Importance of Power, Influence, Authority and Legitimacy

Power, Influence, Authority and Legitimacy are among the most common keywords in political science. This Term is very Importance in human life. The importance of Power helps bring more control to your life.

Importance of Power:

The concept of power is the most influential one in the whole of Political Science. Socrates, Plato, Aristotle etc, have admitted the importance of power in their own way. In our country, Acharya Kautilya (Chanakya) threw sufficient light on the importance of power in his famous book Kautilya Arthsastra because it was the basis of whole human life. In the modern age Machiuvalli, Hobbes, Treitschke and Neitzche have emphasized the importance of power. In the present centrun Catlin. Charles Mariam, Harold Laswell, HJ. Morgenthau etc have accepted power as one of the fundamental concepts. According to Catlin, the concept of power is fundamental in Political Science. MacIver is of the view that everything that is happening around us is in some way or the other concerned with power, It is the power that vests the state with order and peace.

Power defined and explained:-

It should be noted at the outset that there is no unanimity among the political scientists regarding the definition of power. Like other people, political scientists use a variety of terms power, influence, authority, control, persuasion, might, force, and coercion to convey the same meaning.

The following definitions still hold the field:

According to Laswell and Kaplan,

“The concept of power is perhaps the most fundamental in the whole of Political Science, the political process is the shaping, distribution and exercise of power (in a wider sense, of all the deference  Values or of influence in general)”.

According to H. J. Morgenthau,

“Power politics was rooted in lust for power which is common to all men and for this reason was inseparable from social We itself.”

Erich Kaufman says.

“The essence of the State is Machtentfaltung development increase and display of power), along with the will successfully to Maintain and assert itself.”

Karl Baker observes,

“The simple fact is that politics is inseparable from Power. States and Governments exist to exert power. In each country and in the world at large there are either a balance of power, an unstable balance of power or in a balance of power at all. But there is always power political power exists in the World and wilt be used those who have it.”

According to Herbert and Edward Shills,

Power is the ability to influence the behavior of others in accord nee with one’s own ends.

Catlin adopts Mas Weber’ definitions of politics as

The struggle of Power or the influencing of those in power.

The field of political science, according to him, is in the field of study of social controls, or more specifically, of the control relationship of humans, and even animal Wills.

it must be remembered that power is not something absolute. It is only relative and used in relation to something. For example, we can say that Union Public Service Commission has the power to select officers belonging to L.A.S. and Central Service.

In the words of Friedrich power is a certain kind of human relationship, Therefore we can say that power is the capacity of an individual, to modify the conduct of other individuals or groups in the manner which he desires, M.G. Smith believes that power is the ability to act effectively over people and things using means, ranging from persuasion to coercion, Following Max Weber, another writer defines power as the possibility given to an actor, within a determined social relation, of ruling as he wishes.

Difference between Power and Force:-

In Robert Bierstedt’s opinion, Force is manifest power force means the reduction or limitation or closure or even total elimination of alternatives to the social action of one person or group by another person or group. Sometimes a dacoit asks a person whom he wants to loot, Whether you want to give your money or life?

When a man: surrenders his money to the dacoit in order to save his life, then the dacoit has achieved his objective by merely a threat of force without using but when the dacoit has to resort the force actually in order to snatch the money and other belongings he has used-the force. Therefore, the actual manifestation of power is a force or we can say that force is power in action or force is power exercised.

Difference between Political Power and Military Power:-

There is a lot of difference between political power and military power. The basis of political power is psychological influence, leadership and willpower. Political power also includes the power of money, arms and ammunition, material and influence regarding votes. In democratic countries, power is gained through elections in which money and various other methods are frequently used. In political power, military power plays a secondary role because the military authorities have to obey the President and Prime Minister. However, when one country attacks another country, then the military of both sides comes into action and military power or force is used.

