Power is the ability to control the actions of others irrespective of their wishes. It is the ability to enforce decisions or command through the possession of means of sanctions. It seeks to compel people to obey rules. Sanctions or punishments are often applied for non-compliance.
Table of Contents
Forms of power
- Political power: this is the type of power that is exercised by the government in the running of the affairs of the state. Decisions made through this type of power are binding on the state. Power resides in the three arms of government and is derived from the constitution.
- Physical power: this type is often referred to as naked power. It involves the use of force to compel people to obey. The police, security services etc use this type of power and it often times may cause pain, injury or death.
- Military power: military power can be used to forcefully overthrow a government, quell riots and defend the internal and external territory of a state.
- Economic power: this type of power involves the use of economic resources at one’s disposal to control the actions of others. Rich men exercise economic power over the poor by influencing government policies to suit them.
SOURCES OF POWER
- The Constitution: in democratic states, the constitution confers power on an individual through the ballot box.
- Through Inheritance: in most societies, this is a common means of acquiring power. Those born in royal families have the right to ascend into power and this gives them some elements of power.
- Coercion/Force: Power can be obtained through the use of force especially the military. In Africa for example, political power is derived by the military by over-throwing a government through what is known as coup d’état.
- The use of Charisma: Power is conferred on many people through their personal qualities and influence. Such people have the zeal and charismatic attributes of a leader. E.g. Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Nnamdi Azikiwe and Obafemi Awolowo of Nigeria and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.
- Position of authority: Those who possess expert knowledge in various aspects of human life, exercise power over those who do not have. Such power ceases to exist when such a person vacates the office.
- Wealth: Those that control economic resources use such advantage to acquire power. This is in line with the principle of economic determinism.
- What is power?
- List and explain the forms of power.
Authority refers to the right to command or direct others and enforce obedience. The power of authority is derived from one’s office and from the consent of the people. It implies the acceptance by the people of someone’s right to rule.
This is why even military governments try to legitimize its authority by seeking the consent of the people. In a democratic society, the electorates are the primary source of power and political authority.
Sources of Political Authority
Max Weber, a German sociologist identifies three sources of political authority. They are:
- Traditional Authority: This is the right to rule based on customs and traditions. It is hereditary and it is based on norms, customs and tradition of a particular society. It is through this source that Obas, Emirs and Obis derive their political power.
- Legal Authority: This type of authority is derived from the body of rules and regulations governing a society. This is called the constitution and could be written or unwritten.
- Charismatic Authority: This is derived from the extraordinary qualities, which a person has that enables him to lead others. Charisma is an extraordinary quality, which a person possesses and gives him the right to rule.
Types of Authority
- Political Authority: This is the right of political office holders to command, make and enforce policies. The constitution confers such powers.
- Military Authority: This refers to the rights of the armed forces to use force to maintain law and order and security in the state.
- Traditional Authority: This is the power legitimized by the customs and tradition. This type of authority is acquired through inheritance.
- Delegated Authority: This is authority conferred on a subordinate to carry out certain powers on specified matters.
- Technical Authority: When a person’s authority is accepted because he is an expert in a recognized field, he has technical authority.
- Judicial Authority: This is the authority which the courts and judges have to issue fines or other punishments to individuals, groups or governments.
- Administrative Authority: This is the right of the professionals like civil servants and managers to make decisions in their respective offices and secure obedience.
- List and explain the sources of authority.
- Discuss five types of authority.
GENERAL EVALUATION/REVISION QUESTIONS
- Define authority?
- What is the difference between power and authority?
- How is economic power relevant in politics?
- How can inheritance be a source of power?
- Power is the ability to _____________
- a) control others b) fight others c) work
- ——- is a form of power
- a) Military b) Democracy c) Oligarchy
- One source of power is
- a) Election b) police c) high court
- Charismatic power is based on a leaders ________
- a) smartness b) stubbornness c) personal qualities
- Which is not a source of authority?
- a) Legal b) Charismatic c) Traditional
- How is economic power relevant in politics?
- Inheritance is a form of power. Explain