In contrast to the power as ability, power as influence is not just about what an individual can/cannot do. It is about how this "can/cannot" will impact other individuals. In this sense, we can see power as a combination of abilitiesrelated to other people's abilities and actions.
This means focusing on relationships and bringing in such concepts as control, force and authority. Unlike power as ability, power as influence is impossible to discuss without referring to the idea of limited resources. For example, my ability to speak (and be heard) is directly related to somebody else's inability to speak (and be heard), because not everybody can speak (and be heard) at once. In this sense, one person's ability becomes possible through somebody else's inability or can lead to another person's inability to do something.
Power as influence has been the main focus of scholarship on power and is the main reason for the interest in power to begin with. This is not surprising: we live in the world of limited resources, both tangible and intangible ones. In this context, one person's ability to tap into a resource often means another person's inability to do so, which can be – understandably – seen a problem (see Inequality).
Tangible resources include objects that we need to satisfy our physical needs. What happens if there is one apple on the table, but two of us who want to eat the apple? One person's ability to eat the apple means the other person's inability to do so.
Intangible resources include time and attention. For example, we have only a certain amount of hours tonight to do something together. I want to go to the cinema. You want to go to the restaurant. If we do what I want, my ability to choose will equal your inability to do so.
The environment each person exists in is a combination of tangible and intangible resources that are all limited. In any specific situation, one person can only get her needs fully met if another person does not get her needs fully met. To put it differently, not everybody can be satisfied all the time. We can say that whoever gets their needs met is the one who has the power in this specific situation.
Another way to explain the relation of power to limited resources is that all things cannot happen at once at the same time. Objects exist in space in one specific way in each specific moment. Each moment, my actions determine that some things will exist in a certain way rather than another. Some of my influences may seem irrelevant or unimportant; yet, they all matter in the grand scheme of things in ways I may never fully comprehend. My actions inevitably influence other people and also clash with their influences. Understanding how we all influence each other requires tapping into the chaos theory.
Same as with power as ability, understanding power as influence requires discussing intentionality, which I define as a combination of choice and awareness. Using power means making choices that affect others. However, awareness about making a choice does not mean awareness of its consequences. People influence each other in ways that they do not fully comprehend, in part because it is not possible to fully trace impact of individual actions. For example, I make a choice to buy and wear a certain piece of clothing. My intention is probably to look in a certain way. I do not think about how my choice can impact cultural trends or perceptions of gender. However, it does, because if most people of the same gender as me wear similar clothes (e.g., skirts in case of women), my choice reinforces the idea that skirts are appropriate for women.
We can think about power as influence that an individual has on his/her/their environment, including other individuals. At the same time, bigger patterns that explain interactions between groups or people – rather than just between individuals – should also be explored. This exploration is as important as it is prolific. Such major thinkers as Marx, such movements as feminism (and civil rights more broadly), and such scholarly frameworks as critical race theory, are all related to understanding power as influence.