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On the importance of personal sources of power in politics: comparative perspectives and research agenda

Abstract

Political actors derive influence both from their official position and from their own personal standing. However, political science has proven to be better equipped to study formal powers and institutions. The study of informal arrangements, where actors rely on personal connections and authority, is more challenging. This has arguably led to the predominance of an institutional focus in research. We argue for the study of informal sources of power as an equally important area of research. Drawing from historical and contemporary examples, we reintroduce the concepts of auctoritas and potestas to underline the difference between individual and institutional sources of influence. We discuss the various obstacles to measurement and outline attempts proposed to date in the literature.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    The modern English word of authority, while it is derived from auctoritas, unlike its Roman predecessor also encompasses the right to command, thus making it less distinguishable from potestas or imperium.

  2. 2.

    We cover AJPS and JOP from January 2015 to January 2017 each, APSR from February 2015 to November 2016 and CPS from January 2015 to February 2017.

  3. 3.

    Likewise, U.S. Congress maintains ranking on the basis of seniority (Goodwin 1965), however this does not imply that more senior legislators are always more influential on policy-making as other determinants, such the relative strength of party factions, affinity to the executive, electoral performance or prospects, can factor in.

  4. 4.

    Such as those of an actor who has the ability to influence the outcome but for whatever reason, e.g., because the outcome is already in the preferred direction, neglects to do so.

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Baturo, A., Elkink, J.A. On the importance of personal sources of power in politics: comparative perspectives and research agenda. Fr Polit 15, 505–525 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1057/s41253-017-0033-x

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Keywords

  • Auctoritas
  • Potestas
  • Institutions
  • Personal sources of power
  • Informal influence in politics