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Lesson Two: A Model of Power


The lesson begins with a banal example. Politics is more trivial than heroic. If we stress this fact, it's both to give true proportions and to tie the highest principles to everyday life (cf. Archimedes discovery of the law of displacement of liquids while in a bathtub).


A distinction between influence and power is useful. Power is rare and can really hurt. Youth today is sensitive to, even paranoid about, influence (manipulating attempts). They must face it; purely non-manipulative transactions are uncommon. As Aristotle said, only beasts and gods don't need a community (polis, transactional networks, communications).


The "general instructions" talk of generalizations; the 3-P's are all forms of generalization. As for the billions of transactions, these are discussed farther along on pages 61-63.

Handling the sexual potency and power angle is tricky. The students are probably more uninhibited than you are, verbally at any rate. Lasswell's Psychopathology and Politics (Viking, 1960) gives several case studies (assign it to the first student who presses the point). Also, the works of Alfred Adler. Maybe you have your own cases. The process works two ways: the power-man prefers power to affection (he inclines to be a rapist in intimate circumstances--ask whether this isn't a Women's Lib complaint) and is in the habit of displacing private motives onto public objects, putting his private parts into cold storage.

The "power on the spot" principle is important (footnote 3). I wanted most footnotes in larger type but the book designers quarreled with me. ("You can't win `em all"--another important political proposition. Also, "You have to take it in order to give it.") I respect these commonplace statements and wish that they were incorporated better into political science.


Recall to the students how ostracism was used in ancient Greece. It's closely related to Flight, Exile, Refugees, so remember Aristotle's flight from Athens because, recalling Socrates' case, he didn't "want to give the Athenians a second chance to sin against science."

"The Span of Influence" refers to the limits of those affected by a political transaction. Establishment men are fond of saying "Don't make waves," meaning keep the span of effects narrow. It's related to "the parameters of power" (coming up on page 65).


The "Payoffs" are an adaptation of Harold Hasswell's eight values (Power and Society, p. 72). I include his "rectitude" with "respect" and his "skill" with "knowledge," to give six values, goals, etc. (see the footnote). These are the things sought.


The trilogy (assimilate, experience, adjust) could be called the basic human drives or at least the forms that human drives take. The personality becomes the gestalt of these forms--the special personal adjustment of ingesting and questing. Assimilating is close to identifying, questing close to aggressiveness (in both a good and a bad sense), adjusting close to balance (including neurotic balance). So we are not saying that these drives are good; they are universal and have to be coped with. (See the example on pages 94-95.) The ways of coping produce individual characters and individual cultures.

Later on (page 81-84) we say that we prefer a preponderantly polyvalent and benevolent type producing on the whole the same kind of institutions and culture. The mode of newly experiencing the world is more important than any other human procedure because it tends to determine the kinds of identifications and adjustments a character possesses. In a way, the whole text is an essay on "how to quest for the world." That is why so much of the book is aimed at establishing a set of representative institutions that prod the "me" into balance with the "others" and at putting restraints on coercion, monopoly, and vicious discrimination. It is also, incidentally, why I would defend heatedly the political relevance of the book against those who would handle an introduction to political and social science through the description of institutions, as they are carried by encyclopedias and the mass media.


An early reader of some chapters of the book was irritated that I did not present political science in a methodological framework. Nothing would have come more readily to me. I felt, however, that the worst problem that confronts us as teachers is completely losing our grip on the attention of our students, with the consequent loss of students and degeneration of class proceedings into inadequate and unguided babble. My feeling is that once a student feels his subject has relevance, once he takes it seriously, once he has an aim in mind, then he can be persuaded that he's a jackass if he doesn't follow his interest rationally. If he doesn't go through this process (and few come to school any more with the experience), then he will assault the academic and scientific as irrelevant, he will adore his primitive "relevant" slogans and "gut-feelings" and finally exit braying like a jackass.

We should not feel ashamed at "retrogressing." At the rate that students are dropping out of the "hard sciences," their instructors will have only their blackboards on which to proclaim their scientific superiority. A friend of mine had over thousand students in this course at CCNY on physics, but the course was entitled "Poetry and Physics."

What I have done is to intersperse remarks on logic and method throughout the text. The main effort is to get people to think straight and "get their heads straight," and to suggest that behind much of political affairs there stands an array of testing devices.

Speaking of tests, a scrambling of the terms in the table at the bottom of page 51 will give a "fill-in" examination of some merit. The "students-are-niggers" test on page 52 produces averages of around 4 in my bailiwick, and some confessions and surprises. Never mind that it's not the best study ever designed.

It occurs to me to place a check-list here of techniques of social science, so that any interested student may be assigned to report on a particular method. Also, a student may prepare a bibliography of the techniques of political (or any social) science or some humanities discipline, with one student exemplifying each technique. (The list may be Xeroxed.) You might mention, by the way, that the number of specializations in the social sciences is getting to be as long as in medicine. Every social organ and limb has its specialists.


