Human Society -- Economic or State Power Essay

  • Length: 5 pages
  • Sources: 7
  • Subject: Sociology
  • Type: Essay
  • Paper: #33793566

Excerpt from Essay :

Human Society -- Economic or State Power

Background (State Power and Economic Power) -- The political and sociological aspect of power is the ability for an organization to control its own environment, including the behavior of other entities with which it reacts. Authority is seen as the perception of legitimate power by the social structure of dominant culture. Power can be, of course, seen as good or evil, but the exercise of power is both endemic and necessary for the modern state as we know it. Certainly within the paradigm of political and economic power there are various permutations that surround sources of power, the balance of power, and theories of power (Kuusisto).

Balances of power are necessary within any reciprocal arrangement in order for statecraft to even exist: what are the relative strengths, weaknesses, and dimensions to a stable relationship? Given that power is never innate, and one must have some form of power currency to acquire power, then power must have some connotation and degree of unilateralism in order to even be a perceived tool. This brings to mind the basis for power and how it is held. Power may be held through delegated or forced authority (democratic or autocratic processes), social class or resource currency (material wealth), personal power or charisma (including celebrity and persuasion), moral persuasion (usually left for religion), or group dynamics (social influences, tradition, or culture) (Nolan). Some scholarship summarizes the actual types of power as being either condigin (based on force), compensatory (based on resources), or conditioned (persuasion); and their actual sources of power being personality (individuals), property (material resources), or organizational (the power structure or hierarchical template) (Galbraith).

Theories of Power -- The deconstruction of power as a political or economic entity has been part of human dialog since the first cities arose in Mesopotamia. Power structures and struggles were a regular part of the Ancient World. Aristotle saw it as a relationship in struggles for intellectual dominance, often based on the function of language and culture in order to articulate their nature. Power then, needs to be understood as a productive mechanism, not simply as a mechanism of socialization and oppression (Haskins). As societies became more industrial and urban, power structures under capitalism became so complex and endemic that many philosophers argued that power was a continual struggle between the domination of other humans and the domination over one's environment.

As society progressed into advanced capitalism and a century of unbridled hostility, though, the concepts of state and economic power blurred. Power shifts, and continues to shift. Throughout history it shifted from one group (society or culture) to another, and the dominant form of power was continually in flux. During the Industrial Revolution, power shifted from nobility (based more of feudalism and economics) to industrialists and financiers who manipulated power based on fiscal gain. However, violence because less the dominant form of control, and economic the more common. Certainly after the Cold War, and with the advent of globalism and modern technology, this power paradigm continues to shift -- with knowledge becoming the currency of wealth and power structures moving away from the developed nations.

However, at the basis for most discussions on modern power and statecraft, and the question of which is more foundational to human society, economic or state power; two basic approaches typify the issue. The first, by 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes, defined power as man's "present means, to obtain some future apparent good" a political view of statecraft argued even today (Hobbes). Second, reacting to the process of industrialization and rampant capitalism, Karl Marx saw power as primarily arising from ownership and control of property, and therefore economic in both tone and timbre:

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. The class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas (Marx)

Hobbes -- Thomas Hobbes often described…

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