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A political representative receives approval

Power describes the ability of a person or group to influence the thinking and behavior of individuals, social groups or parts of the population in such a way that they subordinate themselves to their views or wishes and behave accordingly. Power is involved in practically all forms of human coexistence and, in different ways, determines the emergence of social structures with differentiated personal, social or structural influence potentials and socially ascribed positions .

  • In its extreme form, power is the ability of a powerful person to assert himself to achieve unilaterally defined goals without meeting or submitting to the claims of those involved. The influence is exercised by means of a possible threat of punishment , with the target persons being exerted an oppressive compulsion to submit. Individuals in absolute power are not required to enter into an exchange relationship or compromise should the target persons have conflicting or incompatible interests. In this case, the largely congruent terms power and influence must be distinguished from one another, even if the transitions are fluid. The two fields of meaning are also described as "having power over ..." and "power to do". As a central concept in the social sciences, power is controversial in its scope .
  • Moderate (everyday) power relationships, on the other hand, describe multi-sided (exchange) relationships in which one side takes the stronger starting or negotiating position (for example because of the available possibility of influencing through reward , preference or through superior knowledge ) that is accepted by the other side. On the other hand , no contradiction is made , nothing is done against the exercise of power, thus toleration, compliance or adaptation is carried out.

With regard to the word origin of power ( see below ), the term can also be understood in such a way that social power is only one - albeit very significant - sub-case of a more fundamental power concept.


Power defines the extent to which a person or group of people can act physically and psychologically. The use of this agency, which can, but does not have to, affect other individuals , is possible in both a positive and a negative sense, based on their effects. In the event of negative effects and provided that a consciously possible decision in favor of them is made, it is referred to as abuse of power. If the use of force or violence is possible, this does not always have to have negative effects, so that a differentiated consideration of the power to act and its prerequisites and effects is necessary. The (regulation of) the use of physical violence e.g. B. is delegated in a democratic society to the state , which in this context u. a. performs socially necessary police functions. The recognition of a state monopoly on the legitimate exercise of force by the citizens in the democratic system is probably the most extensive conceivable transfer of social power to an authority. Anarchists, on the other hand, reject any form of exercise of power in the form of state rule. However, this does not mean powerlessness in the sense of power , which can lead to inability to act (see also: powerlessness (psychology) ). In democratic systems, power is restricted by the constitution and the law .


The noun power can be traced back to two similarly sounding Indo - European roots: mag- (knead, press, shape, form) or magh- (make - in the sense of being able, able, capable). The first root indicates a direct tool reference . The second root already indicates the social context of a possible disposition over oneself and others as well as an orientation towards the future . Even in today's linguistic usage, there is often a reification and personalization of power and often obscures the fact that power in human societies has to be understood in principle as a “relational concept”.

In Old High German , Old Slavonic and Gothic , the word power (Gothic: magan ) meant as much as ability, ability, ability (e.g. someone “is able” to do something) and is related to the everyday term “do”, so it signals potentiality . Similarly, the Latin noun for “power”, potentia , comes from the verb possum, posse, potui , which is now translated as “can”.

In common parlance, power is often assigned to the field of the term domination . Words like power apparatus , seizure of power , change of power , ruler suggest this understanding, but show that factual power holders may lack political legitimation . So power denotes something factual, while state authority and rule are based on institutional foundations legitimized by traditional norms or modern procedures.

Concept history

Even if the socially legitimized or political exercise of power is only a manifestation of power, it is at the center of theories and thinking.

First the Greek sophistry dealt with the problem of power from a philosophical point of view. In the Melierdialog, Thucydides deals with the question of the internal power of law . While the envoys from the island of Melos appeal to the benefit of the just, the Athenians represent the pure power position of a great power, which cannot be further legitimized: justice is only possible if forces are equal. The exercise of power is thus based on human nature. Plato deals with this sophistic position in the Gorgias : The apparently powerful are in reality powerless, since they do not do what is actually the goal of every reasonable endeavor, but only what seems to them to be best; d. That is, they are not doing what they "actually" want to do if they knew "better". Aristotle deals with the problem of power within the framework of the theory of domination and servitude. In contrast to despotism, political rule is the rule of free people over free people, who alternate in ruling and being ruled.

