Political power
Political power is a type of power
Power (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

 held by a group in a society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 which allows administration of some or all of public resources, including labour, and wealth. There are many ways to obtain possession of such power. At the nation-state level political legitimacy for political power is held by the representatives of national sovereignty
Sovereignty is the quality of having supreme, independent authority over a geographic area, such as a territory. It can be found in a power to rule and make law that rests on a political fact for which no purely legal explanation can be provided...

. Political powers are not limited to heads of states
Head of State
A head of state is the individual that serves as the chief public representative of a monarchy, republic, federation, commonwealth or other kind of state. His or her role generally includes legitimizing the state and exercising the political powers, functions, and duties granted to the head of...

, however the extent to which a person (such as Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony
Joseph Kony is an African terrorist who is the head of the Lord's Resistance Army , a guerrilla group that is engaged in a violent campaign to establish theocratic government based on the Ten Commandments in Uganda...

, Subcomandante Marcos
Subcomandante Marcos
Subcomandante Marcos is the spokesperson for the Zapatista Army of National Liberation , a Mexican rebel movement. In January 1994, he led an army of Mayan farmers into the eastern parts of the Mexican state of Chiapas protesting against the Mexican government's treatment of indigenous...

, or Russell Means
Russell Means
Russell Charles Means is an Oglala Sioux activist for the rights of Native American people. He became a prominent member of the American Indian Movement after joining the organisation in 1968, and helped organize notable events that attracted national and international media coverage...

) or group such as an insurgency
An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority when those taking part in the rebellion are not recognized as belligerents...

, terrorist group, or multinational corporation
Multinational corporation
A multi national corporation or enterprise , is a corporation or an enterprise that manages production or delivers services in more than one country. It can also be referred to as an international corporation...

 possesses such power is related to the amount of societal influence
Power (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

 they can wield, formally or informally. In many cases this influence is not contained within a single state
State (polity)
A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

 and it refers to international power.

Political scientists have frequently defined power as "the ability to influence the behaviour of others" with or without resistance.

For analytical reasons, I.C. MacMillan separates the concepts power and influence

One of the most famous references to power comes from the Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong
Mao Zedong, also transliterated as Mao Tse-tung , and commonly referred to as Chairman Mao , was a Chinese Communist revolutionary, guerrilla warfare strategist, Marxist political philosopher, and leader of the Chinese Revolution...

This quote has been widely misinterpreted, however. Mao explained further that, "Our principle is that the Party commands the gun, and the gun must never be allowed to command the Party."

In contrast to Mao Zedong, Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt
Hannah Arendt was a German American political theorist. She has often been described as a philosopher, although she refused that label on the grounds that philosophy is concerned with "man in the singular." She described herself instead as a political theorist because her work centers on the fact...

 claims that power and violence are opposites and that power is:

"the human ability...to act in concert."

Political power and the question of good and evil

Some opinions representative of Enlightenment
Age of Enlightenment
The Age of Enlightenment was an elite cultural movement of intellectuals in 18th century Europe that sought to mobilize the power of reason in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted intellectual interchange and opposed intolerance and abuses in church and state...

, 19th century, modern, and post-modern
Postmodernism is a philosophical movement evolved in reaction to modernism, the tendency in contemporary culture to accept only objective truth and to be inherently suspicious towards a global cultural narrative or meta-narrative. Postmodernist thought is an intentional departure from the...

 views on the relationship between political power and concepts of justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

, good
Good may refer to:* Good and evil - The distinction between positive and negative entities* Good - Objects produced for market* Form of the Good - Plato's macrocosmic view of goodness in living* Good...

 and evil
Evil is the violation of, or intent to violate, some moral code. Evil is usually seen as the dualistic opposite of good. Definitions of evil vary along with analysis of its root motive causes, however general actions commonly considered evil include: conscious and deliberate wrongdoing,...


Separation of powers

Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu
Charles de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu
Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu , generally referred to as simply Montesquieu, was a French social commentator and political thinker who lived during the Enlightenment...

 claimed that without following a principle of containing and balancing power, the world is constantly at risk. Separation of power must be in such grade, that any of the branches can operate without excessive limitations from the others; but interdependecy between them must also be in such grade, that one single branch cannot rule out the other's decisions. This is the separation of powers
Separation of powers
The separation of powers, often imprecisely used interchangeably with the trias politica principle, is a model for the governance of a state. The model was first developed in ancient Greece and came into widespread use by the Roman Republic as part of the unmodified Constitution of the Roman Republic...


