‘A gets B to do something that he or she would not otherwise do.’ Does this sum up the essence of political power?

Essay by amuller93University, Bachelor'sB, April 2014

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Alice Muller


Introduction to Politics

Essay 1

Tutor: Jue Wang

'A gets B to do something that he or she would not otherwise do.'

Does this sum up the essence of political power?

The concept of power is at the heart of the political debate. Politics is mainly about the distribution and control of power in time and space. In any society, power can be left in the hands of one person or millions of people can share sovereignty. In a dictatorship, the dictator seems to have great power. In democracies, which are dominant since the late 20th century, it appears every citizen has power, although he passes it on to the people he elects. In any regime, there seems to be different levels and sorts of power. The Constitution and laws in a democratic regime, and the leader in an authoritarian regime, define these different aspects of power.

Politics also deals with conflicting interests. Everyone, as an individual or a group, is driven by personal interest and is bound to desire what is best for them. No matter how strongly we defend equality of rights, everyone is not equal when it comes to power. Indeed, the term 'power' implies that one party is stronger than the other, therefore the latter's personal interest will be discarded if it conflicts with the former's. If A gets B to do something that she or he would not otherwise do, A must have some influence over B. However, is it correct to call it political power?


Firstly we must ask ourselves how exactly is power defined in the political sense. It is nearly impossible to define it precisely, since politics is a very extensive term. In its broadest sense, it comprises nearly all human activities, which involve debating, diplomacy, compromise, etc.,