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Social power or political power in social science and politics, is the ability to influence or outright control the behavior of people. The term "authority" is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure.
- Monckton Milnes was a social power in London, and of course he himself affected social eccentricity, challenging ridicule with the indifference of one who knew himself to be the first wit in London, and a maker of men — of a great many men. A word from him went far. An invitation to his breakfast-table went farther. Behind his almost Falstaffian mask and laugh of Silenus, he carried a fine, broad, and high intelligence which no one questioned. As a young man he had written verses, which some readers thought poetry, and which were certainly not altogether prose. Later, in Parliament he made speeches, chiefly criticised as too good for the place and too high for the audience. Socially, he was one of two or three men who went everywhere, knew everybody, talked of everything.
- One of the earliest- and perhaps the first-rivals of the hymnology of war, hatred, and revenge made immortal by Homer was the poetry of an Aeolian woman called Sappha by her people but uniformly known to later times as Sappho...Much of Sappho's poetry was of a plaintive tenderness but she had a fervid feeling for love as a saving grace. Several of her feminine disciples also sang of the beauty and healing force of love. Solon the law-giver and Plato the philosopher were deeply affected by her hymns to the great idea of a social power unrecognized by "the Bible of the Greeks": Homer.
- Mary Ritter Beard, Woman as force in history (1946)
- America, which idealizes the rights of the individual above everything else, is in reality, a nation dominated by the social power of groups, classes, in-groups and cliques—both ethnic and religious. The individual in America has few rights that are not backed up by the political, economic and social power of one group or another. Hence, the individual Negro has, proportionately, very few rights indeed because his ethnic group (whether or not he actually identifies with it) has very little political, economic or social power (beyond moral grounds) to wield. Thus it can be seen that those Negroes, and there are very many of them, who have accepted the full essence of the Great American Ideal of individualism are in serious trouble trying to function in America.
- Harold Cruse, The Crisis of the Negro Intellectual (1967), p. 8
- Men characterize pornography as something mental because their minds, their thoughts, their dreams, their fantasies, are more real to them than women's bodies or lives; in fact, men have used their social power to characterize a $10-billion-a-year trade in women as fantasy.
- Andrea Dworkin, Pornography, Men Possessing Women (1981)
- No society can function as a society, unless it gives the individual member social status and function, and unless the decisive social power is legitimate.
- Peter Drucker, The Future of Industrial Man (1942), p. 28
- Having destroyed the social power of the nobility and the guildmasters, the bourgeois also destroyed their political power. Having raised itself to the actual position of first class in society, it proclaims itself to be also the dominant political class. This it does through the introduction of the representative system which rests on bourgeois equality before the law and the recognition of free competition, and in European countries takes the form of constitutional monarchy. In these constitutional monarchies, only those who possess a certain capital are voters – that is to say, only members of the bourgeoisie. These bourgeois voters choose the deputies, and these bourgeois deputies, by using their right to refuse to vote taxes, choose a bourgeois government.
- From the moment when labour can no longer be converted into capital, money, or rent, into a social power capable of being monopolized, i.e., from the moment when individual property can no longer be transformed into bourgeois property, into capital, from that moment, you say individuality vanishes.
- Accordingly one finds in political science, in sociology, and in social psychology a variety of distinctions among different types of social power or among qualitatively different processes of social influence... Our main purpose is to identify the major types of power and to define them systematically so that we may compare them according to the changes which they produce and the other effects which accompany the use of power.
- Christianity, with its strong emphasis on unity under one God (an emphasis that it shares with Islam), can seem an almost natural ally of empire—unless, of course, the prophetic-critical dimension of the biblical tradition, which the Jesus of the synoptics certainly represented, is allowed a hearing. But as the history of Christology in the West easily demonstrates, after the establishment of Christianity, the prophetic office of the Christ, based not only on Jesus’ teaching but (even more so) on his suffering at the hands of power, was definitely subdued in favor of his priestly and kingly offices. Triumphant peoples, successful peoples, possessing peoples—empires!—do not want crucified criminals as their chief cultic symbol, especially not when they themselves are the crucifiers ... as they regularly are!
- As a means of reinforcing the social power of language, ideas became more superfluous the more that power increased, and the language of science put an end to them altogether. Conscious justification lacked the suggestive power which springs from dread of the fetish.
- Since money does not disclose what has been transformed into it, everything, whether a commodity or not, is convertible into gold. Everything becomes sellable and purchasable. Circulation is the great social retort into which everything is thrown and out of which everything is recovered as crystallized money. Not even the bones of the saints are able to withstand this alchemy; and still less able to withstand it are more delicate things, sacrosanct things which are outside the commercial traffic of men. Just as all qualitative differences between commodities are effaced in money, so money, a radical leveller, effaces all distinctions. But money itself is a commodity, an external object, capable of becoming the private property of an individual. Thus social power becomes private power in the hands of a private person.
- To think that because those who wield power in society wield in the end that of government, therefore it is of no use to attempt to influence the constitution of the government by acting on opinion, is to forget that opinion is itself one of the greatest active social forces. One person with a belief is a social power equal to ninety-nine who have only interests.
- John Stuart Mill, On Representative Government (1861), Ch. I: To What Extent Forms of Government Are a Matter of Choice (p. 155)
- The superficial distinctions of Fascism, Bolshevism, Hitlerism, are the concern of journalists and publicists; the serious student sees in them only one root-idea of a complete conversion of social power into State power.
- Albert Jay Nock, Our Enemy, The State, Caldwell, Idaho, Caxton Press (1950), first published in 1935
- Feminism, coveting social power, is blind to women’s cosmic sexual power.
- Camille Paglia, Rape and Modern Sex War, p. 52
- Social power [is the] potential influence, the ability of a person or group to induce or prevent change in another. Social control [is] the process by which members of a social entity are influenced to adhere to values and principles of proper behavior deemed appropriate for that social entity.
- Bertram H. Raven (1999). "Kurt Lewin address: Influence, Power, Religion, and the Mechanisms of Social Control." Journal of Social Issues. 55(1):161-186. p. 161
- The law, the public authority: is it not established to protect weakness against injustice and oppression? It is thus an offence to all social principles place it entirely in the hands of the rich. But the rich, the powerful, have reasoned differently, Through a strange abuse of words, they have restricted the general idea of property to certain objects only; they have called only themselves property owners: they have claimed that only property owners were worthy of the name of citizen; they have named their own particular interest the general interest, and to ensure the success of that claim, they have seized all social power.
- Maximilien Robespierre, On the Silver Mark (1791)
- Society and its ideal average, normal mediocrity with its pleasing, mannerly, commonplace platitudes may have its fling of jeering at genius for not conforming to social usage and for breaking away from the well-trodden paths of social ruts. Far more effective and deadly are the stones of ridicule cast by the hand of genius at the Philistine Goliath, strong in his brute social power, but dull of wits. Social laughter is momentary, soon burns itself out and passes away like the fire and smokes of straw, but genius shakes the very skies with its lasting, inextinguishable laughter.
- Boris Sidis, Psychology of Laughter (1913), p. 117