Emerson (1962) defined power as relational, situational, and at least potentially
reciprocal (Scott p. 302). It is not the characteristic of an individual
but a property of a social relation. The power of superordinates is based
on their ability and willingness to sanction others and the value of the
reward and punishments in the eyes of these other people. An individual's
power is based on all the resources they can employ to help or hinder another
in the attainment of desired goals (Scott p. 302).
Scott defines interpersonal power as "the potential for influence that
is based on one person's ability and willingness to sanction another person
by manipulating rewards and punishments important to the other person".
(Scott p. 303).
Power in Informal Groups
Homans (1961) and Blau (1964) both examine how power emerges in small groups.
Both see the emergence of power as "a product of unequal exchange relations
that occur when some individuals become increasingly dependent on others
for services required in reaching their objectives" (Scott p. 303).
In informal groups power is based on the characteristics of the individuals.
Power in Formal Organizations
In formal groups power is in part determined by design as well as by personal
characteristics and group dynamics. Hierarchy gives some people power over
Rational perspectives emphasize the hierarchical and formal power structures
in organizations. Formal positions avoid the "tensions" of trying
to find superior people for certain positions, and power is more easily
transferred when people come and go.
Natural perspectives note that no organization ever succeeds in rationally
distributing power among individuals. The individual characteristics often
erode the formal system and largely determine the true emergent power structure.
Sometimes resources are co-opted to build power (e.g. critical information).