Political Power — CANVAS

Political Power

Political Power

“Political power is the totality of means, influences, and pressures — including authority, rewards, and sanctions — available to achieve the objectives of the power-holder, especially those of government, the state, and those groups in opposition.”

Dr Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, 1973; in Robert Helvey, On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict (2004: 1).

As is explained in the CANVAS Core Curriculum (page 22 and onwards), it is essential for the philosophy of ‘People Power’ to understand political power not as a fixed power structure, to which nothing could be changed except the person or people at the top. Rather, political power has to be understood in a pluralistic model, in which power in society ultimately comes from the people. And those people – each of whom is a small, individual source of political power – can change their minds…

The concept of Political power should be distinguished from that of Social Power, which can be defined as “the capacity to control the behavior of others, directly or indirectly, through action by groups of people, which action impinges on other groups of people. Political power is that kind of power which is for political objectives.” – Gene Sharp, Dr Gene Sharp, The Politics of Nonviolent Action, 1973 part I:7 (in Robert Helvey, On Strategic Nonviolent Conflict (2004: 1)).