Bases Of Power Essay

Submitted By Suzanne-Pfau
Words: 9707
Pages: 39

By: Raven, Bertram H. Analyses of Social Issues & Public Policy. Dec2008, Vol. 8 Issue 1, p1-22. 22p. DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-2415.2008.00159.x. Database: Academic Search Complete
Analyses of Social Issues and Public Policy, Vol. 8, No. 1, 2008, pp. 1--22
The Bases of Power and the Power/Interaction
Model of Interpersonal Influence
Bertram H. Raven∗
University of California, Los Angeles
This article provides a summary of work done by Raven and his colleagues on bases of power. It ranges from the initial work in 1959 of French and Raven through decades of follow-up work, and ties the work to that of others doing work on power bases. After the summary, the author responds to a series of questions that probe the work in greater depth, allowing explication of much of the thinking underlying and leading to publications of Raven and colleagues that are well known to social psychologists.
While ours has been described as one of the most widely cited analyses of social power, many Analysis of Social Issues and Public Policy readers may not be familiar with its development since our original statement was published in 1959. It therefore seems useful to summarize our original statement, plus the later developments, which include the Power/Interaction Model of Interpersonal Influence. In our initial papers (French & Raven, 1959; Raven, 1965), we first defined social influence as a change in the belief, attitude, or behavior of a person (the target of influence), which results from the action of another person (an influencing agent). Social power was defined as the potential for such influence, the ability of the agent or power figure to bring about such change, using resources available to him or her. These resources are represented in six bases of power: Informational, Reward, Coercion, Legitimate, Expertise, and Referent.

∗Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Professor Bertram H. Raven, Department of Psychology, University of California, Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1563. (e-mail:
Editor’s Note: This article continues a series of occasional invited papers from distinguished scholars. Bert Raven was invited to reflect on his work on power and impacts that he has seen. After his paper, Jamie Peterson, the editorial assistant for ASAP, and I asked him a series of questions about his work; the questions and responses are appended to the paper. We hope that readers enjoy his paper and responses as we did.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1530-2415.2008.00159.x 2008 The Society for the Psychological Study of Social Issues
The bases of power differ in the manner that the social change is implemented, the permanence of such change, and the ways in which each basis of power is established and maintained. Let us as an illustration examine the resources of different power bases in terms of a supervisor/subordinate relationship.
Power That Leads to Socially Independent Change
One basis of power, which the supervisor might use, then, is Informational Power. The supervisor carefully explains to the subordinate how the job should be donedifferently,withpersuasivereasonswhythatwouldbeabetterandmoreeffective procedure. The subordinate understands and accepts the reasons and changes behavior. Informational influence then results in cognitive change and acceptance by the target. It is thus called “socially independent change” in that altered behavior, though initiated by the influencing agent (supervisor) now continues without the target necessarily referring to, or even remembering, the supervisor as being the agent of change.
Power That Results in Socially Dependent Change, with Surveillance Necessary
Reward Power stems from the ability of the agent to offer a positive incentive, if the target complies (a raise in pay, a promotion, special work privileges...). In Coercive Power, the agent brings about change by threatening the target with negative, undesirable consequences (demotion, termination, undesirable work…