What's power that one doesn't want to recognize as power?

It's a dichotomy. On the other hand someone or some group claims power, but if one refuses it, then does it exist or not? If it exists, should it exist, if the subject disagrees? How is it possible for it to exist, even when one doesn't believe into its existence?


The usual distinction is between power de facto and de jure.

Power de facto

De facto power is power without any legitimacy or authority. It is simply the ability to achieve objectives despite any resistance. Max Weber offered a definition of power that is essentially similar to this :

Power [Macht] is the probability that one actor within a social relationship will be in a position to carry out his own will despite resistance, regardless of the basis on which this probability rests. (Max Weber in A.M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons, ed., The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, New York: Oxford University Press, 1947, 152.)

There is no rightfulness in such power as such. It could be imposed by a dictatorship or military occupation.

Power de jure

This is rightful or legitimate power. It is or may be every bit as effective as de facto power but it is a moral power with the legitimate entitlement to issue commands and, in doing this, to put others under obligations to act in certain ways. It is closely connected with the idea of *authority'.


Weber : A.M. Henderson and Talcott Parsons, ed., The Theory of Social and Economic Organization, New York: Oxford University Press, 1947.

Jonathan Perry, 'Authority and Harm', Oxford Studies in Political Philosophy, 3, Oxford : OUP, 2017, 252.

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  • This definition is old-school. What about power de jure that's not well motivated? E.g. a skinny, physically weak politician that's not very smart? It would contradict those being smartest having power or those with most physical power having power. – mavavilj Jun 5 '18 at 12:46
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    @mavavilj. Where did I say that power de jure was well-motivated ? Power de jure is the entitlement to make decisions that create obligations on others. I never said anything about the moral quality of those decisions. Comments are welcome but only on what I have actually said. – Geoffrey Thomas Jun 5 '18 at 13:19
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    @mavavilj. May I add that you own ideas about power seem rather old-school. It would be hard to frame your question in terms that accommodate Foucault's notion of power, for instance. – Geoffrey Thomas Jun 5 '18 at 13:27
  • Can you pinpoint more accurately what you mean by "Foucault's notion of power"? Also my comment was directed at Weber, but you present Weber as answers to my question. Therefore I think that you're giving an answer which is ok, but does not serve as a complete description of power. My question is particularly about, how can non-subjective concept of power exist. – mavavilj Jun 5 '18 at 13:37
  • If your comment was directed at Weber, how was I to know ? You talk as if you explicitly were critical or sceptical of Weber and that I, ignoring this, answered in Weberian terms. This is not so. If Weber is old school, are you not familiar with new(er) school figures such as Foucault ? Or do you think I have got Foucault wrong ? I will respond on Foucault. – Geoffrey Thomas Jun 5 '18 at 13:54

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