There is an intimate relationship between the distribution of power and distribution of statuses and office. Power is not only associated with the status of office but also with the individual independently of his position. An individual can acquire power through his position as well as through his role. Example: In the traditional Indian family the husband by virtue of his position has some supremacy over the wife.
Hence, normally he exercises power over her. But in some cases intelligent and shrewd wives by virtue of their clever role performance have reversed the relations and forced their husbands to play the subordinate role. In the same manner, some parents may fail to exercise power over their own children in spite of their authority over their children. On the contrary, the children themselves may control them without any corresponding office or status.
Exertion of Power:
We may make a distinction between ‘structural power’ or ‘positional power’ and all other kinds of power. The power that goes with authority becomes very evident when the behaviour is determined solely by one’s status or office.
Example: A father may exercise power over his son, a teacher over his students, a master over his servant, a prime minister over his cabinet colleagues, an army commander over soldiers, and so on. These indicate positional power.
Other ways of exercising power without an approved status or position may be called naked or unauthorised power. Example: sometimes film actors, bogus religious leaders may exercise power over state leaders, or an office clerk may exercise power over the principal and so on.
Now it could be asked as to what is the source of a man’s power in a given case. The answer is clear. A part of the source of power is the person’s statuses and office itself. Another part Vies in his roles in these statuses and office. The problem of the source of power leads to two other questions:
(i) How does a particular individual occupy a given position and thus enjoy the authority and power associated with it? (ii) Why does the position carry the power that it does? These questions will take us to a discussion on the two types of statuses: namely: ascribed statuses and achieved statuses.