Power: Interpersonal, Organizational and Global Dimensions >> Content Detail



Mid-term Examination

There are four parts to this mid-term examination. The first part consists of fourteen passages from the reading assignments of which you must identify and describe the significance or contribution of twelve. (Additional instructions follow.) The second part asks you to reconsider the responses you provided to some of the survey questions I distributed on the first day of class. (I have supplied a copy of what you submitted in response to the poll with the original questions repeated below.) Part three consists of three essay questions of which you must write on one. Part Four asks you to analyze the effect on the power relations between teacher and study created by grading assignments "blind," that is, without students' names on the papers. Make sure that you look over the completed exam for spelling, grammar etc. before you hand it in.

There are 200 points in total divided over four parts.

Part I Identifications (60 Points, 5 Points per Identification)

Instructions for Identifications: Below, you will find fourteen quotations taken from the reading assignments for this course. Your job is to identify twelve of them, giving the author (and the title of the work). For each identified quotation, discuss its significance for understanding the meaning, organization, and uses of power. In discussing the significance of the quotation, you should not only discuss the particular argument of the text from which it appears but also what about the author or perspective makes it important for our understanding of power.

  1. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.
  2. Nobody, in general, wishes that his influence completely determine the other individual. He rather wants his influence, this determination of the other, to act back upon him.
  3. Classifications of the forms of power are "ideal typical" or "analytical" and by no means imply that any and all actual power relations can be neatly subsumed under one or another of the labeled forms. Despite familiar warnings against 'reification' or the attribution of 'misplaced concreteness' to concepts, one still finds, even among supposedly sophisticated social scientists, a tendency to assume naively that there must be a one-to-one correspondence between observed phenomena and definitional categories. The value of any classification depends not on how literally it encompasses the inexhaustible variety of the world, but on the subtlety and discernment with which it is 'fitted' to reality and on whether or not it can be employed to generate illuminating propositions.
  4. Hobbes was obsessed with what he took to be the constants in human behavior: aggressiveness and the desire for survival. The armed robbery at the subway exit was certainly an example of the first instinct. But was it in any way an example of the second - the instinct for survival?
  5. Let us assume that in every branch of human activity each individual is given an index which stands as a sign of his capacity, very much the way grades are given in the various subjects in examinations in school. So let us make a class of the people who have the highest indices of their branch of activity, and to that class give the name of elite.
  6. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness.
  7. The principle that one dominant class inevitably succeeds to another, and the law deduced from that principle that oligarchy is, as it were, a preordained form of the common life of great social aggregates, far from conflicting with or replacing the materialist conception of history, completes that conception and reinforces it.
  8. With some over-simplification, one might thus say that "classes" are stratified according to the principles of their consumption of goods as represented by special "styles of life."
  9. Every institution captures something of the time and interest of its members and provides something of a world for them; in brief, every institution has encompassing tendencies. When we review the different institutions in our Western society, we find some that are encompassing to a degree discontinuously greater than the ones next in line. Their encompassing or total character is symbolized by the barrier to social intercourse with the outside and to departure that is often built right into the physical plant, such as locked doors, high walls, barbed wire, cliffs, water, forests, or moors.
  10. Charismatic authority rests on the effectual and personal devotion of the follower to the lord and his gifts of grace (charisma). They comprise especially magical abilities, revelations of heroism, power of the mind and of speech. The eternally new, the non-routine, the unheard of and the emotional rapture from it are sources of personal devotion.
  11. Along with other sources of error in decision-making, the symptoms of groupthink are likely to occur from time to time within cohesive small groups of policy makers; and the most corrosive symptoms of groupthink are preventable by eliminating group insulation, over-directive leadership practices, and other conditions that foster premature concurrence-seeking.
  12. The alienation of the worker is expressed thus: the more he produces, the less he can consume; the more value he creates, the less value he has. Labor produces fabulous things for the rich, but misery for the poor. Machines replace labor, and jobs diminish, while other workers turn into machines."
  13. The logic is perfectly clear, the aims decipherable, and yet it is often the case that no one is there to have invented them, and few who can be said to have formulated them: an implicit characteristic of the great anonymous, almost unspoken strategies which coordinate the loquacious tactics whose "inventors" or decision-makers are often without hypocrisy.
  14. There is no place for industry because the fruit thereof is uncertain; and consequently no culture of the earth, no navigation, no use of the commodities that may be imposed by sea; no commodious building; no instruments of moving and removing such things as require much force; no knowledge of the face of the earth; no account of time; no arts, no letters, no society; and which is worst of all, continual fear and danger of violent death; and the life of man, solitary, nasty, brutish, and short.

Part II Essay (50 Points)

Questions (1) (2) (3) (4) and (5) on the Opinion Poll on power read as follows:
  1. The major factor preventing subordinate persons from achieving what they want is lack of will or "will power."
  2. What is the difference between influencing others in a course of action and exercising power over others?
  3. Those who benefit from the distribution of power in American society have usually earned those benefits from hard work and achievement.
  4. The most important forms of power involve discipline and control of one's own behavior.
  5. The use of power is always at the expense of others.

Reread the answers you wrote in September. Please write an essay that offers a critique of the responses you provided in September to these questions. Have your views on the forms and sources of power changed or remained the same? Are there points you would now raise that you did not identify in your original response? What empirical evidence and/or sociological research has influenced your current understandings of power?

In answering these questions draw on class discussion and make active use of the readings for this course. Present an assessment of how and why your views on power have or have not evolved.

Part III Essay (50 Points)

Please select one of the following questions and write an essay in response.

  1. In social theory, there are two dominant and conflicting views on the character of human nature. Please classify these authors - Machiavelli, Marx, De Tocqueville, Weber, Pareto, Michels, Simmel, Hobbes - according to their view of human nature and explain their various perspectives on the sources, distribution, and possibilities of changing the distribution of social power.
  2. Marx was one of the few social theorists to take an optimistic view with regard to the possibility of lessening the power differentials that seem to exist within most societies. What are the sources of these differences according to Marx, and how might they be eradicated? In other words, what do power differentials arise from, what forms have they taken in history, and in what specific ways can they be remedied?
  3. Some critics have described Weber's theory of charismatic leadership as inherently unsociological, that it is a type of power that cannot be explained in social (interactive) terms, but instead requires relying on psychological or individual explanations: a great person with special force or personality suddenly arises to change the course of history. Discuss - critique or defend - this position.

Part IV Essay (40 Points)

Student teacher interactions draw on and create complex resources of status, expertise, skill, personality, as well as a variety of economic and cultural rewards. In a small class such as this, rather than a large lecture class with sections and TAs, how would the dynamics and power relations between a professor and student at MIT (not in the abstract but within the institutional rules, practices and culture of MIT) be effected by grading assignments "blind," that is, without the professor knowing which student wrote which paper? A coherent essay should identify the power distribution under conventional grading practices and under a system of "blind" grading. In other words, how do you expect that the relations between student and professor will change if the final assignments for the course are submitted with identifying numbers rather than with names on them?


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