Some examples of Force:-

In 1939, Hitler used force against Czechoslovakia to get back the parts of Germany handed over to it after the treaty of Versailles (1919). Hitler was able to subdue Czechoslovakia and get back his territory. Similarly Hitler asked Poland to return the German territory given to it by the treaty of Versailles. Poland refused to give it. Therefore, Hitler invaded Poland and consequently, the 2nd World War broke out. Hitler was defeated in it and Germany was divided into two parts, East and West Germany, East Germany was occupied by Russia and West Germany was occupied by the Allied forces.

Pakistan occupied by means of force 32.500 square miles of Indian territory in 1947. China occupied 14,500 square miles of Indian territory in the Ladakh sector by invading it in 1962, That territory continues still in the occupation of these countries.

Argentina invaded Falkland island in April 1982. It was under the occupation of England. Britain sent its forces to liberate it. Consequently, there was War between the two countries. Argentina was badly defeated in it, and Britain occupied Falkland. June 5, 1982.

There were military bases of Palestinians in Southern Lebanon. Palestinians frequently intruded into the territory of Israel and attacked her from these bases the main reason being that they wanted to liberate Palestine from the occupation of Israel, In order to meet the challenge of Palestinian guerillas, Israel invaded Lebanon on 6th June 1982. Israel occupied Beirut, the capital of Lebanon altar few days fighting. This is another example of using force.

Measurement of Power:-

Measurement of Power is also an important question, If we want to measure power in India and Pakistan, then we will have to judge who is ruling actually Delhi and Islamabad. We will then find that in the Delhi Cabinet type of government prevails where Prime Minister is the head.

The Prime Minister, Mr Rajiv Gandhi is also the President of the Congress Party. So he controls his Cabinet and his party as well. In Pakistan, there was the military dictatorship of Zia-ul-Haq. He owes his power in the military. The second way to measure power is to rely on the judgment made by the people. Several observers can be asked to judge the power of certain people. It was a section of the people who thought that Sanjay Gandhi was an extra-constitutional center for power.

The third way to measure power is to study the actual decision-making process. For example the decision to impose Internal Emergency on 25th June 1975 was taken by the Prime Minister, Mrs Indira Gandhi, on the advice of San jay Gandhi, Siddhartha Sharkar Ray (West Bengal Chief Minister) and Bansi Lal (Haryana Chief Minister), When Mr Dev Kant Burooah, Congress President was criticized by his opponents for the rout of the Congress in 1977, then he remarked that the fault lay with the decision-maker i.e he, Mrs Indira Gandhi.

Importance of the concepts of power and influence:-

Robert A Dahl holds that men often disagree about the proper use of power, its consequences, influence and authority. One often hears about the powers of the President. Prime Minister, Judiciary, State power and students power. Lord Acton in a letter written in 1887 said. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and authority. Among all the causes which degrade and demoralize man, power is the most constant and the most active.

All of us will agree on One point that power, influence and authority are very much important concepts of Political Science. Dahl rightly observes, Nothing is more likely to lead to bad political strategies than to misunderstand, power, to Perceived the power-structure, for to be misled about power is to be misled about the prospects and means of stability, change and revolution. He also adds that those persons who used their powers judiciously succeeded while those persons who did not do so failed miserably.

In his own words, the grave-yards of history of Stein with the corpses of reformers who failed utterly to reform anything, of revolutionaries who failed to win power, of revolutionaries who successfully seized power and failed to make the revolution they intended, of anti-revolutionaries why failed to prevent revolution men and women who failed not only because of the force arrayed against them but because of the pictures in their minds about power and influence were simplistic and inaccurate, Power is associated with coercion and coercion with painful sanctions.

The length of Coercion Sectors will vary from culture to culture depending on the range of penalties considered to be coercive in quality. The value of sanctions will vary from man to man and society to society Another category of political influence is that where the sanctions used are so weak relatively as not to be considered coercive.

A person may be affected in his action by the introduction of well presented new evidence though the only consequence of ignoring it may be to appear unreasonable. If the evidence is accepted. the outcome will be affected and the person who introduced it has exerted political influence


Political influence is the suitable outcome of possession wealth, health, education, charm and other thing and the skill with which they are made use of. We have also seen that power is the ability of an individual or group to influence another individual or group. In this way influence is a relationship. It is a relationship between individuals or groups which can make another act in a way that he may not do otherwise.