In the Latin language area, Cicero first made an explicit distinction between potestas in the sense of official authority and auctoritas in the sense of respect as two forms of power. Building on this distinction, Augustine assumes that people cannot actually rule over people, but only over the irrational . From this, scholasticism derived the question of whether the imaginary paradisiacal original state must be conceived without any form of domination. Thomas Aquinas restricts the exercise of power to reasonable forms of rule over free people that lead to good . Wilhelm von Auvergne specifies that potentia is a form of potestas that is only effective through the obedience of the subordinates. Wilhelm von Ockham focuses above all on people's power of appropriation in relation to the abandoned nature through the common rule of people over nature. In the property again is by Ockham an important power source and also the material basis for political coercion, however, is independent of the divine power dependent on the consent of the governed. Their resistance to the exercise of political power is no longer resistance to the divine order, as Paul said in chap. 13 of the letter to the Romans requires: “Everyone is subject to the authorities that have power over him. For there is no government without from God; but where there is authority, it is ordained by God. "

Marsilius of Padua goes even further in the delegitimization of the exercise of spiritual power: for him this is a contradiction in terms. In order to maintain peace, there should only be a single power that is endowed with coercive force. Power derives from God, but to enforce it it needs coercive instruments that are most likely given in an elective monarchy. While late scholasticism up to Calvin concentrated on the legal justification of power, Machiavelli understood power conversely from its effects; Unlike authority, it does not need legitimation, but is a practical fact that can only be described and, as it were, technologically optimized. Jean Bodin , on the other hand, calls for the sovereign to be strengthened through the establishment of legitimacy, which does not mean, however, that his actions are bound by law.

For Thomas Hobbes , the theory of the natural power of human appropriation in relation to nature and the natural differences in power result in the notion of a natural law-based claim to rule by everyone over all others. Only by concentrating power on a subject created by the legal order - the state - can the war that follows from these conflicting claims of all against all be prevented. With this, Hobbes in his work Leviathan solves the problem of the justification of power completely from the framework of the legal theory of power.

In contrast to Thomas Hobbes, Spinoza's state of nature does not provide any normative criteria for the use of power. Everyone's natural right extends to everything that is in their power to do. This equates natural law and power. But virtue is also linked to power, and power appears as virtue when it produces effects out of itself and people enjoy these effects without defining it by overcoming resistance.

Kant depersonalizes the concept of power, thinks it independent of personal rule and equates the state power of the authoritarian state, to which obedience is owed, with violence , without considering its legal legitimation as mandatory. Violence is a power that is superior to the resistance of other powers.

The experiments to a theoretical determination of power in the political philosophy of German idealism , the romanticism and the restoration in the early 19th century. Are by the experience of the French Revolution and the political and military collapse of the German states in the wake of the Napoleonic wars determined . They reflect the threatening radicalism of the violence of internal disputes released by the dissolution of constitutional monarchical power and at the same time identify enthusiastically with the power politics made possible by national standardization and bureaucratic centralization . Thus, at the beginning of the 19th century , the political philosophy of Fichte , Hegel and Adam Müller turned to the prerequisites of national power positions in the sense of a renaissance of Machiavellian politics, but also increasingly to the spiritual, moral and religious bases of legitimation of political power.

Fichte initially brought power and law closer together again under the influence of the constitution he thought was republican . Instead of state authority , he uses the concept of state power to be legitimized by contract , which opposes attackers; potestas and potentia are no longer divorced. For Adam Müller, only power based on collective beliefs is legitimate, as opposed to purely physical power.

In the framework of Hegel's metaphysical conceptual theory, the doctrine of the conceptual nature of all beings , power is determined as the power of the universal , i.e. H. as the power of overriding the concept in power over the moments that are subordinate to it. In relation to the powerful sphere of private law and private welfare, the state represents the overriding, securing power of the general, according to Hegel in Section 261 of the Basic Lines of the Philosophy of Law . At the same time, Hegel's concept of power appears modern insofar as it is quasi-interactively expanded in the sense of a relationship to the other. Power is finite as long as it is answered with a no and exercised by force. It is absolutely only as freedom .

From this thought that power is greatest where it is invisible, the creative transfer of the concept of power and the analysis of power-dominated relationships to many other areas of society developed in the 19th century. B. by the analysis of religion as a power phenomenon by Friedrich Nietzsche or the analysis of class relations by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels .

