3) Ideological Power.
In his work ‘Three Faces of Power’ Kenneth Bounding has described these as Power of Stick, Power of Deal and Power of Kiss.
A political system is a system of relationships or interactions characterized by significant power, rule, authority or control. David Easton defines Political System as a set of interactions through which authoritative allocations (i.e. binding decisions, policies, rules, deprivations, rewards, punishments, and decree) are made and implemented for the society. It is the power system of society which makes and implements laws and policies which are backed by force or coercion.
In every society, political system alone can enforce its decisions by the use of force or threat of use of force. The violators of state laws and policies are punished for their crimes which mean actions against the letter and spirit of its laws. This power is used by the Government i.e. by the persons who are power-holders in the Government e.g. legislators, ministers, civil servants, judges, police and military.
The power of making and implementing laws is the power of stick i.e. political power. Along with it, the power holders use economic power and ideological power for getting popular obedience and support for the political power being used by them.
Such a situation makes it necessary for every student of Politics to understand the three forms/modes of power.
I. Political Power:
Political Power can be defined as the power to make and implement laws, policies and decisions by the use of force/coercion or threat of use of force. It is used by the persons who organise, control and run the government of the state.
“Political power is evidenced by the ability of those who control the instruments of government to secure obedience to their decisions.” —EP Allen
In other words, Political Power is basically the power of political coercion and authority.
Political power is in the hands of rulers i.e. power-holders or authority-holders and political elites. They have a control over the government and they use the power of making authoritative and binding decisions and policies for the whole society.
Force is the basis of the power of the state which is used by the government of the state. Use of force for commanding obedience is the sole prerogative of the state which, in reality, is used by the government (rulers/power holders). In turn, the government is controlled by Political elites or leaders or power holders.
The laws, decisions and policies made and implemented by the ‘rulers’ are enforced on all the people of the state. Those who disobey or fail to obey these are punished by courts (judges or judicial power-holders).
Normally, the power holders use power (political power) as legitimate power i.e. authority. In every political system power is used by authority holders-the legislators, ministers, judges, civil servants or public officials, civil as well as military personnel. All the people of the state recognise and accept the power of the authority holders to make and enforce binding decisions.
They also accept the power of the designated officials (judges, magistrates) to award punishments to all those who are held guilty of disobeying or not obeying or violating the laws and policies of the state.
The power-holder uses force and coercion only when the people oppose and violate their decisions, and policies. The factor of force or coercion or threat of use of force/coercion is always the sanction behind the laws and policies made and enforced by the holders of political power.
The legislature of the state which is constituted by the legislators or representatives of the people in the legislature uses the law-making power, the power to tax and the power to approve or disapprove the policies and decisions of the executive organ of the government.
The executive (the ministers, civil servants the policy-makers, decision-makers and executive magistrates and civil services officials, the police and military) also political power.
It has the power to enforce all the laws and policies of the government. The executive uses the police power for maintaining internal law and order and the military power to defeat external aggressors and their actual or threatened aggressions.
The Judiciary (the Law Courts and Judges or Judicial Magistrates) uses the power to apply laws to specific cases of dispute. It punishes the guilty and compensates the aggrieved persons.
These three formal organs of the government use power as is authority-legitimate power.
However along with these, several informal structures or institutions like political parties, pressure group, political leaders, public opinion, popular movements and the like also have a share in the exercise of political power. These influence the processes of policy-making, decision-making, law-making by the government.
Law-making by the legislature is always done by a majority vote and in this exercise, the party or coalition alliance which has majority of seats is the legislature plays a deterministic role.
Like-wise the policies and decisions of the government are largely based on the election manifesto, ideology and policy perspectives of the top leaders of the majority party or ruling political alliance.
In democracy, public opinion, pressure/interest groups, popular movements, and several active non-governmental organisations also play an active role in the exercise of political power in the society.
Political power is used for resolution of conflict in society. The nature and extent of distribution of power within a state determines the process of conflict-resolution among its people, groups and parties.
Political power is exercised through law-making, law-enforcement and law-adjudication (legislature, executive and judicial functions). Conflict-resolution is achieved on the basis of the binding decisions (laws, policies, rules, deprivations, rewards etc.) which result from the use of political power by the power-holders (authority holders) of the state.
II. Economic Power:
Economic power is the power resulting from the ownership of means of production of goods and services i.e. material means of life. It is the power of wealth.
In a feudal society, economic power is based on the ownership of land which enables the class of land lords (Feudal Nobility) to acquire wealth and political power. In a capitalist society, economic power emanates from the possession of factories and business houses which are the means of production of goods and services.
These means are in the hands of the capitalists who use their economic power to either use political power directly by getting elected as the ‘representatives of the people’ or indirectly by controlling the loyalties of political parties and their leaders through the grant of donations or economic assistance.
In other words, the capitalists use their economic power for gaining political power. They influence the policies and decisions of the power-holders. They use their economic power for directly or indirectly exercising political power and the latter for enriching their economic power.
“The control of production gives rise to political power and social prestige as well as status and wealth.” -James Burnham
Marxist scholars of go to the extent of observing that political power is deterministically based on economic power. Economic class structure (Rich and Poor) nature of class struggle between the two economic classes and economic class support structure of political parties are the determinants of political power. “Economics determines Politics” Economic power is the source of inequality in society. It is the cause of all strife and conflict in society.
Some scholars advocate the view that in each modern democratic society’s political power is really in the hands of the rich class. It is used for furthering their own interests. In the name of economic freedom or welfareism and economic liberalisation economic inequality is perpetuated.
