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  • Cited by 20
  • Print publication year: 1992
  • Online publication date: October 2009

21 - Power motivation revisited




The power motive is the desire to have impact on other people, to affect their behavior or emotions. This broad and general definition includes a whole family of overlapping concepts such as influence, inspiration, nurturance, authority, leadership, control, dominance, coercion, and aggression. Although these concepts have varying connotations of legitimacy, morality, and implied reaction of the other person (the “target” of power), they share a core meaning of one person's capacity to affect the behavior or feelings of another person (see D. G. Winter, 1973, chapter 1).

As a class of goal striving, the power motive is to be distinguished from other power-related psychological and sociological concepts, such as roles and statuses permitting power, skill at using power, feelings of power, and values and beliefs about the exercise of power – ranging from authoritarianism to Gandhi's nonviolent satyagraha or “leverage of truth” (see Erikson, 1969, pp. 410–440). For all of its conceptual and empirical distinctiveness, the power motive does not exist in isolation. These other concepts determine how it is channeled into specific behaviors and are thereby essential to a complete understanding of the striving for power.

Conceptual framework

The idea that humans have a drive for power or “will to power” is prominent in many cultural and intellectual traditions.