: "its inner reality, the thing without which it cannot be: that essence is command" [Jouvenal, 1962, p. 96].

"Power is the ability to cause or prevent change" [May, 1972, p. 99].

So many diverse views of power suggest a pervasive something, which like the fabled elephant and the blind men feeling different parts, manifests itself in many different forms.3 Which form is apprehended clearly depends on the approach and purpose of a study.

Now, power is a central concept in understanding the field; along with potentiality, disposition, and manifestation, it defines the reality of our intentional field. Power is generic, and its species social power, and subspecies coercive, bargaining, and authoritative power, are basic to understanding our social behavior and possibilities.

Therefore to simply accept a definition from the literature or to simply focus on social power, or power as status without considering its generic core, is to miss much of the cognitive power of this book's perspective. Moreover, by considering the generic nature, I will show that there is a commonality among all definitions-an underlying foundation that unifies not only the apparently different views of social power, but also those different conceptions of power that inspire such philosophers as Nietzsche and Tillich (1954), such psychologists as Adler (Ansbacher, 1956) and May (1972), such sociologists as Parsons (1963) and Dahrendorf (1959), and such political scientists as Morgenthau (1962) and Simon (1957).


Power is foremost an ontological concept basic to understanding a reality of potentialities and actualities. Our world is a flux of possibilities becoming actual, dispositions becoming manifest, determinables becoming specific. Reality is not only being, but becoming. It is active, a field of potentialities and tendencies struggling against each other to become actual, completed, determinate.

We play an active part in this struggle. Reality imposes itself on us. Its powers bear upon us, trying to manifest its specific phenomenal aspects. Against these powers we also reach out biophysically and psychologically through our perspective transformation of reality. We reach out to manifest particular determinables, to actualize certain potentials, and the balance between this conflict between an imposing reality and our projecting-transforming selves is that which we perceive. This much has been discussed at length elsewhere.4

What is power within this view?

First, power is the linkage between different states of being; between potentialities and actualities, between dispositions and manifestations, and between determinables and determinants (specifics).

Second, that linkage is a strength-of-becoming, an active will-to-completeness. It is a push from the level of pure potentiality, of mere possibility, to ever greater levels of clarity and definiteness.

Third, it is an imminent energy, an inherent force-towards-identity of all beings.

Fourth, it is a vector whose direction is towards greater specificity, determinateness, completeness, identity, and whose magnitude is the strength-of-becoming, will-to-completeness,5 and force-towards-identity of a being. This is saying that power has a direction--it is "pointed" at something--and strength to actualize a potential of some kind. Thus, the use of the concept "vector". Power itself is a basic ontological concept and, like being, indefinable. However, we can bracket its qualities to provide meaning and understanding of its nature, and thus power functions as "linkage," as "will-to-completeness," as imminent "energy," as "strength-of-becoming," and as "force-towards-identity."

Finally, in essence, power is a vector-towards-manifestation.

Two examples may clarify this. By a few well-placed brush strokes an artist can suggest a running horse. The picture will lack specificity, detail. The strokes will hardly encompass a horse's multidimensional aspects and variable form. And yet the brush strokes will form a field of tension, of dispositions, straining towards completeness; they will be a vector of power, a vector-towards-manifestation as a running horse in our perception.6

Consider next a neighbor's party reaching crescendo as you seek sleep. The loud laughter and snatches of conversation are a vector-towards-manifestation in your mind. They gain your attention, become a felt power to intrude, a felt strength of manifestation which you struggle to ignore. However, if your mind is struggling with a problem or you are extremely tired, the party's noise may simply remain a disposition, its power to be manifest blocked by your uncongenial interest or physical state.

These examples may clear away a metaphysical or mystical aura around power as a vector-towards-manifestation. This becoming is something we can sense and feel. It is an empirical aspect of our selves, a transaction of our inner with outer realities. We feel such power in the effort of will required to do (i.e., manifest) many things, such as stopping smoking or biting our nails, hanging up on a telephone solicitor, or exercising. We feel such power through our ability to recall events, solve a puzzle, or win a tennis set. And we feel such power as we are driven by a need for sex, food, or sleep.

