Paradoxes Of Power In Sociological Insight By Randall Collins

1166 words - 5 pages

Paradoxes of Power in Sociological Insight by Randall Collins

It may be said that the institution of power has always been a prevalent force in our

society. It is a large part of what holds society together; without it civilized society as we know it

would not exist. The functions of power range from keeping crime at bay to the more

commonplace aspects such as allowing patrons to be served in a restaurant. The notion of power

is almost invisible until further analyzed; it is something that we perceive as being simple

and therefore take for granted. Yet there are so many intricacies in regard to power that still

remain to be seen. In Chapter Three of Sociological Insight by Randall Collins, the author

establishes some valid points concerning power. He posits that power is something of a self-

contradiction, that it is often most effective when subtly exercised. Collins also delves into the

various forms that power may take, such as money and coercion, which are negated as valid forms

of power. Lastly, the importance of implicit principles and understandings is emphasized, also

illustrating that power is most firmly established in the realms of both certainty and uncertainty.

In accordance with the title of Chapter Three, Paradoxes of Power, Collins' main point is

that power is truly a contradiction; the word itself evokes images of monarchs and times long

gone by. But in the present day and an era marked by the rise of democracy, power has little to

do with such institutions; rather it something that is exercised on high levels as well as lower ones.

Although it is something not often thought about, power is everywhere. It is evident in the legal

system's prosecution of criminals and a child's compliance with a mother's request; it is entirely

possible that power exists in some form within every human and social relationship. Yet some

forms of power are certainly more effective than others. The key to realizing power most

effectively lies in the acknowledgement of occasional concession and knowing when to "giv(e) in

on something less important" (74). For instance, once again consider the example of a mother

and child. Assume that the child wants to go over to a friend's house to play, but he has promised

his mother that he would do his chores that afternoon. The child begs his mother to let him go

and play, assuring her that he will do his chores immediately upon arriving home. The mother

concedes, and the child is happy. If we are to analyze this situation in terms of gains and losses,

the mother has gained points with her son and has essentially suffered no loss-the chores will still

be done, only a few hours later. Throughout the entire scenario, the mother's power is evident,

both explicit and implicitly; the son does not forget that his mother has the ultimate say in what

he does, and in letting her son go...

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