A power structure is an overall system of influence relationships between any individual and every other individual within any selected group of people. A description of a power structure would capture the way in which power or authority is distributed between people within groups such as a government, nation, institution, organization, or a society. Such structures are of interest to various fields, including sociology, government, economics, and business. A power structure may be formal and intentionally constructed to maximize values like fairness or efficiency, as in a hierarchical organization wherein every entity, except one, is subordinate to a single other entity. Conversely, a power structure may be an informal set of roles, such as those found in a dominance hierarchy in which members of a social group interact, often aggressively, to create a ranking system. A culture that is organised in a dominance hierarchy is a dominator culture, the opposite of an egalitarian culture of partnership. A visible, dominant group or elite that holds power or authority within a power structure is often referred to as being the Establishment. Power structures are fluid, with changes occurring constantly, either slowly or rapidly, evolving or revolutionary, peacefully or violently.
- G. William Domhoff, Thomas R. Dye, Power Elites and Organizations (1987), p. 9.
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- Authoritarianism, a form of government in which citizens devote absolute or blind obedience to authority
- Biopower, nation states' regulation of their subjects through a multitude of techniques for subjugating bodies and controlling populations
- Dominance and submission, sex play in which a person confers onto another authority over their own body
- Plutocracy, an institution ruled and dominated by a small minority of the wealthiest members