For Marx and Engels, the transformation of personal power relationships into factual power relationships represents the peculiarity of modern societies, which is expressed as the transcendental power of money and as the rule of capital over labor, which actually constitutes everything .

Another starting point for the formation of theories on the phenomenon of power is Friedrich Nietzsche's will to power , a formula for describing the insatiable desire to exercise power, a creative instinct that is the elementary motive of all living things and that stands beyond any moral valuation. This concept of an instinctual and elite-theoretical justification of power was further developed in the 19th century to the postulated contrast between vitalistic activity and cultural refinement or decadence . It is particularly evident in the anti-Marxist elite theories - for example in Vilfredo Pareto .

For Max Weber , the concept of power is “sociologically amorphous”; He defines it as follows: "Power means every chance within a social relationship to enforce one's own will against resistance, regardless of what this chance is based on." These different bases of power are subsequently differentiated more and more in sociological and social-psychological theories.

According to Hannah Arendt , “power arises whenever people get together and act together”.

Base of power

In what is now a classic study in 1959, the social psychologists French and Raven drew up a scheme of five categories that classify the various bases of power on which the power holder (s) are based:

  • Legitimate power
  • Power through reward
  • Power through coercion
  • Power through identification
  • Power through knowledge

Subjects and Institutions

According to a relatively widespread definition, ( social ) power is the ability of individuals or groups to control the thoughts and actions of others. In addition to individual actors, groups, especially organized groups, can also possess and exercise power. These can be state institutions such as B. Government or military, acting as a regulatory or protecting power. On the other hand, private law institutions such as companies also have different powers. For example, groups organized in supplier-customer relationships with different powers oppose each other (after e.g. Keysuk, 2000). In particular, large companies that exercise considerable economic power, or media groups that, depending on their reach, reputation and credibility, have a significant impact by commenting and interpreting societal events and situations or, in the worst case, just claiming them (see also: media manipulation ), are important examples of unbalanced power relations. But even within companies, the power of different departments is of great importance for the jointly achieved results (according to e.g. Engelen and Brettel, 2012).

Forms of power

Power has various forms, which are represented under the terms definition power or naming power, interpretive authority ( power of interpretation ), decision-making power , power of disposal or others. In the final analysis, however, these are only forms of the scope of agency, which include specific environmental aspects and structures that have an impact on the existing agency.

Power is taboo

The central characteristics of power include making it taboo through veiling, denial , naturalization , charismatization or mythologization . The open reflection and representation of power aspects of a relationship is often avoided since become transparent through disclosure dependencies legitimation pressure is created and narcissistic injuries threaten. This usually applies to all actors (subjects and institutions) in the network of relationships - both for powerful actors and for actors who voluntarily or involuntarily submit.

Anyone who in turn reveals power structures - be it in their own ranks or from outside - is usually defamed . It is then often assumed that only the peaceful understanding of the group should be disturbed or that power hunger or paranoid motives are the basis.

The tabooing of power relations is at the same time a sign of their stability. Conversely, with the destabilization of power relationships, the ability to make aspects of power taboo also disappears.

The power taboo is more of a marginal issue in science and practice. It is illuminated to some extent in sociology , psychology (especially psychoanalysis or psychotherapy ), in education , in gender research , in management or in popular scientific literature.

