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A Polite Request and a Gun

Nor does it include orders that are obeyed out of a sense of duty. If you stop at a red light because you believe it is every good citizen's duty to obey traffic laws, that is by Wrong's definition an exercise of state power, but not by Bachrach's and Baratz's definition. In their definition, stopping at a red light is a demonstration of state power only if you do so out of fear of being ticketed. Significantly, though, they do not require that you see a police car; your awareness that the police might well see and ticket you is sufficient to establish their power.

Power as defined by Bachrach and Baratz might then be considered a sub-case of power as defined by Wrong. However, to draw a substantially narrower definition of power is to draw a different definition -- the definition is narrower precisely because it makes different presumptions about what deserves to be called power and what does not. Just what part does the threat of coercion play in power? Is it possible to exercise power, as distinct from influence or persuasion, when there is no expectation of sanction against disobedience?

Related to these general definitions of power are several possible characteristics of power. Among these are intentionality, compliance, latency or potentiality, influence, persuasion, force, manipulation, and authority. All of these must be considered in evaluating a definition of power. The first of these, on which there is no dispute between Wrong and Bachrach and Baratz, is intentionality. Accidental or side effects are often consequences of the exercise of power, but they are not in themselves an exercise of power. If you pull out into the street suddenly and force another motorist to slam on her brakes, you have influenced her actions. You have not exercised power over her, by either definition, unless your intent was to force her to brake suddenly.

Compliance is a much more complex and intriguing element of power. Wrong...

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A Polite Request and a Gun. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 13:50, November 30, 2015, from
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