But we feel no less the powers of external reality. The cutting cry of a baby striving to be heard is a physical force thrusting all else from our mind; and similarly, the scream of a person in distress or the call of our name from the midst of a noisy crowd. Then there is the power of a large spider, snake, lizard, or rat to create fear in us.

All beings thus strive towards manifestation, towards completeness or distinctiveness. Whether they are successful or not depends on the competing powers and the perspective within which they are actualized. All manifestations, all actuality, are the outcome of a struggle of powers, of vectors-towards-manifestation, within the particular perspective of some being. However, all this having been said, power conceptualized as a "vector-towards-manifestation" is too abstract to have much currency outside of philosophy. This is an especially important point for a work ultimately directed towards communicating an understanding of conflict and providing practical conclusions. Henceforth, therefore, I will simply say that power in general is the capacity to produce effects. Not the production of effects, since such production may be blocked or overcome by other powers, but rather the potential to do so. But although not further specified here, underlying and tied to this conceptualization will be the more fundamental understanding of power as a vector-towards-manifestation.


Is power as understood here relative or absolute, a quality of being or a relationship between being?

Overwhelmingly, social scientists have defined (social or political) powers as relative, as I have done in quantitative studies on international relations.7 This views power as some kind of ability of a person to impose himself on another. This ability must be relative to the other, and the conception is therefore comparative. However, power as a capacity-to-produce-effects is imminent. It comes from within a being as a pushing towards ever more completeness. In this meaning, power is a quality of being. It is absolute and nonrelative.8

When we consider our power, therefore, we must separate two aspects. There is, first, our power toward distinctiveness as a living being, which is as a capacity-to-produce-effects. This is a human quality, no less distinctive of our individuality than our personality. Second, there is our success in manifesting our power. Success and power are not highly correlated, except at the extremes. Tremendous power usually will overcome most opposing powers, while weak power will have little push against reality. In between, however, the success of power will depend on those powers of nature and others in opposition. It will depend on the configuration and balancing of powers and one's resources. More on this in the next chapter (Chapter 20).


Most discussions of power imply that it is an ability to achieve *intended results, usually in terms of getting some other person to do what he would not otherwise do. The focus on intention, however, which is even part of Russell's otherwise admirably succinct definition, illuminates but one face of power. For power is a capacity to produce both intended and unintended effects.

What are unintended manifestations? A person's mere existence causes others to take notice, to take him into account, to compensate for him. As he walks down a sidewalk, he has the power to become manifest in the perception of other pedestrians, and to produce compensating movements. If he is well dressed, young, and handsome, he has the power to attract admiring glances. If he is also tall and muscular, he may cause some especially timid souls to be careful they do not bump into him. Just consider the identive power to draw attention of a gorgeous women entering a roomful of people.

There is no need to labor such scenes, for clearly in just the process of living we comprise a stream of causation affecting others and our environment. With unintended capacities-to-produce-effects, we become known through the resulting multiple effects that trail our course through life. Such power is thus a continual affirmation of ourselves, a defining-of-our-meaningful-boundaries as we push against contrary powers within (such as an immoral desire), as we manifest ourselves in opposition to nature's powers, or create an identity-worth-notice in another's life space.

I am concerned for the moment with this power in its unintended form as it manifests man's identity through other selves or through the environment.9 This form I will call identive power. It is the fundamental striving of all beings for determinateness, for completeness, for an explicit identity. It is thus the will-to-power of Nietzsche (1968):

To impose upon becoming the character of being--that is the supreme win to power. [p. 330]

My idea is that every body strives to become master over all space and to extend its force (its will to power:) and to thrust back all that resists its extension. But it continually encounters similar efforts on the part of other bodies and ends by coming to an arrangement ('union') with those of them that are sufficiently related to it: thus they then conspire together for power. And the process goes on. [p. 340]