Theories of power

  • In her study, Hannah Arendt defines power and violence positively as the interaction of free people in the political arena for the benefit of the community . It is not about asserting private interests. Although the individuals act pluralistically and adopt different perspectives, they nonetheless join together in a temporal and localized manner to a common ground of speaking and acting , e.g. B. in the popular uprising in Hungary in 1956. This power does not appear hierarchically as an institution or legal system, but as a possibility to influence history. It can flow into constitutions, institutions, etc., which in turn are changeable. In contrast to Weber's definition, according to Arendt, power cannot be stored and can therefore be conceptually easily - and consequently strictly - distinguished from resources and violence . Arendt does not assume that the people involved have common opinions, premises or ideologies . In every new generation, therefore, free individuals can again make and implement agreements in the political arena. She saw the beginnings of a realization in the revolution in the United States , which led to the constitution of the United States , and in the attempts to establish direct democracy in the form of councils .
  • Zygmunt Bauman describes power in postmodernism as something fluid or fleeting. For him it moves with the speed of electronic signals through postmodern society and is independent of time and space. He characterizes this state of power as " post-panoptic ". It takes concrete form in the setting of social conditions and in the exercise of domination . In the postmodern era, those who rule the world are those who can move freely in global space and who have the economic, legal and social resources to do so.
  • Elias Canetti writes in his main philosophical work Mass and Power that power reveals itself in its archaic moment as the “moment of survival”, whenever a living person triumphantly confronts a dead person. Power in the anthropological sense therefore means survival . Deciding between life and death is consequently the safest way to maintain life and power . In totalitarian systems, this instrument of terror comes along as a right and gives the dictator the appearance of a god-likeness. Power bundled in the hand of the ruler is a code for violence . According to Canetti, the total ruler is a sociopath , for whom maintaining his rule, which he sees permanently threatened, is the most important thing. The mass of his subjects who could paranoid rulers only be kept under control that he excessive and around the public about life and death decide. “His safest, one might say his most perfect subjects are those who died for him” - whether in war , in show trials or in extermination camps . Power is expressed in commands to which a person is “used to” from an early age, which are in large part elements of his upbringing . Canetti sees commands and their execution as the natural constant of behavior, something fundamental that is older than language .
  • Michel Foucault outlines the concept of the strategic-productive idea of ​​power. Power is not owned and exercised by a social authority (be it an individual or a group) ; it exists in the heterogeneous relationship of the authorities (i.e. between the rulers and the ruled). Power relations are everywhere where there is society. See also: Pastoral power , bio-power , governmentality .
  • Norbert Elias describes power as an aspect of every human relationship, i. H. as more or less unstable, changeable strength relationships within a network of relationships or a figuration . The open, factual discussion of the ubiquity of power aspects is, however, a deeply rooted taboo , the breaking of which people are uncomfortable and embarrassing, which is why power phenomena are concealed. Due to the misunderstanding of the concept of power, Elias prefers the concept of power balance to reifying implications ('possessing power'). and to reduce unconscious-emotional evaluations as well as to clarify the instability of relationship strength. For a more detailed description of power phenomena, processes and dynamics, he develops, among other things, the theory of established-outsider relationships, the theory of the formation of central positions (called the king mechanism ), symbol theory, theoretical approaches from the sociology of knowledge and science and the theory of the connection between Psychogenesis and sociogenesis in the process of civilization . To this extent, Elias' entire process sociology is a “theory of power relations”.
  • John RP French Jr. and Robert Alan Dahl : Your concept is called positional power . According to French / Dahl, power is “ the ability of actor A to induce actor B to take an action, to do something that actor A asks him to do , minus the probability that actor B will do what actor A wants without the influence Actor A would have done. “With this definition, J. French and R. Dahl have succeeded in expressing power in a formula which, like Max Weber, can be abstracted from the source of power and applied in relation to results.
  • Björn Kraus deals with the subject of power from an epistemological perspective. So he does not ask about the evaluation or distribution of power, but about what can be described with this term. Based on Weber's definition of power, he comes to the conclusion that the concept of power must be differentiated. Central to his approach is the differentiation of the concept of power into "instructive power" and "destructive power" . Specifically, instructive power denotes the chance to determine the behavior or thinking of another. Destructive power is the chance to reduce someone else's possibilities. The relevance of this distinction becomes clear above all in the possibility of refusing to strive for power. Refusal is possible in relation to instructive power - not in relation to destructive power. With this distinction, power relations can be analyzed in a more differentiated manner and only then, questions of responsibility can be adequately reflected.
  • John J. Mearsheimer : For him, power is purely material. It is also known as relational power . It depends on resources. Relevant resources are: territory, raw materials, export, population and financial strength. The most important resource is the military capability, it is the universal power potential. Mearsheimer's definition is political. It clearly shows his realistic theoretical perspective.
  • As part of his bottleneck-focused strategy , Wolfgang Mewes sees the respective minimum factor as a decisive power factor. In particular, economic societies (departments, companies, markets, economies) have the peculiarity that not each of the required factors, but only the smallest in each case determines how far they can develop and grow. According to this, in every organization and in every market those who own the limiting factor or have free access to it would have power. Because people have desires, needs, problems, bottlenecks and longings, those who can satisfy them have potential power. Power is exercised by granting or refusing the things longed for (e.g. the glass of water for those dying of thirst).
  • Hans Morgenthau sees power as the central goal of states in international relations . In Politics among Nations he wrote that every state acts according to a “concept of interest understood in the sense of power”. At Morgenthau, power is an end in itself and can be acquired, increased and demonstrated.
  • Joseph Nye : From him the model of "soft power" (derived soft power ). This concept describes the ability to influence an actor through certain (mostly immaterial) means so that he develops goals and aspirations identical to those of the acting actor himself. The means of getting another actor to want what you want yourself are called soft power resources . They are the source of power (cf. “If you don't want to be your enemy, you should make yourself a friend”, even if the saying is slightly modified). In summary, soft power is a concept of power that is made up of positional, relational and structural power.
  • Heinrich Popitz defines power in his sociological treatise “Phenomena of Power” as the ability to assert oneself as a person against other forces. Power is the ability to change. In the sense of “being able to change”, the history of human power is the history of human action.
  • Marshall B. Rosenberg speaks of two different forms of power in the context of his model of nonviolent communication (NVC): punitive and protective power. Punitive power application aims to people in accordance with moral reject ideas from which they have taken in the opinion of power users, distance. According to this model, the protective use of power restores peace in the event of a conflict and aims to ensure that the needs and interests of all those involved are taken into account and protected.
  • Susan Strange : She coined the concept of structural power . For Strange it means the power potential that structures such as security , credit capacities , science and production have on the actors involved. Actors are “powerful” when they have power over these structures. Actors are always powerful when they are able to adapt structures in such a way that it is for their own benefit and the other competitors / actors have to adapt. So both have structures themselves and all who can act on them, power. Strange's model is very multilayered and complex and it overlaps with the structural violence shaped by Johan Galtung . It relates to global social interactions and therefore manages to unite a large number of variables of current economic and political development and to incorporate them into a power-theoretical concept.
  • Max Weber : For Weber, power is a form of will enforcement. In his definition , power is “any chance within a social relationship to enforce one's own will against resistance, regardless of what this chance is based on.”
  • Michael Mann : As part of his three-volume “History of Power”, Mann developed the IEMP model, which summarizes the four sources of power (ideological, economic, military, political).
  • Niklas Luhmann : In Luhmann's system theory , power represents a symbolically generalized communication medium .
  • Arnold Brecht : He differentiates between four different types according to their respective power resources: brute force or its threat, prestige or authority, financial means or personal attraction.
  • Hanna F. Pitkin : She basically differentiates between two types of power: power over other people ( power over ) and the ability to do something ( power to ).
  • Gerhard Göhler : He presents an alternative distinction between “transitive power”, which transfers one's own will to others and thus exerts influence, and “intransitive power”, which is generated and maintained within itself, in society.
  • Georg Zenkert differentiates between agency (dynamis), which is documented in political opinions, rule, whose rational form creates the law, and constitutive power, which manifests itself in the constituted community.
  • Karen Gloy differentiates between power as 'ability or ability to' and violence as 'domination over'.

