Influence and power are normally considered to go together and convey a sense of partnership that is existential in nature. They are virtually the tools through which social and political discipline is enforced and conflict is avoided. They are priceless weapons as far as resolution of competing demands within and between different groups and states are concerned and they hardly fail their application. They always lurk behind most of the human interactions and play an indispensible role as ultimate equalisers. Their presence assures their applicants of the veracity of the stance they have taken and the solution they have sought.
For general perception the most potent symbol of influence and power is the state as it resides there in all its manifestations. It is often explained that power and influence and power of the state is a quantitative matter, the sum of its military hardware and fighting forces and its economic strength. This understanding is important because it is the sum of states’ economic and military strength implying that it will crucially affect the extent to which governance is or is not able to bring about change in conditions of existence. This explanation could also be spread more widely in terms of groups or cartels exercising influence and power in a limited measure.
It is also observed that influence and power frequently are defined as a relationship that are manifest both in tangible and intangible forms in such a way as to affect the behaviour of people. It could be argued that one of the simplest and most useful ways of thinking of both these factors is the capacity to compel someone else to do something that they do not want to do—or not to do something they wish to do. Economic strength and political influence could also be used for either weakening or strengthening the governance process. Apparently, in a purely domestic context, these factors may use their ability to manipulate any given situation and their ability to persuade others to manipulate matters on their behalf.
The success of any attempted exercise of influence and power will be dependent upon many factors and the first is the skill of the user in terms of employing political leverage and credibility with the population. The other pertains to their ability to resolve competing demands within and without a polity and structure. Both these factors are most applicable when used as the ability to get someone to do something via simple persuasion rather than the implicit or explicit threat of or use of coercion.
Both influence and power invariably interact with ideologies, imperatives and interests in promoting or impeding change. As far as power is concerned, one might look at the interaction between it and ideologies. The policies of governments, and the alternative policies advocated by those outside government, obviously frequently derive from ideologies as they have been defined here. The prescriptions for wealth creation advanced at state and global level are based upon economic ideologies which currently predominantly take the form of different varieties of liberal capitalism. Those ideas derived not just from differing interests but from incompatible value systems. What is crucial to realise is that while the process of political problem solving can only progress if the ideas shaped within ideologies continue to develop, those ideas can play no role in politics unless they are either taken up by those wielding political power or by those seeking to influence them.
Politics, defined here simply as the process by which competing demands are resolved, power and influence in this scenario gel with the ideas which derive from ideologies and they are the key engines of development. One might look also at the relationship between power and the interests of states. An interesting way of doing this is to take the global problem of aggressive regimes and the question of to what extent they can be prevented from seizing the territory of others.
In terms of a necessary ethical justification for doing exercising influence and power there is overwhelming evidence that aggressive pursuance of these tools may aggravate the given situation. But ethics has proved to be peripheral in employing influence and power as it may not suit the purpose. It is here that the complexity of employing these factors comes to fore mostly aggravating matters. These are but some of the ways in which power and influence can interact with ideologies, imperatives and interests within the framework of the political processes of states. This brief hint of the enormous range of possible permutations gives some initial idea of just how difficult the solving of global problems via the device of substantial change in policies and policy directions can be, given that solutions depend significantly upon appropriate and often complex interactions between the above factors. TW