Political power


Power is the ability of a person or government institution to impose its will on who affects the decision made.

The word power is a very broad term, and it is used in a multitude of areas. In this case, we are going to stick to political power, which is the ability of an actor or a group of them to subdue a group of people and accept the decisions made.

From the point of view of political science, power can be summarized in two perspectives.

Perspectives of political power

The first, understands political power as an available resource, something that is owned and used by someone, such as a person, institutions, the State, elites, a class, etc. It is imagined as a tool that is used by its owner to achieve certain objectives. An example of this may be favorable legislation in a certain sector. This current focuses on who has power and how they hold it, it is the perspective of authors such as Marx or Hobbes.

The other perspective argues that political power is an effect of a relationship. In this case we do not speak of possession of power, but to benefit from it you have to be well positioned, since it derives from a good situation. All the actors involved have to do with the relationship that results in the power of one over the other.

It is also observed, not only those who benefit from the relationship, but also those who are harmed who abide by the position of supremacy of others. This perspective is studied by authors such as Dahl or Tocqueville and focuses on which are the positions that provoke the dominance and submission of the actors involved.

In practice both are related. Because although from the outside it can be seen that one group submits another in a clear and simplistic way, behind this act of power and submission, there is a network of relationships between the subjects that is what finally allows this situation to take place.

For example, when Parliament passes a law that more restrictively regulates CO2 emissions driven by companies and cars, it seems that Parliament is in power and it is the companies that are abiding by it. But it is a much more complex process. This process is influenced by the different political parties, each of the deputies, the media, the lobbies involved, environmental groups, etc. Each of them influences the final resolution, power derives from social relationships.

State powers

The system of division of powers of the State is theorized by John Locke and Montesquieu. The first, in the 15th century, establishes a treaty in which it explains how state power should be distributed to avoid the different types of tyrannies:

  • Legislative power: It is elected by the people and its job is to legislate and elect the executive power.
  • Executive branch: It is in charge of executing the laws and carrying out government management and functions.
  • Federal power: Locke, in his work does not introduce what we now know as the judicial power. The federal is in charge of making the decisions of the State in foreign matters.

Montesquieu is in charge of adding the judiciary to Locke's list. This would be made up of the judges who are in charge of applying justice within the State. The important thing is that by consolidating itself as an external power, it is not subjected to government interference, and would act in supposed independence.

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