Power-related studies in individual sciences

Depending on the interests, various aspects or phenomena of power are made the subject of the respective investigation:

  • Psychological treatises concentrate on the individual behavior of those determined or affected by the pursuit of power. A special area of ​​study deals with the power relations or relationships in a (mostly small) group ( group dynamics ).
  • Sociological and political studies examine the distribution of power, its causes and effects in a society as a whole or in politically or economically important groups ( power elites / power structure research ).
  • Criminology , particularly criminal sociology , examines the "power of definition" of the police and other instances of social control in the context of the process of criminalization .
  • Ethnologists differentiate For example, according to the degree of differentiation of the power relations, there are four forms of social organization: family association, tribe, chief rule, state.
  • On the one hand, educators are interested in which social power influences (especially political, religious and economic interests) influence educational action (these influences are criticized with the help of educational theory and thus educational action is also made possible independently of such power influences), and on the other hand, the exercise of power discussed in class , with the educational goal of emancipation playing a central role.
  • Historians focus above all on the generation of power and domination and the formation of power elites in the past.
  • Literary and art historians examine, among other things, the history of the impact of certain writers, musicians or visual artists or individual works.
  • Advertising professionals want to know what behavior control options are available for specific target groups, advertising media, content, etc.
  • From an ethical point of view, the term power is ambivalent. In a sense, it has a positive and a negative charge. The constructive skills are rated positively, the destructive ones negatively. Somewhat more specifically and based on Albert Schweitzer's thinking and acting, someone proves awe of life through advice and action in the positive case , the opposite in the negative case. Examples with a positive rating are the objectives and activities of the NGOs Doctors Without Borders and Greenpeace . Examples of negative valuation are the economic, military, and political programs and actions aimed at profit and power. The strong ambivalence of power is exemplified by triage .
  • The anthropology draws attention to the emergence of the current balance of power. The evolution from prehistoric people who practiced the upright gait to contemporary people was not straightforward, but - to put it simply - initially from the instinct-driven and clearly socially structured horde to the family association of primitive society , which was based on linguistic communication and cooperation.

