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the first instance one part of society over the

others. It allows the society as a whole to respond

more promptly and energetically to new opportunities

and dangers in its environment, to promote

and manage new modes of cooperation. It

can be likened to a cybernetic device, monitoring

the environment, collecting, storing, elaborating

information, forming decisions which can be the

more promptly, coherently and predictably implemented,

to everybody’s advantage, the more they

are backed by sanctions available in principle exclusively

to one part of society – the superior part.

Put otherwise, power does not empower only

those who hold it.

The fact that power can be, and, according to

this argument, typically is, generated and accumulated

on behalf of the whole society, although

managed by one part of it, is suggested by one

power power


significant aspect of political power, namely its

tendency to seek legitimacy, that is to generate

in those subject to power a disposition to obey,

grounded on a sense of moral obligation. Yet, Parsons’s

own strong emphasis on legitimacy (and the

attendant processes of legitimation, and its variety),

while in keeping with his own strongly normative

(and Durkheim-inspired) conception of the

social process at large, is only to a limited extent

supported by Weber’s own discourse on power.

Here, the ideal-typical discussion of the subjective

processes presiding over the subjects’ obedience

points also to other motivations to obey – a

subject’s totally unreflected, automatic habit of

submission, or a subject’s calculation of the advantages

and disadvantages of obedience versus nonobedience

and of the probability of the attendant

application or non-application of sanctions. Obedience

grounded on a sense of moral obligation

comes in only as a third answer – though one on

which Weber himself lays emphasis, by offering a

particularly creative treatment of it.

Weber in fact treats legitimacy itself as a significant

but contingent qualification of a power

relation previously established on strictly factual

grounds, and which can if necessary reassert

itself and maintain itself, at any rate in the short

to medium term, even in the presence of a legitimation

crisis. Furthermore, in the context of

big-time politics – the context, that is, of international

relations, where the competitive interactions

between sovereign polities take place – there

is not much place for legitimacy, which is instead

a property, if of anything, of domestic political

relations. In the international realm, instead,

sheer, military might is necessarily the ultimate

stake and medium of political action. Because

legitimacy is irrelevant to such might, only its

effectiveness counts.

Furthermore, Weber was keenly aware that political

power itself, that to which the notion of

legitimacy could apply, as we have seen in the

domestic context, was only one form of social

power. Weber argued that social classes, status

groups, and political parties are all phenomena

of the distribution of power within a community.

In Weber’s view, power exists between a community’s

component groups if, and to the extent that,

one of these secures exclusive or highly privileged

access to and control over a critical social resource.

This allows the group to lay enforceable

boundaries on the activities of the other groups.

The powerful group can induce the others to

desist from opposing or hindering the pursuit of

its own interests, or indeed direct them to commit

some of their own activities, willy-nilly, to that

very pursuit.

The power phenomenon, then, can be differentiated

conceptually by considering the social resources

a group must appropriate in order to gain

this degree of control over others. In Marxian

language, those resources are of three kinds:

means of production (on which is based economic

power, the main theme of the relations between

classes); means of violence (these ground political

power, and the possession and employment of

them is contended over by parties – in a very

broad meaning of this expression); and means of


This last concept needs some further elaboration,

for it points to the elusive domain of the

imaginary. Michael Mann, in The Sources of Social

Power (1986), without using the expression “means

of interpretation,” convincingly argues its significance

on the basis of three “anthropological”

considerations. Human beings need cognitive

frameworks by means of which to experience

and to handle reality; need normative frameworks

to sustain and routinize their cooperative activities

and to moderate and settle their contentions;

and need ritual and aesthetic practices by

means of which to express particularly meaningful

emotions and symbolize and sustain their

identities. “Ideological” power emerges to the

extent that a distinctive group establishes privileged

control over the social activities and the cultural

artifacts relating to the satisfaction of these

needs, and to that degree can direct those social

activities and the access to those cultural artifacts.

Mann, however, dissents from this tripartite

classification of the power phenomenon by giving

separate conceptual status also to military power.

Other students dissent from it by explicitly

or implicitly subscribing to the identification of

power itself with political power.