Division of power

A similar concept, termed "division of power", also consists of differentiated legislative, executive, and judicial powers. However, while separation of powers prohibits one branch from interfering with another, division of power permits such interference. For example, in Indonesia
Indonesia , officially the Republic of Indonesia , is a country in Southeast Asia and Oceania. Indonesia is an archipelago comprising approximately 13,000 islands. It has 33 provinces with over 238 million people, and is the world's fourth most populous country. Indonesia is a republic, with an...

, the President (who wields executive power) can introduce a new bill, but the People's Consultative Assembly
People's Consultative Assembly
The People's Consultative Assembly is the legislative branch in Indonesia's political system. It is composed of the members of the People's Representative Council and the Regional Representative Council. Before 2004, and the amendments to the 1945 Constitution, the MPR was the highest governing...

 (holding legislative power) chooses to either legalize or reject the bill. The model here is the Checks and balances system introduced in the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...


Power projection

This ability is a crucial element of a state's power
Power in international relations
Power in international relations is defined in several different ways. Political scientists, historians, and practitioners of international relations have used the following concepts of political power:...

 in international relations
International relations
International relations is the study of relationships between countries, including the roles of states, inter-governmental organizations , international nongovernmental organizations , non-governmental organizations and multinational corporations...

. Any state able to direct its military forces outside the limited bounds of its territory might be said to have some level of power projection capability, but the term itself is used most frequently in reference to militaries with a worldwide reach (or at least significantly broader than a state's immediate area). Even states with sizable hard power
Hard power
Hard power is a term describing political power obtained from the use of military and/or economic coercion to influence the behavior or interests of other political bodies...

 assets (such as a large standing army
Standing army
A standing army is a professional permanent army. It is composed of full-time career soldiers and is not disbanded during times of peace. It differs from army reserves, who are activated only during wars or natural disasters...

) may only be able to exert limited regional influence
Regional power
In international relations, a regional power is a state that has power within a geographic region. States which wield unrivaled power and influence within a region of the world possess regional hegemony.-Characteristics:...

 so long as they lack the means of effectively projecting their power on a global scale. Generally, only a select few states are able to overcome the logistical
Military logistics
Military logistics is the discipline of planning and carrying out the movement and maintenance of military forces. In its most comprehensive sense, it is those aspects or military operations that deal with:...

 difficulties inherent in the deployment
Military deployment
Military deployment is the movement of armed forces and their logistical support infrastructure around the world.-United States:The United States Military defines the term as follows:...

 and direction of a modern, mechanized military force.

While traditional measures of power projection typically focus on hard power assets (tanks, soldiers, aircraft, naval vessels, etc.), the developing theory of soft power
Soft power
Soft power is the ability to obtain what one wants through co-option and attraction. It can be contrasted with 'hard power', that is the use of coercion and payment...

 notes that power projection does not necessarily have to involve the active use of military forces in combat
Combat, or fighting, is a purposeful violent conflict meant to establish dominance over the opposition, or to terminate the opposition forever, or drive the opposition away from a location where it is not wanted or needed....

. Assets for power projection can often serve dual uses, as the deployment of various countries' militaries during the humanitarian response
Humanitarian response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
The humanitarian response to the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was prompted by one of the worst natural disasters of modern times. On 26 December 2004, the earthquake, which struck off the northwest coast of the Indonesian island of Sumatra, generated a tsunami that wreaked havoc along much of the...

 to the 2004 Indian Ocean
Indian Ocean
The Indian Ocean is the third largest of the world's oceanic divisions, covering approximately 20% of the water on the Earth's surface. It is bounded on the north by the Indian Subcontinent and Arabian Peninsula ; on the west by eastern Africa; on the east by Indochina, the Sunda Islands, and...