Importance of power in organizational theory and industrial psychology

In organizational theory , Henry Mintzberg defines power in organizations as follows:

“Power is the ability to effect or influence organizational results. - Power is the capacity to effect (or affect) organizational outcomes. "

- Henry Mintzberg

This definition, restricted to organizations, can also be helpful when looking at other areas. More generally, therefore, Mallory, Segal-Horn and Lovitt see power as

"[...] the ability of A to get B to do something that he would not otherwise have done. - [...] the ability of A to get B to do something they would otherwise not have done. "

- Mallory, Segal-Horn & Lovitt

According to Gareth Morgan , the following sources of power exist in organizations:

Formal authority
The authority conferred on the basis of position and task.
Control of limited resources
The disposition of limited resources gives power over anyone who depends on these resources. More universal resources (money, people, etc.) give more power than limited usable resources.
Organizational structures and procedures
The position that a person holds within the structures or procedures (processes) of an organization confers power, even if it is only that another employee is hindered in his activity by delaying necessary work.
Control over the decision-making process
Whoever can control the decision-making process can also influence the decision to a certain extent. A finance manager ( controller ) can influence the factual decision of a production manager for or against a machine because he controls the project cost accounting.
Power of disposal over knowledge and information
Knowledge and information give power to those who need this knowledge or information. In this way, the sales department has information on sales that the production and purchasing departments rely on.
Boundary Management
The organization or the organizational unit interacts with its environment. Employees who work successfully at the boundaries or interfaces of the organizational unit have an information advantage and therefore more power. Traditional areas are purchasing and sales ( supply chain management ), whose potential power position is influenced by the development of production theory ( just-in-time production , outsourcing ).
Ability to process uncertainty
Whoever can best deal with the uncertainty that results from the constantly changing environment (see environmental analysis ) gains power within an organization.
Control over technology
The control of a particular technology, i. H. The knowledge, skills and knowledge of how to use and operate technology in the production process can be an essential source of power in an organization. This becomes visible, for example, in strikes with a focus on issues, where the strike of three employees paralyzes an entire production line.
Alliances and informal networks
Alliances between two rulers, as well as informal relationships such as friendships, acquaintances, relatives, etc., give members power within such a social network .
Balancing power
Balancing power often arises when a lot of power is in the hands of a few. In the opposition, stakeholders often coordinate their activities in order to counterbalance the concentrated power. In this way one could co-establish the formation of trade unions.
Symbolism and the management of meaning
Whoever controls symbols and meanings receives power through this control. This power is shown, for example, in the status of priests in many societies.
Gender power
Gender power is the name for power that arises due to perceived differences between people based on their gender. The concept also includes gain in power based on perceived differences in race, religion, age, etc.

Morgan describes organizations in democratic environments in his model. This can be seen, for example, in the absence of direct violence, which has at least historical significance in organizations. On the other hand, extensions can be seen compared to the model by French and Raven (see above). In principle, a power profile can be drawn up for every stakeholder “A” in an organization and compared with the power profile of another stakeholder “B” with whom “A” has a conflict . This model implies a very direct position of power. But that does not mean that a position of power has to be exploited.

The decision whether to exercise power or not is a political decision. Morgan expressly describes organizations in his model, presumably because in other contexts (state – state, person – state, etc.) other factors (see above French & Raven) are added.