A sustained argument to the effect that social

power can manifest itself in different ways was

developed, towards the end of the twentieth century,

by the German sociologist Heinrich Popitz

(1925–2002). The title of his book, Pha¨nomene der

Macht: Autorita¨t, Herrschaft, Gewalt, Technik (1986)

conveys this meaning, for Phaenomene is a plural

noun. In particular, Popitz argues, power can be

acquired and managed also to the extent that,

through “technical action,” some people can

shape and modify to their own advantage the

objective circumstances under which other people

live, the constraints under which they operate.

Technical action has three essential moments, all

in the first place relating individuals with things:

power power


“making use of,” “modifying,” and “producing”


But such subject-to-object relations always

affect also those between subject and subject.

This does not simply mean that technical action

has social conditions and consequences. Rather,

such action plays a role in establishing the social

conditions of human beings. Behind the “making

use” of objects necessarily lies the question of property

claims, behind the “modifying” of objects a

particular form of the exercise of power – and not

just power over the objects themselves – and their

“producing” entails the differentiation of activities

and thus a form of division of labor.

Another of Popitz’s significant contributions,

however, is chiefly concerned with political

power, which he, with Weber, grounds in violence,

and particularly with its institutionalization.

He conceptualizes three main aspects of

this process: the depersonalization of power, the

formalization of its exercise, and its integration

(the latter meaning the increasing extent to which

power gears itself into other social activities, is

supported by them, and contributes to them).

Popitz also outlines an ideal-typical sequence

of phases in the institutionalization of political

power. The recourse to violence (or the threat of

it) as a way of inducing others’ compliant behavior

may go beyond its sporadic phase insofar as

means of violence are made ready for repeated

uses, and brought to bear on recurrent situations,

from which those threatened with violence

cannot easily escape. Power can then move on to a

norm-making phase, where it does not just induce

the subjects to momentary compliance but seeks

to program and routinize their compliant activities

and dispositions. Further, it can be positionalized,

that is, connected with the occupancy of

distinctive social roles (the earliest of which have

been those of the patriarch, the judge, and the war

leader). In the next phase, those and other such

positions come to be surrounded and supported

by a staff, an apparatus – a set of individuals who

steadily and reliably collaborate with each position’s

holder. The final phase sees the emergence

of a state. Here the ensemble of the holders of

power positions and of the related administrative

agencies effectively claims the monopoly of three

essential functions: norm-making, jurisdiction,

and enforcement.

The recognition that social power has different

sources and takes different forms, including at

least political and economic power, brings to

bear a specifically sociological perspective on a

phenomenon – power itself – which for centuries

has been attributed primarily or indeed exclusively

to the political sphere. Indeed, according

to Luhmann, until the advent of modernity

western philosophers and other students of social

and cultural affairs “thematized” society itself

chiefly in its aspect as a polity, as a “realm,” as

the bounded territory whose inhabitants are perceived

in the first place as suitable objects for rule.

Only in the course of modernization has the

sphere of the economy strongly asserted its autonomy

from that of politics, and economic power

has separated itself institutionally from political

power. But according to Franz Neumann, this historically

unique development has by the same

token posed the problem of how those two power

forms would relate to one another, whether and

how they would assist or contrast with one another,

establish alliances with one another or

seek to maximize their own autonomy over one

another, their own superiority over one another.

This problem cannot be settled by conceptual

fiat, for it has different aspects, and finds different

solutions, in varying empirical circumstances. For

instance, the Marxian characterization of the

state as “the executive committee of the bourgeoisie”

was not wide of the mark when it was

proposed, but it needs at the very least strong

qualifications and modifications, if one wants to

apply it in later circumstances. Here it became

more enlightening to think of politics and the

market as the institutional loci of intrinsically

different, and potentially competing, power processes.

The title of Thomas H. Marshall’s Citizenship

and Social Class (1950) points in this direction.

The duality in question finds an echo in other

contemporary theoretical debates in the social

sciences. The superiority of the economy is implicitly

asserted in the extension of the rational

choice approach to spheres of social existence,

including the polity, where previously other approaches

prevailed. In particular, the economist

Oliver Williamson construed the emergence of

hierarchy itself (the key political phenomenon)

as the outcome of particular circumstances where

the individuals’ purely market behavior, which

he viewed as the paradigm of all social conduct,

generated inefficiencies. These are remedied by

complementing the mechanism of coordination

constituted by mere exchanges by a different

one – “do as I say.”