A. Direct Observation
Trained observation, including participant observation
Self-observation, including psychodrama
Social milieu of and resistances to observations
Controlled direct observation; use of precise categories and standardized tools of observation
The recording of direct observations: alternative methods, units, criticisms, etc. (but not content analysis)
B. Interviews--Oral interviewing and oral responses
Standardized interviews
Depth interviews: journalistic, psychiatric, psychoanalytic, hypnotic, or with drugs
Impromptu interview technique
Social resistances to interviewing
Recording, Systematizing, and analyzing of interviews
C. Questionnaires -- Oral interviewing or written responses based on a schedule of questions
General questionnaires, short or long
Depth questionnaires, including projective approach
Semantics and Social problems of questionnaires
Systematizing and analyzing questionnaires
D. Tests and Scales -- Methods of distinguishing among objects (or individuals) by the degree to which they possess a given characteristic
Theory and uses of tests and scales
Aptitude tests
Tests for factual knowledge, discrete beliefs, or abilities
Personality tests: tests for data on behavior motivation, morale, etc.
Projective tests
E. Universes and Sampling--A sampling is a smaller representation of a larger whole called a "universe." Methods of quantifying and sampling universes and analyzing the results include:
Census: enumeration of a population by classified social and economics statistics
Sizes and techniques of sampling; includes "area" and "probability" type samples, etc.
Network theory, systematic group-member connections analysis
F. Analysis of Temporal Sequences--Data derived from time sequences of a collective or individual case
Personal history: biography, personality development, and psychoanalysis
The methods of writing valid history; historiography
Chronology and genetic series: origins and temporal careers of men, institutions, processes, etc. (except the individual case)
Projection of historical trends: including individual and social
Futurology: prediction of future events from already known facts
G. Communication Content Analysis
Quantitative content analysis: objective, systematic, and quantitative description of the manifest content of communication
Conventional analysis of content: records, research, documentary analysis
Myth analysis: psychological and historical dissevering of fables and accepted falsehoods
H. Information Storage and Retrieval
Coinage of new terms and concepts
Conventional systems: libraries, books, records, tape, film, as well as the human brain
Artifacts and material evidence handling
Mechanical and electronic developments for information retrieval
I. Graphics and Audio-Visual Techniques--Used in the research and in presentation
Film and sound (including photographs)
Graphs, charts, diagrams, and maps (but not organization charts)
Programmed instruction (with or without teaching machines)
J. Comparative Analysis
Of methods, approaches, techniques, and styles
Of ideas, methods, and ideologies
Of persons
Of groups
Of governments
Of nations
K. Experimentation--Arrangement of conditions under which a phenomenon to be studied will take place, with a view toward ascertaining the influences of these conditions on that phenomenon
Laboratory experiments
"Social" experimentation under uncontrolled conditions or situations in which repetition is impossible
Hypothetical experimentation: intellectual constructs
L. Models--Intellectual representations of objects or processes for instructional or analytic purposes
Scientific models: the properties and interactions of the real object or process are abstracted and expressed as a set of mathematical equations or other logical relationships
Blueprints and organization charts
Planning: model construction of a proposed event, structure, or system, phrased with specifications and instructions for its completion
Ideological analysis: analysis of sets of unconscious propositions which purport to explain, justify, and prescribe action
Utopias: Wholesale social schemes to induce thought and action
Game theory and decision theory
M. Logic, Mathematics and Linguistics
Logic: validity, semantics, pragmatics
Mathematics: symbolic analysis of shape, arrangement, quantity, sequence; equations
Statistics: actual quantitative ordering of data
Probability, chance
Modal types, fashions, conventions
Correlations (statistical) and associations
Classification, typology, set theory
Numerical indices and indicators, index weights
Styles of communications


Note: Power resources are the same "holy 6" values as the "payoffs" (page 45).

Conversion into power of a resource value is done by a skill that is closely related to the resource (see bottom of page 53).

Perhaps a mechanically inclined student can be asked to check out the comparison of power conversion in politics with power conversion in engineering.

You might ask the students to inventory their power resources, and describe the best means that they can imagine for converting them into political power over the Vietnamese (or Lebanese, or Turkish, or Libyan, or French) policies of the White House. No more than 500 words; hand them to the class statistician for analysis.

Students could prepare a biographic report of "How A converted his Y-power resources to political power." Try, as starters, John F. Kennedy for wealth, Richard Nixon or Woodrow Wilson for knowledge, Franklin D. Roosevelt for respect, Joseph Stalin for power, Shirley Temple for affection, and astronaut Glenn (until he slipped) for health. Health is hard to handle; Lasswell (Power and Society, Yale University Press, 1950) uses well-being and translates it also into physical strength, a la Hercules, and so we get William Tell, Horatius at the bridge, and various athletes.

To counter the American examples one might assign to ancient history buffs the list of Roman consuls, dictators, and emperors, where examples of all types are easily discernible at 2000 years' distance. We should understand that both "good" and "bad" characters can begin on the same power base; and that usually more than one resource type is combined (as with Caveman Arvag).


Coining a list of political sentences using just the listed verbs beginning in "ta..." might be an amusing exercise. Again, biographical reports on political skills are in order. And there is an opportunity offered on page 59 for a caustic student to tear apart a children's life of George Washington or some other famous person.


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