Dictionnaire de la Science Politique

Authors: Hermet, Badie, Birnbaum & Braud
Summary: This entry is composed by about 900 words and is focused on the polysemous nature of the concept of power. In political science one can distinguish among three or more meanings. In a substantial sense, power is a sort of capital which one can own or not, and through which one can obtain some benefits. Following an institutional perspective, power is a particular kind of relation between the state and the civil society, or between the government end the opposition, but it is also the whole of public powers. Finally, in an interactive perspective, power is a particular resource which is used to get a particular behaviour from people on whom it is exercised. In this last meaning it may appear the cause of an action or non-action behaviour. Power is then also power to influence, with the possibility of using sanctions against the transgressors. However, a relationship based on power is not fully comprehensible if one does not observe also all the other elements of conditioning, as, for example, some properties of the social system, way of productions, distribution of resources, and so on. Usually, the most influencing factors in the relationships based on power belong to the law system on one hand and to the symbolic system on the other hand. The latter is pre-existent respect to the first one, and it is grounded on the socialization process, which permits the interiorizing of social norms.