Pub. date: 2006 | Online Pub. Date: September 15, 2007 | DOI: 10.4135/9781412939584 | Print ISBN: 9780761930877 | Online ISBN: 9781412939584| Publisher:SAGE Publications, Inc.About this encyclopedia
In the social sciences, power is a highly contested and arguably elusive concept. Theorists employ a variety of theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches in defining and refining the concept of power. Common to all views, however, is the notion that power is the ability, often through others, to cause an effect in nature, in other people, or in oneself. It is this “productive” quality of power that generates considerable interest in power as a social science concept. Many theorists view power as involving an element of coercion. Max Weber believed that power was the probability that one actor within a social relationship would carry out his or her will, even with resistance. Thus when a teacher union strikes for higher pay but then accepts a contract with a decrease in pay, the district is said to have exerted “power over” the union. Asymmetrical relationships, conflict, and constraint are central features ...