This "will to power" expresses itself in the interpretation, in the manner in which force is used up; transformation of energy into life, and "life at its highest potency," thus appears as the goal. [p. 340]

Identive power is also part of Paul Tillich's (1954) ontology:

Every being affirms its own being. Its life is its self-affirmation--even if its self-affirmation has the form of self surrender. Every being resists the negation against itself. The self-affirmation of a being is correlate to the power of being it embodies. [pp. 39-40]

The power of being becomes manifest only in the process in which it actualizes its power. In this process its power appears and can be measured. Power is real only in its actualization, in the encounter with other bearers of power and the ever-changing balance which is the result of these encounters. [p. 41]

Everything wants to grow. It wants to increase its power of being in forms which include and conquer more non-being. [p. 54]

Turning to human beings, identive power is the basic, the superordinate, upward striving to completion labelled variously by psychologists as the drive to power, to self-assertion, to self-esteem, to self-affirmation, to identity. It is that which gives underlying direction to our activities, interests, and goals. It is our future oriented law of movement. In the words of Alfred Adler:

We all strive to reach a goal by the attainment of which we shall feel strong, superior, and complete. John Dewey refers, very rightly, to this tendency as the striving for security. Others call it the striving for self-preservation. But whatever name we give it, we shall always find in human beings this great line of activity-this struggle to rise from an inferior to a superior position, from defeat to victory, from below to above. It begins in early childhood and continues to the end of our lives. [Ansbacher, 1956, P. 104]

The psychological archetype (Urform) of the line of human movement is the striving for perfection, which is supported by the weakness of the child, his ever-present inferiority feeling. It is striving for the solution of the life problems in the sense of the evolution of the individual as well as humanity. There are millions of variations of the striving for perfection, a large part of which can be regarded as the striving for personal power.
---- Ansbacher, 1956, p. 114

And identive power comprises the unintentional dimension of Rollo May's (1972) power to be, self-affirmation, self-assertion, and aggression.

[Power to be:] Every person is born a bundle of potentialities. No one can doubt the delight the normal infant gets at the maturing of these potentialities into powers as he is able to talk, to crawl, to walk, to run. All of us who have watched children running in the park, skipping and jumping as randomly as puppies can appreciate the pleasure of sheer movement, of exercising muscles that demand to be used. The potentiality to explore, to see the world as a person of his age can, will increasingly become an actual power as his nueromuscular structure develops.... Power pushes toward its fulfillment. It is neither good nor evil, ethically speaking; it only is. But it is not neutral. It requires in some way its own expression, although the forms of this expression vary greatly. [pp. 121-22]

[Self-affirmation:] Inherent in the power-to-be is the need to affirm one's own being. [p. 137]

Thus man becomes a self only as he participates in his development and throws his weight behind this or that tendency, no matter how limited this choice may be. The self never develops automatically; man becomes a self only to the extent that he can know it, affirm it, assert it. [p. 141]

[Self-assertion:] A curious aspect of self-assertion is that human beings often seek out opposition in order to practice assertion. This indicates . . . that self assertion is not pathological but a constructive expression of the power to be. [p. 143]

Being is manifested only in the process of actualizing its power; otherwise how could we even be aware of it, let alone know its ramifications? Power becomes actualized in those situations in which opposition is overcome. [p. 144]

[Aggression:] In contrast to self-assertion, which may be simply a holding fast--"Here I stand; you can come this far and no further"--aggression is a moving out, a thrust toward the person or thing seen as the adversary. Its aim is to cause a shift in power for the interests of one's self or what one is devoted to. Aggression is the action that moves into another's territory to accomplish a restructuring of power. [p. 148]

By identive power, then, I mean the capacity of one's being to produce effects, whether through other selves or through the environment. Simply, this is the power we have to produce effects on the world around us, intentionally or unintentionally, by virtue of who and what we are--our identity.


Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour.
---- Romans 9:21

The unintended, active becoming which is natural to all beings is identive power. For us as human beings, however, much of our activity is focused, purposive, intentional. We transform identive power into a means towards the accomplishment of some goal, the gratification of some need, the satisfaction of some interest. Because my focus is our social behavior, we can divide these manifestations of intentional power into three levels: the environment, another's body, and another self.