Whatever the insights yielded by these economic

perspectives, one must note their persistent

tendency to identify power with political

power, and thus to treat the power phenomenon

itself as something in principle extraneous to the

power power


economic realm. Power so conceived can be at best

complementary to that realm, servicing its need

for political support and regulation. At worst, it

tends to prey upon it, and thus to damage its

unique capacity to produce efficiency (once more

an intrinsically economic criterion, unproblematically

put forward as the one criterion by which to

judge all social arrangements).

As long as such perspectives prevail, they do

little to prepare the sociological imagination to

deal with the continuing story of the relationship

between economic and political power. The main

content of that story is, in the early twenty-first

century, the globalization process. This can be

roughly conceived as a (partly) novel way in which

economic processes seek to proceed with a maximum

of support, and a minimum of interference,

on the part of political power centers. The novelty

lies in the ever-growing availability to economic

forces of largely deterritorialized spaces and resources.

This deeply challenges the still prevalent

power centers – states which exercise jurisdiction

over distinctive territories, and extract resources

from economic units stably located within those


An appreciation of the extent to which these

ongoing phenomena find in social power both

their target and their medium requires among

other things the continuing awareness of the significance

and complexity of the power concept

itself. Once more it is not a conceptual question

whether the relationship between political power

and economic power, in particular, is primarily

one of collusion or collision. But one can assume

that the answer to that question – or indeed the

answers, since these will continue to vary from

time to time and from place to place – will throw

light on historical phenomena of great human

significance. GIANFRANCO POGGI


This philosophical school, founded in the United

States in the nineteenth century, originates in the

belief that philosophical standards, and especially

the standards of truth, should be grounded in the

efficacy of the practices that would result from

their use. Pragmatism is averse to all metaphysical,

moral, and social ideals that claim priority

over the solutions to practical problems.

While several current sociological projects draw

inspiration from C. S. Peirce (1839–1914), the

father of modern pragmatism and the scholar

who made communication central to pragmatic

thought, Charles Horton Cooley and John Dewey

(1859–1952) built more well-established bridges to

topics of sociological interest from pragmatic

philosophical positions. George Herbert Mead

expanded and extended these bridges. Thereafter,

some of Mead’s leading insights were institutionalized

in sociology via Herbert Blumer’s interpretations

of him. The Chicago School of symbolic

interactionism followed Blumer’s lead.

However, the influence of pragmatism in sociology

extends beyond the symbolic interactionist

school. After arriving in the United States, Alfred

Schutz worked several pragmatic insights into his

social phenomenology, paying special attention

to the works of Dewey and the pragmatically inspired

psychology of William James. Erving Goffman

was inspired by James as well when writing

Frame Analysis (1973). Arlie Russell Hochschild

draws central elements of her groundbreaking

conception of emotion work from Mead, which is

quite helpful because most pragmatists other

than James are inclined to emphasize cognition

over emotion. On a more abstract level, Mead’s

pragmatic analysis of social action is reworked

and plays a central role in Ju¨rgen Habermas’s

extraordinary model of communicative action.

Though Mead is far more widely cited by sociologists

than any other pragmatist, John Dewey’s

analysis in Human Nature and Conduct (1922) provides

the most clear-cut illustration of the application

of pragmatic principles to sociological

theory. Dewey builds a theory of social action

upon an insight into social praxis that more recently

has figured prominently in Anthony Giddens’s

structuration theory and the ideas of

habitus and field devised by Pierre Bourdieu. The

insight is that most actions in everyday life are

performed with only tacit consciousness in habitual

ways. This widely shared view does not derive

from pragmatism per se. But Dewey takes the

pragmatic turn when he observes that, when habitual

routines are blocked, sharply focused

thought concentrates on eliminating the blockage,

whether by removing it or by creative innovation.