Political and legal equality is used to cloak the presence of economic inequalities. “Political power is really used by the rich, the people simply love their the right to vote and develop a feeling of participation in the exercise of political power”
In other words, the Marxist scholars advocate that economic power is based on economic inequality in society. It is used by the rich for perpetuating their power to own and control the material means of production and distribution. It is again used by the rich, directly or indirectly, for controlling the exercise of political power in society.
Even in a democratic system, political power is used in the interest of the rich. In such a society political equality (equal political rights) coexists side by side with economic inequality. This situation is exploited by the rich for acting as the real centre of power in society.
Such a view of the Marxist scholars is not fully valid. No one can deny that economic power influences the exercise of power. However, at the same time no one can accept that only economic power determines political power and the latter has little control over the former.
Politics is continuously guided and directed by the objective of securing socio-economic reconstruction and development of society. Economic policies always emerge out of political process.
Economic problems, material resources, economic growth, economic development, economic planning, fiscal policy, tax-regime, and in fact all major economic exercises are the concern of politics.
Political power regulates all economic relations, activities, business, trade industry and commerce. It is always used by the authority holders (Political leaders and rulers of the state at a given time) to formulate and reform all economic policies, plans and programmes. Political power definitely depends upon economic power, but at the same time it also regulates and controls the economic power in society.
Political power and economic power are two highly related, interdependent and interacting forms of power. Economic power is a key factor of political power and the latter is also a regulator and user of the former.
The authoritative values which are made and implemented by the political system are always influenced by economic factors and economic power. Likewise, laws, policies decisions, rewards and plans of the government always determine the process of socio-economic development of society.
III. Ideological Power:
Ideological power is the third form of power. It is the most subtle form of power. Use of ideology for securing legitimacy is a standard practice with the rulers.
Political parties and their leaders always use ideology for securing support for their leaderships and policies. The ruling party and its leaders always justify their authority and rule by depending upon ideology which supports their views and policies.
“Ideology is a body of ideas concerning economic, social and political values and goals which posit action-programmes for attaining these goals” -Padelford and Lincoln
CP Schleicher defines ideology as “a system of abstract ideas held by an individually (or group) which purports to explain reality, expresses value goals, and contains programmes of action for the retention or attainment of the kind of social order in which its proponents believe the goals can best be realized.”
Ideology is a set of beliefs or arguments or principles used either for justifying or changing an existing social order. It is used by the leaders or the ruling class to secure legitimacy Marxist scholars advocate the view that ideology represents the power of the dominant class (the capitalists or the rich) to manipulate the thinking and emotions of the people for exploiting their resources and energies.
The dominant class uses ideology as a cloak for covering its real intentions and behaviour and to present a positive picture of its attempts at the exploitation of the economic and political power of the people. Ideology is used by the dominant class to secure approval of the people for its decisions and actions.
“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling class.” —Karl Marx
After the drawn of independence in 1947, the leaders of free India initially made the people believe that socialism or socialistic pattern of society constituted the best and most essential objective for securing the welfare of all the people of India.
In the 1990s the Congress leaders justified the adoption of the principles of liberalisation, open competition, free trade, privatisation and market economy as the most essential and really useful principles for securing all round economic development and social justice is India.
Likewise, after the socialist revolution of 1949, the Chinese leaders-the Maoist communists advocated socialism as the objective to be secured. After about three decades, they began advocating the need for economic liberalisation. In 1990s they began accepting and adopting privatisation under state control. In the 21st century they adopted the ideology of market socialism in place of socialism. Thus, ideology is always used by the ruling class to secure public support or legitimacy for its policies, decisions, programmes and actions.
Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci formulated and advocated the concept of hegemony for explaining the process of ideological domination of the ruling class in every society.
In fact Gramsci’s concept of hegemony advocated the need to study rote of ideological power as a means of domination of the dominant class over the society. Ideology or moral and intellectual leadership is used by the dominant class to maintain its dominance by securing consent in favour of a certain social order.
It involves the use of such elements as knowledge, education, social institutions, beliefs, values, tastes, styles, fashions etc. ideological power is used to transform dissent into consent of the ruled people in favour of the ruling/dominant class and its leadership, policies, decisions and actions.
The people are made to believe that a particular system of government or policy or decision or action is necessary and justified for their welfare and development. The people are prepared to accept the desired policy or decision and they get influenced in favour of not challenging it.
“Individuals are prepared to fight for causes, often realistically hopeless causes, to undergo ill-treatment and torture in the belief that some political values are superior to others.” —Allah R. Bale
The leaders of a political party always use ideology both for winning support for their views, policies and decisions as well as for criticising and rejecting the policies and actions of their opponents.
Some time ideological principles like secularism, open society, civil society, freedom of action, peaceful coexistence and the like are used by them for securing legitimacy for their actions. In this way, ideological power is used as a means of political power.
In the words of Nicos Poulantaz, “The function of ideological power is to secure cohesion in the society and to perpetuate the dominance of one class over the other.”
Means of mass media and all public platforms and structures are used by the ruling class for using ideological power for securing support and legitimacy for the exercise of political power in society.
As such, Political Power, Economic Power and Ideological Power are the three main forms of power. These always exist side by side and each affects the other. In every society, economic power and Ideological Power are used as means by the holders of political power.
Dr. R C Vermani observes:
“Whereas political power is the power of physical compulsion, economic power is the power of rewards or deprivation, ideological power is the power of ideas, opinion, beliefs, culture, traditions, through which mental consciousness of the masses is controlled to produce a kind of political atmosphere convenient to the power-wielders.”
Politics as struggle for power involves all these three forms of power which are used by the powerful persons (authority-holders, political leaders, decision-makers) for exercising ruling power over the people.