Power is the ability to do something


When asked which factors constitute a power relationship, three factors were often cited in each case: physical violence, reward or punishment and propaganda (Russell), violence, benefit and persuasion (Etzioni), temptation, coercion and persuasion (Gamson), threat, exchange and love (boulding). However, the more differentiated classification of the foundations of power by French and Raven (1959), which is based on an analysis of psychological processes, has largely prevailed. They make a difference Power through reward (reward power: the - perceived - ability of the power holder to reward), Power through coercion (coercive power: the - perceived - ability of the power holder to punish), Power through legitimation (legitimate power: right based on norms or agreements to demand certain behavior), Power through identification (referent power: fulfillment of expectations because the person identifies with the person in power), Power through skill (expert power: consent based on ascribed knowledge and ability) and Power through information (information power: consent based on information accessible via the power holder).
These individual bases of power can to interactwhen, for example, frequent rewards lead to power through identification. Negative power can arise with negative identification and with low ascribed expertise (identification, willingness to identify). According to French and Raven, power through reward and punishment has a high cost because power holders must verify that behavior is as expected before rewarding or punishing. In contrast, in the case of power through legitimation, through identification, through expertise and through information, the presence of the power holders is not necessary. This classification has been supplemented variously, e.g. by Power through ecological or situational control (Ability to shape the environment in such a way that the partners are limited in their behavioral options) and the “opportunity power” (to be in the right place at the right time - Robbins, 1993). Other extensions, e.g. after persuasive power, position power and personal power, are already included in the French and Raven classification.
Other dimensions of power are that medium (the concrete instruments of power like money, kindness), the Area (the areas of life to which power extends such as work, family), the expansion (often operationalized as the number of persons to whom power extends) who time (the duration, but also the speed of the power effect) that costs (Resources that have to be given up in favor of the power relationship). In addition to threats, exchanges and love, boulding also leads Types of power (destructive, productive and inclusive) and Institutions of power (political / military, economic and social) on, Blalock (1989) den Degree of mobilization and the effectiveness of resource mobilization. Finally, Witte (1985) distinguishes between the Scope of power (related to an individual, a micro, meso or macro system) and those affected mentalFunctions of power (affective, cognitive and conative). Despite these diverse preoccupations with power, there are no original, but only post facto theories and rather unsystematic empirical studies.

General theories of power
1) Adams and Romney use the conception of the Reinforcement learningto explain the creation and maintenance of power relationships (learning, instrumental learning). A power relationship between two partners A and B exists when A behavior is reinforced by B's reaction and A in turn reinforces B behavior. The myriad of reinforcement learning experiments can be used as evidence of the validity of this concept. A weakness of the approach is that in any situation the behavior of A and B can have a lot more meanings than they are seen by the actors. 2) Lewin's field theory was used by Cartwright, for example, to understand power relationships. He sees the power of A over B in the ability of A to mobilize forces at a certain point in time in B's living space, which forces overcome B's forces of resistance. 3) According to the exchange theories, people only maintain relationships with partners with the aim of maximizing utility if the income received is higher than income from other relationships and if their own income (in relation to costs) corresponds to the income of the partners (in relation to their costs ) correspond. If person A can offer partner B less income (in terms of costs) than other people, the relationship may be broken. So A only has power over B if A has sufficient resources to meet B's needs. If a person B cannot repay the income received from interactions with A, he will have to offer conformity, i.e. recognition of A's power, as an object of exchange. Power thus arises from unbalanced exchange relationships. 4) One decision-theoretical conception (Decision) of power is based on the consideration that a behavior option is only selected from several alternatives if it allows the highest possible benefit and low costs to be expected. A will exercise power over B if A can influence the objective and / or subjective benefits and costs of B's ​​behavioral alternatives. For this he can use his power base. 5) Attribution theories become relevant for power considerations if A and B attribute the possession or lack of means of power and the willingness to use existing means (attribution).

Specific power theories
Individual authors have developed specific power theories for limited issues. a) Blalock (1989) has the realized power postulated as the product of the resources times the degree of their mobilization times the effectiveness of this mobilization. b) Robbins (1993) used the concept of Power elasticity introduced: If A has many possibilities for the satisfaction of his needs, B's power potential is lower than if A is dependent on a few types of motive satisfaction (motive). In the first case, A's power elasticity is greater. c) Mulder's Power Distance Reduction Theory Contains 15 hypotheses, e.g. that more powerful people strive to maintain or expand the power distance to less powerful people or that lower power people want to reduce the power distance to more powerful people. The practical significance of this theory is obvious: the top of an organization (a trade union, a church, a company) alienates itself from the base if it does not consciously and systematically counteract this tendency. To make up for power differences, Mulder suggests one Power spiral (better: Power staircase), i.e. to lead the people of low power upwards on small steps. d) The Power Balance Theory von Schneider is based on considerations of exchange and equity theory, according to which unbalanced exchange relationships are unsatisfactory for both sides and give rise to tendencies towards equalization. Likewise, in the case of power differences, discomfort and tendencies to change are to be expected on the part of the high and low in power, at least if a norm of equality has been socialized. Pilot studies were able to confirm not only a tendency towards the increase in power of the lower power, but also a tendency towards the decrease of the power of the higher power. e) Kipnis had with his Theory of the Corruptive Effects of Power four phases of downward power expansion proposed. The use of power leads to a devaluation of the performance of the subordinate. Those who have a lot of means of power not only try to influence partners more, but also to evaluate their work results less. Many means of power destroy the quality of interactions, few means of power contribute to more participatory behavior. f) Latane sees in the Social impact theory a person initially as the target of various forces (social impact theory). The “impact” of these forces (and thus the actualized power) is then the function of the Strength times the Proximity times the number of the target persons (I = SxNxZ). The additional impact of each additional target person is less than the influence of the previous target person. The effect of a claim to power (e.g. request for help, call for evangelism) is therefore less, the more people it is addressed to. g) Research on impression management examines which behaviors contribute to the attribution of power resources. In this way, people can try to reduce their accountability (responsibility), apologize or justify their behavior if it leads to negative consequences. If, on the other hand, positive consequences are to be expected, they can make their responsibility visible and particularly emphasize the positive character of these consequences. Other behaviors include consent, flattery, socially desirable behavior, etc. The number and type of favorable behavior empirically proven depending on the situation is almost unmistakable. It should be noted critically that the bridge between impression management and power research is seldom built. h) The same applies to the direction of work, which examines the conditions under which people convince others. Persuasion is defined by O'Keefe as the successful communicative influencing of the cognitions and behavior of other people. This research direction takes up the question of the 1960s, how attitudes are to be changed, which in turn determine part of the behavior.

As a community psychologist, Rapaport asked himself why disadvantaged groups have so little influence in the political process of a neighborhood, a community or a district. To improve the situation, he calls for empowerment, i.e. a more balanced distribution of power by increasing the power resources of the weak members of society. This can establish an area of ​​application for power studies that is far removed from the people and institutions who were previously considered to be the beneficiaries of this research.