Power, in a broader and empirical sense, includes both coercive and non-coercive power. It directly involves persons, groups, organisations, and systems.
A person or political system operates on various forms of power.
Max Weber defined a political system as ‘a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory’.” Lasswell and Kaplan use the word ‘power’ and attach it with severe deprivations.
Almond combines concepts of Weber, Parsons, and Easton. He defines a political system as ‘that system of interactions to be found in all independent societies which perform the functions of integration and adaptation by means of the employment, or threat of employment, of more or less, legitimate physical compulsion.” Thus, he distinguishes political systems by ‘legitimate physical compulsion’ from other social systems. It is the essence or base of politics and political systems. Almond is concerned with ‘legitimate physical force’.
Power is the fundamental basis of politics. It has been described as a common urge or inclination of mankind. As Catlin opines, none sacrifices his freedom to do whatever he chooses or his long cherished liberties: ‘None yields his power except from fear, from a conversion of his desires to other ends, and for the particular power to attain these new ends.” Hobbes wrote, ‘I put for a general inclination of all mankind, a perpetual or restless desire of Power after Power that ceaseth only in Death.’
Power over men and material is a means to specific security and control. His is the concept of homopoliticus or the political man, who demands the maximisation of power in relation to all other values. He believes in power to determine power, and incessantly strives to attain it. According to Michels such a man ‘will almost always endeavor to consolidate it and to extend it.’ However, it is an ‘ideal type’ or ‘pure’ concept, which, when applied in practice, has to be modified substantially. At times, people sacrifice power for the sake of non-political values, but they do so in individual or exceptional cases. But that aspect of power has also to be kept in mind.
Power is social and relational. It is sociological in its origin – always attached to a person, a group, or an association. Power is power because of prevailing values, interaction patterns, and procedures or modes of attaining them. It lies in specifics and particulars. One can have power over others in particular areas, that too in varying degrees, and intensity. Power can differ with other powers in its domain, weight, and scope.
Power is the latent capacity to apply force. It is not expressed or made visible. Force, authority, domination, etc. are its expressed forms. They are action-aspects of power. Force is employment of sanctions whereas authority is the institutionalized right to employ power. Power has two main forms Coercive and non-coercive.
Coercive power is mainly related with force. Influence is non-coercive power. Influence does not require coercive power, as in the cases of Christ, Buddha and Gandhi. Power as force may dispense with influence, as was done by Chenghiz Khan, Adolf Hitler, Yahya Khan and others. But Napolean, Lincoln, Nehru, and Indira were persons of both power and influence.