Sociology Index

Social Power

Social power is exercised within any given society in a variety of forms: coercive, economic and ideological. Power is the dynamic which keeps the social world in motion. Social power exercised through Ideological hegemony is a system of thought control. Social power is not something abstract. Social power permeates all human relationships and shapes us as individuals, and what we can become as social beings. It has been argued that being perceived as popular is a key determinant of social power in peer groups. We must examine ways in which various forms of social organization work to empower members of some social groups and disadvantage others through social power. We must examine the issue of social power and its implications for social inequality in various forms of society. Social power may be used for good or for evil purposes. Social power is the ability to influence other people. What gives people power? Why is social power abused? Sociologists usually define social power as the ability to impose one's will on others, even if those others resist in some way.

What is social power?

By social power we mean opportunity existing within a social relationship which permits one to carry out one's own will even against resistance and regardless of the basis on which this opportunity rests.

Social power is not the only basis of social honor, and social honor, or prestige, may be the basis of economic power.

Social power, as well as honor, may be guaranteed by the legal order, but the legal order is not their primary source.

Social Power Abstracts

Social Power and Psychological Distress - Introduction - Hardly any of the 'symptoms' of psychological distress may correctly be seen as medical matters. The so-called 'neuroses', 'psychoses' and related forms of suffering are nothing to do with faulty biology; nor indeed are they the outcome of individual moral weakness or other personal failing. They are the creation of the social world in which we live, and that world is structured by power. Social power may be defined as the means of obtaining security or advantage, and it will be exercised within any given society in a variety of forms: coercive (force), economic (money power) and ideological (the control of meaning). Social power is the dynamic which keeps the social world in motion. It may be used for good or for ill.

Social power - Markus Brauer, Richard Y. Bourhis
European Journal of Social Psychology, Special Issue: Thematic Issue: Social Power, Volume 36, Issue 4.
Abstract: We discuss and compare recent theoretical and empirical contributions to the growing body of research on social power. Five different theories on power have been proposed. These theories can be distinguished according to whether they focus on intrapersonal, interpersonal, intergroup or ideological processes. Our analysis leads us to claim that future theoretical contributions would have much to gain by addressing the issue of social power on multiple levels of analysis. The recent empirical work on social power suggests that powerful individuals and members of powerful groups differ from powerless individuals and members of powerless groups. Those who have social power perceive others more stereotypically and judge them more negatively.

Social Power Books

Swartz, David. (1997). Culture and Power: The Sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. Chicago: Univ of Chicago Press.

Peter Bachrach, THE THEORY OF DEMOCRATIC ELITISM: A CRITIQUE (Univ Press of America, 1981).

Marvin E. Olsen and Martin N. Marger (eds.), POWER IN MODERN SOCIETIES (Westview, 1993).


Alvin Toffler, THE THIRD WAVE (Bantam, 1981).

The Sources of Social Power: Volume 1, A History of Power from the Beginning to AD 1760 - Michael Mann - List Price: $38.00 - Publisher: Cambridge University Press book.

OUP Book: Power and Civil Society in Pakistan by Weiss, Anita M.

TUP: Eckstein, Rick: Nuclear Power and Social Power - $19.95, Nov 96 ISBN: 1-56639-486-4 Available cloth: $69.95, Nov 96 ISBN: 1-56639-485-6.

The Psychiatric Persuasion: Knowledge, Gender, and Power in Modern America by Lunbeck, E., published by Princeton University Press.

The Sources of Social Power (History of Social Power from the beginning to AD 1760) - Michael Mann

Nuclear Power and Social Power Book by Rick Eckstein

Appropriating Technology: Vernacular Science and Social Power Book by Ron Eglash, Jennifer L. Croissant, Giovanna Di Chiro, Rayvon Fouché (Editors)

Demeaned but Empowered: The Social Power of the Urban Poor in Jamaica Obika Gray

Bullying and Teasing : Social Power in Children's Groups Book by Gayle L. Macklem

Social Power and the CEO: Leadership and Trust in a Sustainable Free Enterprise System Book by Elliott Jaques

Dangerous Diagnostics : The Social Power of Biological Information Book by Dorothy Nelkin, Laurence Tancredi

Social Power and Legal Culture: Litigation Masters in Late Imperial China by Melissa MacAuley

The State and Social Power in Global Environmental Politics Ronnie D. Lipschutz, Ken Conca

The Dark Zone: Groundwater, Irrigation, Politics and Social Power in North Gujarat Anjal Prakash

Frustrated Fellowship: The Black Baptist Quest for Social Power James Melvin Washington

Dark Ghetto: Dilemmas of Social Power Book by Kenneth Bancroft Clark

Bible-Carrying Christians: Conservative Protestants and Social Power David Harrington Watt

Mrs. Astor's New York : Money and Social Power in a Gilded Age Book by Eric Homberger

Politics in Place : Social Power Relations in an Australian Country Town  Book by Ian Gray

Social Power and Everyday Class Relations: Agrarian Transformation in North Bihar Book by Anand Chakravarti

Social Power and the Turkish State Book by Michael Mann (Foreword), Tim Jacoby.