In the words of Robert Dahl, “Other things being equal it is right to expect that an individual with better resources will capture more power.” Even in these days of democracy which grants equal political rights to all the people of the society, only the rich can, and usually get elected as the representatives of the people. Elections have become very costly and a huge amount of money has to be spent by every contestant.
Only the rich can afford to do it. Further, the rich can use their money power to influence the elected representatives and the bureaucracy to secure desired rules, policies and results. A rich person can even ‘purchase’ power. Wealth can even cover the lack of other resources of power, for example Knowledge.
Membership of an organisation is a potent source of power. No individual can satisfy all of his needs without the help or involvement of others. He needs others to help him just as others need his help.
The maxims ‘Union is Strength’ and ‘Organised power is the most successful power’ are axiomatic truths. By joining a disciplined and well-organised organisation or association, an individual gains power.
The organisation also gains from the qualities and resources of the individual. But the gains of the individual are always more than the gains of the organisation. By becoming a member of an organisation the person inherits the goodwill and the power of that organisation in society.
Membership of a well-organised political party acts as a source of power. Election to the parliament increases the power of an individual manifold. Acquisition of leadership of an interest group again is a good source of power for a person. Thus, organisation is a source of power. However a person devoid of ability and knowledge can never fully gain from the organisation which he joins.
The personality of each individual always provides the foundations to his attempts at the securing of power in the society. Good and developed personality is always a potent source of influence and power in society. It enhances the ability of the power-holder to use his power effectively and to gain more power in the process.
Intelligence, wisdom, courage, effective communication skills, organisational ability, leadership qualities, commitment to hard work, and ability to take quick and timely decisions are the personality traits which can help an individual to gain and use power.
People’s faith in a person’s ability is always a source of power for that person. But one has to earn this through service to the people as well as through an effective use of his personal qualities and resources. A leader has to secure and continuously justify people’s faith in him and only then can be gain more power.
No leader, no government and no person can be powerful only through the use of military or police power over the people. The political power-holders continuously need committed, continuous and popular support and faith of the people in them and their role as government power-holders for exercising power in the society.
6. Social Status:
The social status that a person enjoys in society is also a source of power. Social status goes with family lineage and socio-economic status of the family. The social status helps the individual to get a good start in life.
However, in this age of democracy, efforts put in by an individual constitute a more enduring basis for power than social or family status. Being the daughter of Nehru, Mrs. Indira Gandhi got a good start in the process of getting power.
But she could maintain herself in power only by dint of her qualities of head and heart, and her efforts to gain more and more power. Her sons Mr. Rajiv Gandhi also got a good start but failed retain power due to several factors.
The son or daughter or a relative of a powerful leader cannot become or remain a powerful leader without his own personal abilities, efforts, resources and achievements.
In this age of democracy, authority is the biggest source of power. Acquisition of authority to participate in the decision-making or law application/enforcement process goes a long way to increase the power of a person. Authority enables the actor to use legitimate and effective power over the minds and actions of other men.
Election to legislature or a local body is always a source of political authority. Getting a berth in the political executive (Minister Ship) greatly enhances the power of a person. Recruitment in higher levels of Bureaucracy enables a person to exercise legitimate power (Authority) over others.
The scope of power resulting from authority is always defined and limited. The power based on authority is more effective and successful than power based on other resources. However, acquisition of authority needs the ability of the person to influence others and the existence of some other resources of power is always necessary to get the right and opportunity to get and exercise authority in society.
Thus, there are several sources of power. While analysing power, a political sociologist has to analyse and evaluate all these sources both quantitatively as well as qualitatively.