Turning to the first level, we have a variety of powers which we often call abilities. Our strength, memory, reason, verbal fluency, numerical fluency, intelligence, and so on are powers through which we manifest our interests. Moreover, our self is a power integrating our psychological field and focusing our efforts on our striving for esteem. (See The Dynamic Psychological Field, Chapter 28) And our will is a power bringing the self to behave. (See also The Dynamic Psychological Field, Chapter 29)

As we intentionally bring these powers to bear against the environment through our perspective, we are asserting our interests. For this reason, I call this form of power assertive. It is a pushing outward, but not only the essential pushing of all beings, but the thrusting against external powers, a struggle, to manifest one's future goal.


With this shift to intentions in our concern for understanding power, what more precisely are intentions? I have already given them some meaning in discussing social behavior.10 Here, however, the immediate concern is with the linkage between intentions and power, and this linkage may. not be clear from the previous discussion.

Intentions are interests being manifested through behavior, and thus involve three elements: interests, gratification, and will. Let me take these in turn. Interests are activated attitudes, which in turn are linked to our basic needs. Our needs, the source of the psychological energy driving us to seek security or sex, to self-assertion or pugnacity, to protect others or to eat, become attenuated through a variety of wants and gratified through a variety of goals. As our culture progresses in complexity, knowledge, and experience, we connect these needs and their gratification to an increasing extended attitudinal lattice. Needs become gratified through a variety of attitudes; and one attitude may help satisfy more than one need. Thus, the attitude "In today's balance-of-power world, I want the United States to be strong" may help satisfy the needs for security, protectiveness, and self-assertion. And the need for sex may be partially satisfied through such attitudes as "Tonight I want to see a James Bond movie," "I want to read a erotic novel," or "I want to make love to my wife."

To be clear, an attitude is a want of the form "In this situation I want to do this with that." The attitude combines perception ("In this situation"); the self ("I"), the desire, wish, or craving ("want"); the goal ("to do this"); and the object of the goal ("with that"). The attitude thus gives specific direction to our needs; it matches our universal needs to the widely varying complexities of different cultures and to the circumstances of the individual's time and place.

It is within the attitudinal lattice connecting needs to very specific wants and goals that our sentiments and roles are located. Sentiments are attitudes sharing the same goal, although they may satisfy different needs. Thus, we find such a clustering of attitudes into the religious, career, sports and games, and material-mechanical sentiments. And most importantly, we thus find the self-sentiment and the superego sentiment. The former are "the attitudes centered on the self, which include wanting to control one's mental processes, avoiding damaging self-respect, being first-rate in one's job, having a reputation for honesty and high principles, and to be responsible and in charge of things" (The Dynamic Psychological Field, Chapter 21). On the other hand, the superego sentiment is a cluster of attitudes "centered on being moral, including duty to church and parents, unselfishness, avoiding sexual sin, gambling, and drinking and maintaining good self-control" (The Dynamic Psychological Field, Chapter 21).

Even though attitudes cluster by goal into a specific sentiment, the situations related to these goals may differ. The self-sentiment, for example, may involve situations ranging from occupation to games to parent-child and husband-wife relationships. However, there are attitudes which share both the situation to which they are relevant and their goals: these are what I call roles. A role is a clustering of attitudes that refer to or are invoked in the same situation and that have the same goal.

Attitudes subsidiate to needs, and thus our needs surely form an element in these attitudes. In addition, we find three other elements: the integrated self, involving our ego and superego; a physiological-autonomic element, in effect comprising our unconscious id; and our external context, that which we perceive. In other words, the pure attitude combines:

In this perspective, we find attitudes as the basic motivational unit, the dispositions defining our needs, goals, sentiments, and roles. Attitudes combine id, ego, and superego and frame our motivational structure.