In the political context, MacMillan distinguishes between the concepts of power

“Power is the ability to restructure actual situations. - Power is the capacity to restructure actual situations. "

- IC Macmillan

and influence.

“Influence is the ability to control and change the perception of others. - Influence is the capacity to control and modify the perceptions of others. "

- IC Macmillan

The distance that becomes visible here is determined by the two-dimensional model by Winstanley et al. shows where rule power - the decision about the rules of the game according to which the organization acts - and operational power - the power to make decisions within the organization - are related to one another.

Stakeholder Power Matrix operational power
low high
Rule power high
Arm's-length power

Comprehensive power


Operational power

A - Arm's-length power denotes the relatively small power within, but considerable power from outside the organization, through which it can be influenced. Stakeholders of this kind do not act in an organization themselves, but they can set the rules of the game.

Stakeholders with B - Comprehensive Power can both act themselves and set the rules of the game. Typically, they are owner-managers or executives in state-owned companies. There are organizations where this position is not or only very weakly developed.

Stakeholders with operational power can make the decisions locally, but do so according to rules that have been established elsewhere (A or B). They are department heads in companies, office or department heads in public administrations and group leaders in NGOs, etc.

Quadrant D denotes stakeholders who have neither operational nor regulatory power. You are literally disempowered .

This analysis serves to compare stakeholders inside and outside of organizations. If one uses the definition of MacMillan (see above), one can analyze more differentiated with Winstanley's model. It is a typical tool for analyzing power relations in change processes in organizations.

The power of the individual within an organization can grow in a variety of ways, which are often beyond direct empirical investigation. Power is understood in organizational theory as an action-based concept that is closely related to the concept of leadership . It is a process that is carried out depending on the situation and the environment. In practice, both the effects of exercising power and the people who exercise it can be identified, while the sources and causes for the individual position of power cannot be directly identified.

The combination of individual character traits in interaction with the relationships within complex organizations and environments is cited in the literature as the basis for the power of groups or individuals. The analysis and discussion will accordingly be extended to the entire area of ​​corporate governance, in which power is viewed as an intrinsic part of networks. The task of management is then to influence the various relationships not only within the organization but also outside it.

See also


Web links

Wikiquote: Power  - Quotes
Wiktionary: Power  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Steven Lukes: Power. A radical view. Palgrave, London 2005 [1974].
  2. Michel Foucault: Analysis of Power . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2005.
  3. ^ A b Hannah Arendt: On Violence . New York / London 1970 (German edition: Power and violence . Piper, Munich 1970, 15th edition 2003).
  4. Marco Iorio: Power and Freedom. In: General journal for philosophy. 32, 2007, pp. 299-312.
  5. Marco Iorio: Power and Meta-Power. In: Analysis & Criticism. 30, 2008, pp. 515-532.
  6. Volker Gerhardt : From Will to Power: Anthropology and Metaphysics of Power using the exemplary case of Friedrich Nietzsche. Münster 1983, ISBN 3-11-012801-2 , p. 10f.
  7. Katharina Inhetveen : Power. In: Nina Baur, Hermann Korte, Martina Löw, Markus Schroer (eds.): Handbuch Soziologie. Wiesbaden 2008, ISBN 978-3-531-15317-9 , pp. 256ff.
  8. ^ Niklas Luhmann: Legitimation through procedure. Frankfurt, 10th edition 1983.
  9. Power. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy . Volume 5, pp. 585-591.
  10. Power. In: Historical Dictionary of Philosophy. Volume 5, pp. 592-594.
  11. Wolfgang Bartuschat: Spinoza's theory of humans. Felix Meiner Verlag, 1992, ISBN 3-7873-1273-0 , p. 387.
  12. Immanuel Kant: Critique of Judgment. Academy edition. Volume 5, p. 260 ff.
  13. Power. In: Concise Dictionary of Philosophy. Volume 5, p. 603.
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  34. “Panoptic” is his neologism for “visible everywhere”.
  35. Examples of ruling elites in postmodernism in the sense of Bauman are manufacturers who can relocate their production facilities overnight or war leaders who can win wars without using ground troops. For Bauman, physical lightness is a main criterion for postmodern power - cf. Zygmunt Bauman: Fleeting Modernity. Edition Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2003.
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