Power (social and political)

In social science and politics, power is the social production of an effect that determines the capacities, actions, beliefs, or conduct of actors.[1] Power does not exclusively refer to the threat or use of force (coercion) by one actor against another, but may also be exerted through diffuse means (such as institutions).[1][2] Power may also take structural forms, as it orders actors in relation to one another (such as distinguishing between a master and an enslaved person, a householder and their relatives, an employer and their employees, a parent and a child, a political representative and their voters...), and discursive forms, as categories and language may lend legitimacy to some behaviors and groups over others.[1]

Social and political power as a multifaceted concept. Top-left: The Great Hall of the People, the central state building used for legislative and ceremonial activities by the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC). Top-right: in the 2021 Henley Passport Index, Japan had the most visa-free access of any country through their passport agreements to 193 destinations; an example of soft power. Bottom-left: a chain gang of prisoners serving their sentences under the authority of prison institutions in Texas, USA. Bottom-right: statue of Barack Obama and Michelle Obama near Moneygall, Ireland; an example of cultural power.

The term authority is often used for power that is perceived as legitimate or socially approved by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust; however, power can also be seen as good and as something inherited or given for exercising humanistic objectives that will help, move, and empower others as well.

Scholars have distinguished between soft power and hard power.

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