Personality, Power, and Authority: A View from the Behavioral Sciences

Personality, Power, and Authority: A View from the Behavioral Sciences

Personality, Power, and Authority: A View from the Behavioral Sciences

Personality, Power, and Authority: A View from the Behavioral Sciences

Synopsis

"A major figure in social science has prepared this inventory of variables associated with power.... This major effort is recommended for libraries serving upper-division and graduate students." - Choice

Excerpt

Both the observer and the participants possess what they consider to be knowledge and theories concerning the setting in which power and authority are, respectively, observed and experienced. Who has political power in a particular society? The observer may point to a particular group: his pointing constitutes his knowledge, whether true or false. In addition, he may also seek to explain why and how they have such power: the explanation constitutes his theory, again whether true or false. Participants within the same society may also believe they know which clique has power and they may likewise subscribe to some kind of explanation to account for that clique's status; the information similarly may be true or false. The terms "true or false" have been deliberately stated quite glibly although establishing the truth or falsity of knowledge and theory is usually a laborious process. The observer's knowledge or theory may be considered true or false by another observer, whether a contemporary or the member of another generation, or by the participants who in turn may draw their conclusions concerning the observer's generalizations or explanations.

More often than not the distinction between knowledge and theory becomes fuzzy. For the language in which knowledge is formulated may have implicit theoretical implications. When it is known, for example, that a particular person is a Zulu or an American, a fact is thus stated, but that fact immediately suggests other alleged facts, actually so many that whoever possesses the knowledge may believe that merely on the basis of nationality he has insight into the person's values and behavior.

The background or setting of power and authority is of interest to observers and participants. To "explain" these phenomena the social scientist and the laymen must assume that events do not spring from Jove's whims but arise as a result of circumstances in the milieu. Each participant makes a similar assumption when he seeks to comprehend other participants. Those participants have a private, subjective background of their own to be considered in the next chapter: the observer seeks to understand their predispositions, and again the participant usually shows some concern for the predispositions of other participants. But first the general background.

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