How Power & Influence Are Misused

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  • 0:00 Getting What You Want
  • 0:42 Soft Power Approaches
  • 1:50 Hard Power Approaches
  • 2:40 Gentile Resistance
  • 3:32 Less Than Gentle Means
  • 4:08 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

At some point, it is certain that people will have power over you, whether it is your parents, your teachers, or even the law. In this lesson, we will see how such power and influence can be misused and how they can be resisted.

Getting What You Want

A song that is by now fairly dated suggests that you can't always get what you want. However, there is an exception. Throughout history, powerful people get what they want just as easily as they get what they need. So how does one project that type of power? Better yet, how does one resist power?

In this lesson, we'll look at ways that power is misused. We will do this through the lenses of different types of power and the perspective of the power at play. While we won't be using our newfound knowledge to conquer countries and subjugate peoples, we will, instead, see how to be on the lookout for negative influences in our own lives.

Soft Power Approaches

Our first type of power, known as soft power, is sneaky. When we tend to think of power being exercised over us, we think of everything from the school bully to the taxman. Soft power is much sneakier. Instead, it takes the shape of what is cool, or of our friends or even our families! Yes, even your mother is guilty of using soft power. So how does one define soft power? Soft power is the use of influence to make someone want to do something because it makes the powerful party happy. Did you really want to clean up the dishes? No, but you did because your mom asked you to do so.

In our lives, the most obvious form of soft power is peer pressure. Sometimes peer pressure is a good thing. If you have friends who are reinforcing the desire to go to college or work harder at a sport, that's a positive use of power. However, if you're in a position where you are being harassed to do something you don't want to do that is not productive, like skipping school or committing a crime, that is an example of soft power being used against you.

Hard Power Approaches

Let's say that you gave in and did something as a result of peer pressure that you shouldn't have done. Now you're stuck in the backseat of a police car. Chances are you didn't start the night thinking about how cool it would be to sit in the back of a police cruiser. In fact, had you been given a choice, you would have opted for another form of transportation. Unfortunately, you've just been a victim of hard power. Hard power does not leave a choice but instead imposes on a target. The police were very willing to use their hard power on you.

Hard power does not always have to have the use of physical force to accomplish its mission. Sometimes, the threat of the 'or else' is more than enough. A principal telling you that you have to come in to do a work detail for community service is an example of hard power.

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