2004 Indian Ocean earthquake
The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake was an undersea megathrust earthquake that occurred at 00:58:53 UTC on Sunday, December 26, 2004, with an epicentre off the west coast of Sumatra, Indonesia. The quake itself is known by the scientific community as the Sumatra-Andaman earthquake...

 illustrates. The ability of a state to project its forces into an area may serve as an effective diplomatic lever, influencing the decision-making process and acting as a potential deterrent on other states' behavior.

Political science perspectives

Within normative political analysis, there are also various levels of power as described by academics that add depth into the understanding of the notion of power and its political implications. Robert Dahl, a prominent American political scientist, first ascribed to political power the trait of decision-making as the source and main indicator of power. Later, two other political scientists, Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz, decided that simply ascribing decision-making as the basis of power was too simplistic and they added what they termed a second dimension of power, agenda-setting by elites who worked in the backrooms and away from public scrutiny in order to exert their power upon society. Lastly, British academic Steven Lukes
Steven Lukes
Steven Michael Lukes is a political and social theorist. Currently he is a professor of politics and sociology at New York University...

 added a third dimension of power, preference-shaping, which he claimed was another important aspect of normative power in politics which entails theoretical views similar to notions of cultural hegemony
Cultural hegemony
Cultural hegemony is the philosophic and sociological theory, by the Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci, that a culturally diverse society can be dominated by one social class, by manipulating the societal culture so that its ruling-class worldview is imposed as the societal norm, which then is...

. These three dimensions of power are today often considered defining aspects of political power by political researchers.

A radical alternative view of the source of political power follows the formula: information plus authority permits the exercise of power. Political power is intimately related to information. Sir Francis Bacon's statement: "Nam et ipsa scientia potentia est" for knowledge itself is power, assumed authority as given.

Hannah Arendt begins by commenting that political theorists from right to left all seem to agree that violence is "the most flagrant manifestation of power." Arendt says that violence and power are opposites and defines power as the ability of citizens to act in concert. "Power is never the property of an individual; it belongs to the group and remains in existence only so long as the group keeps together. When we say of somebody that he "is in power" we actually refer to his being empowered by a certain number of people to act in their name." From her perspective that power and violence are opposites, Arendt correctly judged that the invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1968 was a sign of the diminishing power of the Soviet Union and not a sign of power.

See also

  • Absolute power
    Absolute Power
    Absolute Power may refer to:*Lord Acton's dictum, "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely"*The power held by the sovereign of an absolute monarchy*Omnipotence, unlimited power, as of a deity...

  • Balance of power (federalism)
    Balance of power (federalism)
    In federations, the balance of power is the degree to which power is centralized in the federal government or devolved to the subnational governments. In confederations , it is more likely that the balance of power will be in favour of the sub-national level of government . Canada is an example of...

  • Constitutionalism
    Constitutionalism has a variety of meanings. Most generally, it is "a complex of ideas, attitudes, and patterns of behavior elaborating the principle that the authority of government derives from and is limited by a body of fundamental law"....

  • Constitutional economics
    Constitutional economics
    Constitutional economics is a research program in economics and constitutionalism that has been described as extending beyond the definition of 'the economic analysis of constitutional law' in explaining the choice "of alternative sets of legal-institutional-constitutional rules that constrain the...

  • Post turtle
    Post turtle
    Post turtle is a phrase that has been used in political discussion of various countries, including the U.S. and Canada, based on an old joke. Various politicians have been referenced by the joke or used the joke, including George W Bush, Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, and Stephen Harper.-The joke:An...

  • Power (communication)
    Power (communication)
    Power can be described as the capacity of an individual or a group to exert their will over another or others or influence the goals of a relationship. Power is not a characteristic of any one individual, rather, it is defined in terms of relationships and transactions between people...

  • Power (philosophy)
  • Power sharing
  • Rationality and power
    Rationality and power
    Rationality and Power: Democracy in Practice is a book authored by Oxford University professor Bent Flyvbjerg and published by The University of Chicago Press . The book is a study of how power influences rationality and democracy. The book's theory and method build on a tradition in power studies...

  • Rule according to higher law
    Rule according to higher law
    The rule according to a higher law means that no written law may be enforced by the government unless it conforms with certain unwritten, universal principles of fairness, morality, and justice...

  • Violent non-state actor
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