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Talcott Parsons on Power - Dictionary of Arguments

Habermas IV 400
Power/System Theory/Parsons/Habermas: within Parsons system theory, power is understood as a communication medium (the other three communication media in Parsons are money, influence and value retention). (See also Money/Parsons, Communication Media/Parsons) As a control medium, power represents the symbolic embodiment of value without itself having an intrinsic value. Power consists neither in effective performance nor in the use of physical force. Like money, the power medium reflects the structure of claim and redemption.
Habermas IV 401
Claims: the nominal claims for readiness to follow up on binding decisions defined by the code can be settled in real values and covered by special reserves. According to Parsons, the "utility value" of the realization of collective goals corresponds to the "exchange value" of power. The disposition via coercive means is used as cover. (1)
Code: is structured similarly in the case of power as in the medium of money: rulers and subjects of power belong to the same collective. After all, power interests are defined by mobilising performance potential for the achievement of collectively desired goals. The generalized value here is efficiency (in money it is benefit). The power code schematizes possible expressions as consent to or rejection of imperatives.
Habermas IV 402
Value: the amount of value corresponding to the claim to readiness to comply is not as manipulable as the exchange value in the case of money. This is because there is no sign system available in the power medium as in the case of the money medium. Symbols of power such as uniforms, emblems or official seals are not comparable to the system of prices from a syntactic point of view. This leads to the problem of measurability.
Power can be sold, but is not circulable like money. However, power can only take the form of a medium because it is not attached to certain rulers or contexts. However, power binds itself more symbiotically to persons and institutions than money does.
Habermas IV 403
Power must be demonstrated from time to time, as it is not covered like a deposit in a bank. Overall, power cannot be calculated as well as money.
Power/Money/Luhmann: in terms of system characteristics, the two media money and power behave partly in the opposite direction: while financing money, e.g. granting credit, usually increases the inherent complexity of the economic system, the complexity of the system is reduced in the event of an increase in power. (2)
Habermas IV 404
Unlike money, power not only needs cover (through coercive means) and legal standardization (in the form of incumbency), but it also needs legitimation.

1.T Parsons, Some Reflections on the Place of Force in Social Process, in: T. Parsons, Social Theory and Modern Society, NY 1967, S. 264ff
2.N. Luhmann, Zur Theorie symbolische generalisierter Kommunikationsmedien, in. ZfS 1974, S 236ff.


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.

ParCh I
Ch. Parsons
Philosophy of Mathematics in the Twentieth Century: Selected Essays Cambridge 2014

ParTa I
T. Parsons
The Structure of Social Action, Vol. 1 1967

ParTe I
Ter. Parsons
Indeterminate Identity: Metaphysics and Semantics 2000

Ha I
J. Habermas
Der philosophische Diskurs der Moderne Frankfurt 1988

Ha III
Jürgen Habermas
Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns Bd. I Frankfurt/M. 1981

Ha IV
Jürgen Habermas
Theorie des kommunikativen Handelns Bd. II Frankfurt/M. 1981


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