What is the difference between honor and power?

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thanatassa's profile pic

thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Most societies have some form of hierarchy, in which certain people have the ability to make decisions concerning others and some people need to follow the rules and decisions made by other people. What makes this even more complicated is that the same person may be a decision maker in one context but a subordinate in another context. For example, a young woman may be captain of her varsity soccer team, and thus in a position of authority on that team, but at home must follow rules set by her family. A successful Native American entrepreneur still needs to follow tribal laws. 

As we think of who makes decisions and who follows them, we see different types of social and political hierarchy in place. One has to do with hard power. The physically strong schoolmate who bullies younger and weaker children or the nation with massive military power which bullies its neighbors are example of hard power. Great wealth acts as a form of hard power as well, as does official position; members of the police or military have powers of life and death in certain circumstances.

Honor is in a sense a different type of power born of respect. Martin Luther King was a Baptist minister who was not wealthy nor was he elected to a powerful position such a president or mayor, but he was tremendously influential because people respected his moral authority. Often, we will follow the suggestions of people we honor or respect because we admire their wisdom or ethical nature. 

Honor and prestige form parts of what are often called "soft power". In much international diplomacy, there is strong focus on this notion of soft power. For example, China funds Confucius Institutes across the world to attempt to get people to view it more favorably by promoting its peaceful cultural traditions, as a supplement to the hard power of its massive economy. 

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vnessawong21's profile pic

vnessawong21 | (Level 1) Salutatorian

Posted on

Honor is defined as being judged and found to have a good or admirable character. Power is simply having the ability to control people or events. Power can be used for good or evil. The person with power may not have honor. Likewise, someone with honor may not have any power. However, if a person has both honor and power then they will use the power in an honorable way for the good of society.

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