collective and distributive power

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Talcott Parsons (1902—1979)



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In his essay on ‘The Distribution of Power in American Society’ (in Structure and Process in Modern Societies, 1960), Talcott Parsons distinguishes the distributive aspects of power (‘power by A over B’), from its collective aspects (‘the power of A and B together’). In distributive power situations, the relationship between A and B is a zero-sum game: there is a fixed amount of power to be distributed among participants, and for one member to gain power another must lose. In collective power situations, co-operating individuals can enhance their joint power over a third party.

Subjects: Sociology.

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