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In social science and politics, power is the ability to influence or outright control the behaviour of people. The term “authority” is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to humans as social beings. In business, power is often expressed as being “upward” or “downward”.
With downward power, a company’s superior influences subordinates. When a company exerts upward power, it is the subordinates who influence the decisions of their leader or leaders. At one extreme, it closely resembles what an English-speaking person might term “influence”, although some authors distinguish “influence” as a means by which power is used. One such example is soft power, as compared to hard power.
The philosopher Michel Foucault saw power as a structural expression of “a complex strategic situation in a given social setting” that requires both constraint and enablement. According to French and Raven, power must be distinguished from influence in the following way: power is that state of affairs which holds in a given relationship, A-B, such that a given influence attempt by A over B makes A’s desired change in B more likely.
A and B each apply to their relationship, and, interestingly, requires B’s recognition of a quality in A which would motivate B to change in the way A intends. A must draw on the ‘base’ or combination of bases of power appropriate to the relationship, to effect the desired outcome.