Coercion and Power

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    Coercion can be thought of as a subset of power, but it is an important subset. We frequently think about the power of some agents over others as coercive. Weberian definitions of power often take the form, Agent A has power over agent B to the extent that A can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do. Such definitions of power can be seen as synonyms for coercion. Agent A gets B to do something B otherwise would not do through some kind of coercion. However, the definition as it stands allows for the possibility that A persuades B to do something B would not otherwise do, and persuasion is not necessarily coercive. Agent A might provide some information for B that leads B to want to do something for B's own interests, or for the interests of everyone including A. Indeed Agent A might give B a reason for doing something by making it advantageous for B to take that action. In other words, Agent A might pay B to take that action, or reward B in some other way. Agents might have powers simply because they are rich and can pay people to do things for them. The problem for consideration of coercion in this regard is distinguishing coercion from market exchange or persuasion. We shall examine this problem first before widening the discussion to other areas of coercive activity and the relations between coercion, power, and other social concepts.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Power
    EditorsKeith Dowding
    Place of PublicationThousand Oaks, California
    PublisherSage Publications Inc
    ISBN (Print)9781412927482
    Publication statusPublished - 2011


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