Sources of Power
Sources of Power
“An examination of the sources of the rulers’ power indicates that they depend intimately upon the obedience and cooperation of the governed.”
Gene Sharp, The Role of Power in Nonviolent Struggle 1990
Authority: The ability to issue a command and have people submit to it. It’s built slowly and patiently, and is lost easily by engaging in hypocrisy, reneging on promises, and not delivering positive outcomes for society.
Human resources: The strength of the organization or ruler depends on the number of people who labor for that organization or ruler.
Skills & knowledge: The more trained an knowledgeable the people (human resources) in an organization, the more efficient and capable they become.
Material resources: The money and other assets that can be used to increase other sources of power. These resources include things such as printing capacity, office space, hardware, access to logistics planning and communications technologies, and control of other scarce resources.
Sanctions: It is actually the fear of sanctions that is important. If an organization can predictably punish a detractor and cause fear, then it has power. If others in a society perceive the punishment as legitimate, it has even more power. In terms of a nonviolent campaign, this aspect of power relates to the ability of the organization to credibly, persistently, and publicly show how the regime abuses basic human and civil rights. This creates a punishment (sanction) that the nonviolent movement can use against a regime’s use of illegitimate force.
Intangible factors: The group of psychological, traditional, cultural, religious, and sometimes idealogical factors (i.e. habits, attitudes, sense of responsibility) that may induce people to obey and assist the rulers. Those factors usually owe their existence to some combination of religion and culture, or conventions, such as a tradition of obeying people in uniforms or representatives of the religious establishment.