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Social Power in The Shawshank Redemption
Transcript of Social Power in The Shawshank Redemption
JJ Stenitzer The Bases of Social Power--French and Raven (1959)
Social power is a pervasive, complex structure that dictates the terms of social interactions involving influence.
Social Power: the ability of a person or group (O) to influence a target individual (P).
Influence: Enactment of a psychological change, which leads to a different behavior, opinion, attitude, goal, need, value, etc. "Persuasion." The Bases of Social Power Successful use of social power to cause an influence reaction is dependent
on the terms of the relationship between O and P. Different relationships
enable different styles of influence, called "bases."
The bases are: Reward, Coercive, Legitimate, Referent, Expert Influence based on the ability of O to provide P
with a reward for conforming to the desired
behavior. Reliant on P's trust that O will deliver
the reward that she is promised. The greater
the reward, the greater the influence. Influence based in the ability of O to mediate a punishment
if P refuses to conform to the desired behavior. Power is
reliant on P's belief that O can mediate the punishment.
The greater the punishment, the greater the influence. Influence accomplished because of P's belief that what O wants is
"right" or that it is "what ought to be done." Influence is reliant on
P believing that what O demands is good, or should be done.
Typically a cultural belief. The stronger P's belief that O is right,
the stronger the influence. Influenced based in P's feelings of oneness or association
with P. Reliant on P feeling that O is someone she can identify
with, or who she wants to be like. The greater P's regard for
O, the greater the power. Influence derived from O's specialized knowledge that P
does not have. Reliant on P believing that the knowledge
O professes is real and not deceptive. The greater or more
specialized O's knowledge, or the more P requires it, the
greater the influence. The Shawshank Redemption Successful banker Andy Dufresne is wrongfully convicted and imprisoned
for the murder of his wife. He is involved in conflicts with other inmates,
who single him out for his meek personality, with the guards, who resent
his white collar status and education, and the warden, who uses him for
his financial knowledge to run an illegal money laundering scheme.
In the social atmosphere of Shawshank Prison, structures of law and
economy do not moderate social interaction. Referent and influential
power hold no sway with the guards or the hostile prilsoners. Andy uses
reward, coercive, and expert power to negotiate dangerous situations
and improve his standard of living in the oppressive prison. Scenario--Do You Trust Your Wife? While tarring the roof of the prison, Andy overhears the Guard Captain
say that he will receive a large inheritance, but will lose much of it to
taxes. Andy tells the Captain he knows a way to avoid paying taxes on
the money, provided that the Captain trusts his wife.
The Captain drags Andy to the edge of the roof. "You better start making sense... you're that smart banker that killed his wife, aren't you? Why should I believe a smart banker like you--so I can end up in here with you?"
Failed influence attempt: Expert Power "Wherever expert influence occurs, it seems to be necessary both
for P to think that O knows and for P to trust that O is telling the truth,
rather than trying to deceive him" (French, Raven 1959) The Captain was intimidated by Andy's education, and the status of convicted murderer further acted to lessen the extent of Andy's
expert power. The Captain did not trust Andy enough for his
influence to work.
Andy resolved the situation by telling the Captain he could check
with the IRS, and would further offer the reward of preparing the
paperwork for free. Social Power in Real Life Reward Power: An employer (O) can offer an employee (P) a raise for exceeding expectations.
The employee is influenced to improve her work performance. Coercive Power: An employer (O) can threaten an employee (P) with discipline, a pay cut or
dismissal if the employee fails to meet expectations. The employee is influenced to meet
the expectations. Legitimate Power: A religious authority (O) tells a follower (P) to abide by a certain moral
standard that he has previously overlooked. The follower's belief that what the authority
figure says is good or right influences him to obey. Referent Power: An employee (P) admires his superior's (O) ability to perform job tasks better
and with a better attitude. The employee changes his behavior to be more like his superior
because he admires him. The employee's is influenced by his superior's referent power. Expert Power: An employer (O) tells his employee (P) that his method of doing a task is
less efficient than another method. The employee does not want to learn a new method,
but notices his employer does the task much better and faster, and learns anyway. The
expertise of the employer influenced his employee. Works Cited
 Darabont, F. (Director). (1994). The Shawshank Redemption [Film]. Los Angeles: Castle Rock Entertainment.
 French, J., & Raven, B. (1959) Studies in Social Power. Ann Arbor: Instute for Social Research, University of Michigan Press.