Good Power Dependence Relations Course Work Example

Published: 2021-06-21 23:46:53
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The power dependence relation is a simple theory developed to explain the concepts of power, authority, leadership, influence, dominance and status. These terms are commonly used in social situations, politics and business, yet most individuals do not understand their meaning. Despite the existence of extensive research in this area, Emerson (1962) feels that there is a misconception regarding social power. This flaw in thinking is best demonstrated by the common thought that power is attributable to a specific power or group of people. This misconception raises the question of the power structure in society and the aspect of power as property.

Emerson (1962) asserts that the concept of power is derived from the mutual interdependency of individuals in society. The social relations doctrine assumes that person A is dependent on B if the fulfillment of his (A’s) goals is facilitated by B. This creates ties of interdependency that make it possible to influence the other party’s behavior. This is the basis for Emerson’s hypothesis that ‘power lies implicitly in the other person’s dependency.’ This brings rise to the equation; Pab=Dba and Pba=Dab. This shows that the power of A over B is created by the dependence of B upon A, and vice versa.

Emerson (1962) further investigates the aspect of reciprocity in social relations that regard power dependence relations. A question is raised whether power is neutralized among parties if the power of A over B is confronted by equal and opposing power of B over A. Emerson argues that the aspect of reciprocity does not eliminate power and influence from the social interaction. The patterns of dominance and submission in balanced and unbalanced power relations are in most cases controlled by the nature of relationship between the parties. Unbalanced power relations are not enduring among parties. The weaker party can change their power position by creating cost reductions as well as balancing operations.
The cost reduction concept follows the ‘resistance’ definition of power which terms power as the resistance of B which can be overcome by A. The costs incurred by one party to resist the power exerted by the other party give rise to the cost reduction concept. It is a process that involves a shift in values and beliefs that eventually allow the weaker party to be free of the influence of the dominant party. It must be noted that the cost reduction process does not necessarily affect the power relations among the parties.

Balancing operations are also processes aimed at reducing the unbalanced power relations in social situations. Balancing operations operate through the variables that define the power dependence relationship. Emerson theorizes that weaker parties can reduce the imbalance in power relations by; reducing the motivational investment in goals facilitated by the other party, cultivating alternative sources of gratification for their goals or finding a way to increase the motivational investment of goals held by the stronger party in the weak party.

Withdrawal of the motivational investment of the weaker party reduces the dependence of that party on the dominant party. Withdrawal is a common societal reaction to reducing the mark of oppression by the dominant party. The other alternative for the weaker party is to increase the power network by acquiring a new source of motivation. This works to reduce the dependence of the weak party on the dominant party. The unbalanced power dependence relationship between the weak and dominant party is diluted by the introduction of another party who can provide equal gratification to the weak party. Emerson concludes by outlining the importance of role and group norms in determining the difference between authority and power in social interactions.


Emerson, M.R (1962). Power Dependence Relations.International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences v.135 no.3

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