As dispositions, however, attitudes have direction (the goals) but no necessary power to be manifest through behavior. For example, we may want to eat steak, but that particular attitude may be dormant because we are not hungry. We must bring into the picture the notion of activated attitudes (those related to needs that have been stimulated and requiring gratification) and dormant attitudes (those subsidiating to satiated needs).

An activated need is one that not only has direction but a power to be manifest (to be satisfied). The seat of this power lies in the psychological energy associated with the needs; it is the same in form as identive power, in that it is a capacity-to-produce-effects. The attitude gives direction to this power which in turn gives attitudes a strength-to-becoming; together they form our interests: our attitudes and their associated power-towards-gratification.

Since attitudes, the basic motivational units, involve both the integrated self ("I") and the goal, the attitude thus defines an intentional disposition. Not actual intentions, but those which can be activated. How then do we move from intentional dispositions to intentions? Now, interests are powers-towards-manifestation of certain goals. But the integrated self may block or absorb the gratification of these interests in the light of more central goals. For example, interest in sex or food (i.e., activated attitudes towards sex or food) may be ignored by the self as it focuses on a football game, cramming for an examination, or completing a scientific experiment. Not all interests are automatically gratified, nor does the self automatically move towards their gratification. The missing link between gratification and interests is will. The will moves the self towards the gratification of or opposition to some interest.

The will is a facet of our self, a particular ability (power) to exercise conscious choice and use practical reason. It is a particularization of the our power, as is our ego in coordinating and controlling choices, our memory in recalling past experiences and ideas, our intelligence in the quality and nature of the choice, and so on. Our will, however, is the specific aspect of our self guiding us through practical reason towards self-actualization and self-esteem. It is our will as power that enables us to choose and make our chess moves against nature.
---- Rummel, The Dynamic Psychological Field, Chapter 29

The will brings the self to behave, but whether the self can behave depends on the external environment and restraints. A chess board may be overturned before one can act as determined by the will. In sum, attitudes plus the power-towards-manifestation equals interests. And interests plus the will to their gratification equals intentions. This equation therefore brings together interests, gratification, and will and shows their connection to the basic motivational unit--attitudes. To be clear, there are two kinds of motivational powers, the first being a person's interests that are directed by the associated attitudes and given magnitudes by their power-toward-gratification. The second power corresponds to a person's intention: it is the resolution of the power of an interest with the power of the will towards its gratification.

Thus, when I write that assertive power is our intentional pushing outward against our environment to gratify our interest, I mean that assertive power is the conjunction of our interests whose goals focus on the environment, such as learning to swim, pruning flowers, or building a fire, and our will to gratify them.


We satisfy our interests not only against the environment, but against others as well. In understanding power directed intentionally towards others, there is one primary consideration: is the power directed towards the other self or his body?

Power directed towards another self is oriented towards the other's psychological field, perceptions, motivations, behavioral dispositions, interests or intentions. So directed are advertising, propaganda, commands, threats, inducements, deception, promises and so on. More on this in the next chapter, Chapter 20.

Power also can be directed to another's body. This distinction between the self and body oriented powers is what divides two healing professions: medicine and psychoanalysis. Medical doctors concerned with the body's health direct their powers towards its well being; psychoanalysts concerned with the self use their powers to help another self integrate and direct its interests and use its own powers.

My concern for the moment is with power directed intentionally towards another's body, which I call physical power. Power directed towards another self will be the subject of the next chapter, Chapter 20. Clearly, there are many kinds of physical powers, of which one, the medical, has already been mentioned. Prostitutes, masseurs, gymnasts, beauticians, and so on are known for their manifestation of particular physical powers. But these do not concern us here, for my ultimate focus is on those powers related to the social field, especially as their elucidation enhances our understanding of conflict.

There is a type of physical power, however, which is central to this interest. This is the power that intentionally and physically affects a person contrary to his will, one oriented not towards influencing, changing, or altering his choice, his will, but to directly opposing it physically. I will call this force. Force is trying to physically effect another's body or interests contrary to that person's intentions. This idea of force uncovers a nest of issues, some of which should be clarified here and the rest in conjunction with the discussion of social power.

