POWER

Power Relationships in Life & The Distribution of Power

Power Relationships in Life & The Distribution of Power

Power is exercised on a day to day basis. The exercise of power may take place at home, in a place of work, in a school or even on the street. For example

      • Parents take control over their children’s behaviour (traditional authority)
      • The police are agents of social control and may use coercion, or physical force, to uphold the law. (Legal rational authority)
      • Teacher’s control pupil behaviour within a school setting. (Legal rational and sometimes charismatic authority)
      • Employers and managers exercise control over their employees in terms of their daily working lives. (Legal rational authority)
      • Peer groups in which there is an informal hierarchy. One person may lead the rest of the group because he has a persuasive manner or a certain charisma.

Many people are successful because they combine two or more of these ingredients. A charismatic figure, for example, is more likely to be voted in as the prime minister. The prime minister, of course, has a lot of legal rational authority.

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The distribution of power

The most obvious observation is that high office in politics is usually held by white, middle class, middle aged men with a British heritage. A large number of MPs are graduates of Oxbridge and other high ranking universities and many of them attended public school. This trend is slowly being reversed and more people from non-white and/or working class backgrounds are entering politics. Very few young or disabled people are to be found in parliament.

Outside of parliament, those involved in pressure groups are still more likely to be the educated middle-classes. There is a concern that, in a representative democracy, power is not distributed evenly among the social groups and that the interests of the white male middle classes are being over represented. Women, for example, represent more than 50 per cent of the population and yet only make up about a fifth of the MPs in parliament.