Power is many things. We may all know what it is yet, the definition is unique. We all have our own definition of power however, we come across immeasurable difficulties when trying to define it. The dictionary defines power in many ways but in reality there is no set definition of what power is or what it is supposed to be. Power is not something you can
touch rather it is something we see and observe as it grows in human relationships and social arrangements. Some may refer to it as influence, control, or even dominance but in Parenti’s reading What We Mean by “Power” he pinpoints power and categorizes it under individual actors and systemic force. Television and magazines also reinforce these definitions of power and their relations through crime and deviant individuals as expressed in another reading titled Television News Magazines and Functionalism by Marie Elizabeth Grabe.
Parenti’s definitions of power begin by referring to individual actors. He explains it to be a relationship between a person and their environment, specifically saying that power is the ability for an individual to get what they want and obtain some apparent good to the individual. Often, the ability to get what one wants implies the ability to surpass those whose interest might conflict with their own. Power comes into play when some degree of competition is expected as there are many demands for the things that are needed or wanted and this may exceed the available supply. So, when competition is implicated one persons gain involves another persons loss. This is the measure of an individuals self-serving power, which also entails the ability to deal helpful or hurtful effects on others whether intentionally or unintentionally.
In the reading Parenti gives an example of a corporation that moves its factory to a new location causing unemployment in the community when it moves. The point of the new location was to maximize profits and gain more power, not to leave people unemployed. However, when having the power, control, and ability to get what one wants, someone seems to always get the short end of the stick. Because of the scarcity of what a person, group, or class may want and need in today’s economy they need to have the power to pursue it.
The second definition Parenti gives as he defines individual actors, is getting others to serve one’s own interest. He specifies that we might think of power as an individual’s ability to get others to act or think in ways they would not otherwise act or think, to specifically maximize their interests rather than the other individuals. If we conceive power as being only the ability to influence the behavior of another in any way then we find ourselves also saying that all participants in a transaction exercise power, even those who...