Power Politics in Organizational Life
In many ways power is a unifying thread by which we can connect and rationalize the history of mankind. Of course other, more traditional perspectives like economic events, wars, ideology, and religion provide important and needed perspectives on our evolution as a society. But, certainly understanding how leaders as well as followers used power will help in understanding our history. It will be equally useful in helping us determine how people will relate to each other in the twenty-first century.
Viewing our leaders, our literature, our government, our philosophy, and our religion in power terms helps us understand each other better. These social systems record our history of competition, conflict, struggle, violence, and war. In a word, they record our fascination with power ( Winter, 1973) and the politics of power use. Perhaps there is no single concept of human relationship of more gut importance than how we get our way in the group. It is central to both who and what we are as individuals and as group members.
We engage in power activity in group (that is, political) settings. It is logical, therefore, that psychology, political science, anthropology, and the rest of the social disciplines should have interest in power. Each has something to add to our understanding of power and its use. Each discipline, almost each writer, has added specific definitions to the lexicon of power. The resulting confusion has done little to clarify concepts, or to reduce the trauma many feel when someone introduces the word power into a discussion.
The study of power dates from the earliest efforts to define a social science.