How do Elites Define Influence? Personality and Respect as Sources of Social Power

Alexis Yamokoski, Joshua Kjerulf Dubrow
2008 Sociological Focus  
How well do theories of elites' sources of social power match the reality as perceived by the elites themselves? Using data from interviews with 312 elites from a large midwestern American city, and employing an inductive coding method situated in grounded theory, we use the constructivist approach in listening to elites' definitions of their sources of social power. Integrating Weber's notion of charisma and the interactionist literature on power, we hypothesize that interpersonal attributes
more » ... n be crucial in microlevel power negotiations. Our analyses reveal that along with mentioning economic and political resources, institutional and organizational position, and connectedness in influence networks-themes common in elite theoryelites also identify the interpersonal attributes of personality and respect as sources of social power in their own right. Projection of positive personal attributes assists in the exercise of power; exposing traits with negative connotations can be a detriment Elites display personal attributes while employing impression management, thus developing a social identity used to manipulate interpersonal relations. We conclude by offering a series of sensitizing principles to guide an understanding of how interpersonal sources of social power are used in elite power negotiations. How well do theories of elites' sources of social power match the reality as perceived by the elites themselves? In the elite theory literature, sources of social power are typically and primarily defined as having access to resources, occupying strategic positions, and operating in networks of influence (Domhoff 2002; Form and Miller I960; Mills 1956) . However, surprisingly few researchers have asked the elites themselves what they consider important sources of social power. As such, some sources may be missing from traditional definitions, waiting to be revealed by the elites themselves. 'Please contact the second auttior at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology. Polish Academy of Sciences. Room 211, 72 Nowy Swiat, 00-330 Warsaw, Poland, dubrow.2@osü .edu. The authors thank Sara Bradley for her assistance in collecting and coding the data and for her comments on earlier drafts of the paper. We also thank Jim Moody, Lisa Keister, William H. Form, and Kazimierz M. Slomczynski for their comments and suggestions and the River City Area Study research team for their help in collecting the data. We also gratefully acknowledge the excellent comments and invaluable suggestions provided by the three anonymous reviewers and the editors of Socioiogical Focus. We conducted most of the research and data analysis at the Ohio State University.
doi:10.1080/00380237.2008.10571337 fatcat:bfs4ehf6v5edhpsd5vd4n7vwwy