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  The ability to achieve certain ends. Strictly speaking, power is an absolute concept but it is often treated as a synonym for influence: the concept may refer to the relationship between an individual or group and the natural world (see nature) but it is more frequently used to characterize inter-personal and inter-group relationships, including those between states.

Allen (1997) has identified three different conceptions of power. In the first, power is an inscribed capacity, something possessed by an individual, group or organization as inherent to a position occupied within a network. It is a potential to \'control, command or direct the actions of others\' which may or may not be exercised: when it is, how and why is contingent on the particular circumstances. The second conception is of power as a resource, the \'power to\' rather than the \'power over\' which characterizes the first conception; it is mobilized to achieve desired objectives. Finally, there is the conception of power as strategies, practices and techniques, an approach usually associated with Foucault\'s work (Driver, 1985).

Power is exercised at all scales and levels of society, from within the individual household to the entire world-economy (see world-systems analysis). It is rarely symmetrical: x\'s power over y usually exceeds that of y over x (perhaps by many orders of magnitude). Such asymmetry is characteristic of many social structures such as patriarchy (see gender and geography) and most modes of production. Power (other than power over nature, which is usually a technological relationship) can be achieved and sustained in a variety of ways, among which the most usual are: force (including mental and physical — both violent and non-violent); manipulation; persuasion and the creation of consensus; and authority. It is most readily exercised if its source is recognized as legitimate by those subject to it (see sovereignty): legitimation may be achieved through appeal to tradition, the charisma of the powerful, or its institutionalization in societal structures, especially those of the state apparatus.

Much of the exercise of power involves spatial techniques and strategies, hence the interest among geographers in Foucault\'s work, and also in territoriality. Allen argues that all three conceptions have their own spatial vocabularies: the inscribed capacity varies between and works across places; the network conception involves organizing space in the drive to achieve desired objectives; and many of the techniques for applying power are spatial in their character, as illustrated by Foucault\'s work on the spatial organization of prisons (see surveillance).

Under capitalism, for example, power is unevenly distributed because of the unequal distribution of ownership of the means of production, and thus of the ability to bargain over prices. Those with greatest power have most control over society\'s organization of production, distribution and exchange (including their spatial organization), plus the allocation of the benefits that follow: this unequal power is reflected in the social relations between classes and is the foundation of much social, economic and political conflict. The more successful the legitimation of the resulting inequality within a society (see hegemony; ideology) the less the need for explicit coercion and the fewer the challenges to class power: where legitimation is weak, however (see crisis), the greater the demands on, and problems for, the state, one of whose crucial functions is the exercise of power in order to legitimate existing social relations (Held, 1987; Johnston, 1992).

Much work on the ownership and exercise of power thus focuses on the state, which has a range of inscribed capacities, is at the centre of a vast array of networks, and employs a variety of strategies, many of them spatial, to achieve its goals. The state infiltrates and regulates most aspects of contemporary economic and social life. In capitalist states, for example, some of the bourgeoisie\'s power over labour is transferred to the state apparatus, in part to aid its legitimation and in part to ensure the continued reproduction of the mode of production (Jessop, 1990): the state, for example, regulates a wide range of workplace practices in order to sustain profitability.

The nature of state power is theorized in a variety of ways (see Alford and Friedland, 1985; and Dunleavy and O\'Leary, 1987). According to liberal theories of democracy, for example, power is evenly distributed through the population and can be exercised on its behalf only if those controlling the state have majority popular support (see pluralism). According to Marxian theories, on the other hand, state power is not independent of class power, although the state can act autonomously because of its particular status as a territorially defined institution (Mann, 1984). The state, according to this view, exists to promote the capitalist mode of production and advance the interests of the dominant forces in the local social formation; the interests of other groups within society are only advanced to the extent that this is perceived as in the whole society\'s, and thus the dominant class\'s, interests too. (For example, some states have granted liberal democratic participatory privileges through a universal franchise, as part of the ideological bulwark to legitimation of inequality: Johnston, 1989.)

A major feature of state power is its territorial expression and the territoriality strategies employed (Johnston, 1991a, 1991b). A state\'s sovereignty involves it being recognized as the locus of authority within a defined territory, and it is usually the sole repository of coercive (military and police) force there. Within its territory the state, according to Mann, exercises both despotic power (actions taken without prior negotiation with the population, as under totalitarianism) and infrastructural power, whereby it infiltrates most aspects of life with (implicit) consent, as under capitalism: under feudalism, the state is relatively weak on both power dimensions. Mann argues that a state is necessary for anything other than a primitive society (though see anarchism), and that one exercising a very wide range of infrastructural powers is necessary under capitalism.

Geography is crucial if the capitalist state is to be effective. State power is exercised from a central place over a unified territorial reach, and involves the mobilization of four types of potential power resources — economic, ideological, military and political. For each, the existence of a territory within which the power applies is fundamental. The interest groups associated with the four types of power all need to have their activities regulated over defined territories: economic interests are provided with a single currency and a uniform set of laws of contract, for example; ideological interests are advanced through the association of the state and its society with a defined territory (see nation; nationalism); military interests are provided with clearly defined boundaries to defend; and political interests are given an arena within which to mobilize support and gain legitimation. Thus, as Mann expresses it: \'the state is merely and essentially an arena, a place … \'.

Power resides and is realized in all parts of a society, therefore, and the associated spatial practices are widely applied. The creation of spatial structures, including but not limited to bounded spaces (see locational analysis), is thus deeply implicated in a vast range of social, economic, cultural and political practices: whereas much academic and popular attention is given to those practices as applied by the state, whose inscribed capacities and resources far exceed those of most other individuals, groups and institutions, nevertheless the exercise of power at all levels is a crucial element in the making and remaking of geographies. (RJJ)

References Alford, R.R. and Friedland, R. 1985: Powers of theory: capitalism, the state and democracy. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press. Allen, J. 1997: Economies of power and space. In R. Lee and J. Wills, eds, Geographies of economies. London, Arnold, 59-70. Driver, F. 1985: Power, space and the body: a critical assessment of Foucault\'s Discipline and punish. Environment and Planning C: Society and Space 3: 425-46. Dunleavy, P. and O\'Leary, B. 1987: State theory: the politics of liberal democracy. London: Macmillan. Held, D. 1987: Models of democracy. Cambridge: Polity Press. Jessop, B. 1990: State theory: putting capitalist states in their place. Cambridge: Polity Press. Johnston, R.J. 1989: Individual freedom in the world-economy. In R.J. Johnston and P.J. Taylor, eds, A world in crisis? Geographical perspectives, 2nd edn. Oxford and Cambridge, MA: Basil Blackwell, 200-28. Johnston, R.J. 1991a: The territoriality of law: an exploration. Urban Geography 12: 548-65. Johnston, R.J. 1991b: A question of place: exploring the practice of human geography. Oxford and Boston: Basil Blackwell. Johnston, R.J. 1992: The internal operations of the state. In P.J. Taylor, ed., The state in the twentieth century. London: Belhaven Press. Mann, M. 1984: The autonomous power of the state; its origins, mechanisms, and results. European Journal of Sociology 25: 185-213. Sack, R.D. 1986: Human territoriality: its theory and history. Cambridge and New York: Cambridge University Press.

Selected Reading Claval, P. 1978: Espace et pouvoir. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France. Giddens, A. 1984: The constitution of society. Cambridge: Polity Press. Giddens, A. 1985: The nation state and violence. Cambridge: Polity Press.



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