We can distinguish between power and influence by saying that those who have-got power, they can influence the conduct of others more easily than those who do not possess any power. It is admitted on all hands that power and influence are co-related terms but influence turns into power when sanctions enter. Suppose A is an officer and asks B (another subordinate official) to obey his orders, then if B refuses and A suspends him, then A has used his powers. So it is a process of sanctions which differentiates power from influence in general. Anyhow, power and influence are supplementary. For example, India has no power over the non-aligned countries out India exercised considerable influence over these countries when she was the President.

Authority and Legitimacy:-

In day-to-day language, we use the word authority. For example, we say that parents have got the authority over their children or elder brothers and sisters have got authority over their younger brothers and sisters, Similarly, we find the teachers using authority over their pupils and the doctors exercising authority over their patients. The patients accept the authority of doctors without any hitch in order to get the disease cured.

Prof. Carl J. Fredrick in his treatise Man and his Government suggests that the person wielding authority possesses superior knowledge of insight. This may be often true, but it is probably more universally appropriate t say that people are usually willing to accept that person do have such knowledge of insight, without asking for proof.

Authority is always legitimate and backed by the power of law and common consent, Legitimate power or influence is generally called authority. For example of a policeman stops truck which is going on the wrong side or Carnes banned gracious, then he is using his legal or legitimate authority but if a robber stops that said vehicle and loots it by means of force, then he does not exercise any authority but rather uses the force illegally.

Authority, being legitimate is based on concern and thus commands more respect than the illegal force exercised by intruders thieves or dacoits. Therefore, authority is not itself power, rather is the embodiment of reason, that is why,

C.G. Fredrick says,

The  man who ha authority possesses something that would describe as the capacity for elaboration, for giving convincing reasons for what he does or proposes to have others do.

In simpler words, we can say that we obey the authority because it is reasonable.

Different types of Authority according to Max Weber :-

Max Weber has given the following three different types of authority:

  1. Resting on an established belief in the sanctity of immemorial traditions and the legitimacy of the status of those exercising authority under them;
  2. Benefit in the “Legality” of patterns of normative rules and the rights of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands.
  3. Based on denotation to the specific and exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him.

Traditionally and in the legal terminology the stress is on rules and in others, mentioned by Weber, the stress is on, personal qualities charismatic. In practice to the political authority is the mixture of the two. In India, Shri Jawahar Lal Nehru and Mrs Indira Gandhi exercised large charismatic authority coupled with legal authority. Authority is thus power exercised with general approval. The the essence of authority is not that it is power (force); it is that authority that those who are affected acknowledge the authority of those who affect them. Acceptance of authority, So to say, is the recognition of moral right.

The Authority is effective because of legitimacy:-

The Authority can be easily distinguished from the coercion, power and force on one hand, and leadership and influence on the other hand on the basis of legitimacy. Everybody knows that it is the right of the superiors to issue orders and the obligation of the subordinates to offer willing obedience but this is general applicable to the family.

In the political field, the authority has to be legitimate in order to command willing obedience. This is social democracy but not in military dictatorship. In a dictatorship of such a type, the General seizes power by means of force and makes others obey with the help of the military.

Military dictatorship is not based d& hie consent of the governed but solely on force. Such an authority is not legitimate, So any power which is backed by law is authority. If it is not backed by law, it is illegitimate power. Regarding it, Robert A. Dahl observes, A commands B and B feels A has perfect right to do so and which he has a complete obligation ta obey.Power of this kind is often said to be legitimate.

But when B feels A has absolutely no right to ask him to obey, which he has no obligation to obey, and which perhaps, he actually has an obligation to resist. Power of this kind is often said to be illegitimate. Legitimate power is often called Authority. So we can conclude by saying that the Authority will be transformed into power if it is not legitimatized. Therefore, the Authority has to be legitimate under all circumstances.