Now, to use force (in my terms) is to use physical power to overcome the resistance of another's will. Thus, a holdup is not force, since "your money or your life" is an attempt to coerce your will--to have you intentionally, willfully, hand over your money. If, however, you resist and he hits you over the head and takes your money in spite of your willful opposition, that is force. If a girl submits to rape because of a knife at her throat, she has still made a decision to so submit and is doing so intentionally. But if she is raped while unconscious, this is force. If a prisoner walks before a firing squad, he does it willfully. But if he is dragged screaming and fighting to the stake to be tied against his efforts, then he is being forced.

The distinction being made, especially as seen in the examples, may seem perverse. For we are accustomed to think in terms of a person being "forced" to hand over their money or to do something they would not otherwise do. However, this more general idea hides two important distinctions. One is between working through another's self or through his body, a difference dividing social from nonsocial forms of power. The second is between coercing a person's will or physically overcoming it. Everyone can be forced against their will. They can be tied up, knocked unconscious, carried off to jail, regardless of their will's opposition. But no one can be forced to do something against his will. He can only be coerced. More on this in the next chapter, Chapter 20.


To summarize this chapter, power is fundamentally a vector-towards-manifestation, or, more simply, the capacity-to-produce-effects. It comes in many forms. One is identive power, the upward and outward striving of

all beings towards completion, towards manifestation, towards identity. Identive power is unintended; it is not willfully directed, but is a quality of existence. As a quality of oneself, it is a capacity-to-produce-effects against other selves (as in the unintended effect we may have on another's will) or against the environment.

Identive power, like all forms of power to be discussed, has two aspects: the quality of a being to become specific, determinate; and a being's success in so manifesting himself. As quality, power is absolute. But its success is relative to other powers, to the outcome of the universal struggle of powers.

Identive power is one form power takes. Other forms are peculiar to us as intentional creatures. Intention comprises our interests and our will to gratify them, and is itself a power. Its direction is given by the associated attitude, its magnitude is the strength of interest and the push of will behind their gratification. The intentional forms of power so far considered are assertive, physical, and force.

When directed to manifesting our interests against the environment, our powers are assertive. When directed towards another's body or interests, our powers are physicaL And when physical powers are employed to physically effect another or their interests against that person's will, this is called force.

Identive, assertive, and physical powers and force are nonsocial forms of power. We can now turn to power's social forms. 


* Scanned from Chapter 19 in R.J. Rummel, The Conflict Helix, 1976. For full reference to the book and the list of its contents in hypertext, click book. Typographical errors have been corrected, clarifications added, and style updated.

1. Most of the studies in Cartwright's book are empirical tests of social-psychological behavioral hypotheses, formulated within the context of Lewin's field theory. Yet even this common paradigm is not sufficient to impose consistency on the definition of power each study adopts.

2. This definition is an elaboration of the formal one they previously give (p. 75): "Power is the participation in the making of decisions: G has power over H with respect to the values K if G participates in the making of decisions affecting the K-policies of H." However, this formal definition is misleading, given their emphasis on negative sanctions.

3. For other views of power, see Merriam (1934), Berle (1967), Weber (1947), Bachrach and Baratz (1970), Carroll (1972), and Riker (1964).

4. See Section 3.1 of Chapter 3.

5. This view of power, which in the larger world-view is called objective perspectivism (see Ushenko, 1946), is remarkably similar to Nietzsche's will-to-power (1968) and Adler's (Ansbacher, 1956) superordinate striving towards completeness, as will be discussed later.

6. See Ushenko (1953) for a theory of art along these lines.

7. For example, see Rummel (1972).

8. There is always the question whether anything can be absolute, whether all is relative? This question I briefly considered in Rummel (The Dynamic Psychological Field, Chapter 32), and argued that the very definition of a relation presupposes some core absolute.

9. By environment, I mean that aspect of our internal or external reality not comprising our selves or those of others.

10. See Chapter 6.

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

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