Power in Classical Sociology

Friday, July 18, 2014: 3:30 PM
Room: 315
Oral Presentation
Lars UDEHN , Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
Power in Classical Sociology

Lars Udehn, Stockholm University

This paper is an attempt to synthesize the various ideas of power that we find in classical sociology. By ”classical” sociology is understood sociology from its emergence in the nineteenth century until the beginning of the 1960’s. This means that it covers the writings, not only of Marx, Weber and Simmel, but also the structural-functionalism of Parsons and the exchange theories of Emerson and Blau. The paper takes the form of answers, found in classical sociology, to a number of questions, including: “What is power?, What gives power?, and How is power exercised? In answer to the first question, a distinction is made between power in a broad sense, as a capacity to influence other people, and power, in a narrow sense, as an asymmetric relation of domination. The answer to the second question is that there are two sources of power; resources and rights – the first highlighted by Marx and the second by Weber - which are analytically distinct, but usually intertwined in reality. The answer to the third question is that power is exercised in four principal ways: (1) by the promise and/or use of rewards, or inducement, (2) by the threat and/or use of punishments, or coercion, (3) by trying to make people change their minds, or persuasion and (4) by an appeal to their duties, or in the words of Parsons, by an activation of commitments.