Dewey proposes that basic human psychic

impulses become associated with habits. Their

frustration motivates the actor to conscious

thought. However, these efforts may be derailed

through various kinds of dissipation. Drug abuse,

promiscuous sexuality, daydreaming, and psychological

distress all follow from the dissipation of

impulses to overcome frustrating problems. The

proper aim of scientific practice is to expedite an

end to these frustrations. Dewey, like most pragmatists,

underrates the role of domination in both

social routines and focused thought. His social

psychology also lacks a deep appreciation of the

pragmatism pragmatism


structured nature of social conduct. Moreover,

unlike Peirce and Mead, Dewey neglects communication.

Nonetheless, his emphasis on cycles of

routine and frustration in action epitomizes the

pragmatic view of social conduct. I RA COHEN


In sociology the concept of prejudice refers broadly

to systematic and durable subjective assessments of

groups, or members of those groups, in unfavorable

terms. The concept has been at the center of

sociological research on race and ethnicity for

many years but has also played an important role

in sociological research pertaining to age, social

class, disability and impairment, gender, and sexuality.

Research on prejudice overlaps to a considerable

extent with research on the closely related

phenomena of discrimination and stigma. However,

the study of prejudice tends to focus more

on the causes and characteristics of people’s prejudicial

attitudes, discrimination research focuses

more on their prejudicial or injurious behavior,

and research on stigma tends to focus on the experiences

and behavior of those who are victimized

by prejudice, discrimination, and stigmatization.

While some social scientists believe prejudice

entails evaluations based on erroneous preconceptions

regarding an out-group, others suggest it can

be based on objective conflicts of interest between

in-group and out-group members. Scholars

belonging to the first school of thought tend to

take a more optimistic view of the prospects for

overcoming prejudice insofar as they see the

problem as essentially one of changing people’s

attitudes through a sustained campaign of enlightened

education. Proponents of the second school of

thought see the problem as more deeply entrenched

in people’s social structural circumstances

and relationships, and hence are rather less optimistic

about the prospects of remedies that do not

attend to the social structural, as well as the social

psychological, causes of people’s prejudices.

Another important and pervasive distinction in

the literature on prejudice concerns the extent to

which prejudicial attitudes are conscious or unconscious.

The earliest research on prejudice

tended to focus on overt forms of bigotry or the

explicit espousal of prejudicial attitudes towards

various out-groups or individual out-group members.

However, it is now much more common

for social scientists to consider how systematic

biases against particular out-groups or systematically

discriminatory behaviors towards them are

maintained despite research subjects’ conscious

commitments to an image of themselves as

non-prejudiced against that group. This issue is

particularly salient in debates as to whether prejudice

is maintained primarily by social psychological

or by social structural processes. Those

who lean towards social structural explanations

of prejudice tend to be more amenable to the view

that individuals may often be unwitting, or unconscious,

agents of prejudice and discrimination

despite consciously espousing egalitarian values.

At least as far back as E´ mile Durkheim’s classic

work on the value of deviance ascriptions for the

maintenance of in-group solidarity in his analysis

of crime in The Rules of Sociological Method (1895

[trans. 1958]), sociologists have recognized a certain

social functionality in explicitly designating,

and discriminating against, groups other than

one’s own.

While sometimes drawing on this longer legacy

from classical sociology, research on prejudice has

more recent origins. It was only in the wake of

World War II, following revelations about the

Holocaust and other horrors of Nazi Germany,

that social scientists began to investigate how it

was possible for such powerfully chauvinistic sentiments

to arise. While ethnocentrism, xenophobia,

and chauvinism were certainly recognized

features of the social landscape before this time,

they were not made the topic of systematic sociological

analysis until World War II. One early approach

to explaining prejudice against minority

groups in society drew upon the frustration–

aggression hypothesis formulated by John Dollard

and his colleagues in Frustration and Aggression

(1939), wherein it was argued that an agent frustrated

at the hands of a more powerful actor will

sublimate the sentiments of aggression created by

these frustrations by focusing them on less powerful

scapegoats. Thus, met with the frustrations

surrounding World War I, the Versailles Treaty,

and subsequent reparations, Germany was held

to have taken this out on the Jews because they

could not express their aggression directly towards

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