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Dimensions and Distribution of Power

  • Fabio de NardisEmail author
Chapter
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Abstract

The concept of “power” is central to political sociology. In this chapter, we first try to describe it by reducing its implicit semantic ambiguity. We will distinguish it from similar concepts such as “influence”, “domination”, “dominance”, and then focus on the concept of “authority” that presupposes a form of power recognised and accepted not only by those who exercise it, but also by those who are subject to it. Political power is only one particular social manifestation of power, which concerns the possession of the means necessary for the exercise of physical violence. It is therefore necessary to distinguish the forms of power from the resources necessary to exercise it. This allows us to separate political power from other fundamental manifestations of social power, such as economic and symbolic (or ideological) power. Many scholars have developed the belief that, in any historical society, power is concentrated in the hands of narrow elite that commands an atomised mass, almost naturally brought to subalternity with respect to the dominant group. The scholars whose work is attributable to elite theory are therefore convinced that the trend of modern societies follows a pyramidal logic. The dominant group may be called “political class”, or “ruling class”, or “power elite”, but it does not change the reality of a socio-political context that, even in democracy, is seen as inevitably destined to assume the oligarchical traits of a society where the few command the many. The idea of the homogeneity and compactness of elites is questioned by pluralistic theorists who believe that power groups are multiple, heterogeneous and in competition with each other. It is the same competition for power that may represent the meeting place between elitism and democracy.

Keywords

Political power Economic power Ideological power Elitism Pluralism 

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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of History, Society, and Human StudiesUniversity of SalentoLecceItaly

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