Bertrand Russell's Power is very ambitious in scope. Support for his thesis that the taming of power should be of chief concern to thinking people (his favorite audience in the three Russell books I've read) includes support from references to ancient China, medieval Europe, Machiavelli, the American businessman, the rise of the Catholic Church, American reverence for the Constitution, causes of the Protestant Reformation, ancient Greece and Rome and their governments, and more. As is to be expected of Lord Russell, his writing is an edifying, entertaining glimpse into the mind of a genius.
Russell's descriptions of the motivations behind power seeking individuals and organizations, the appeal of leaders, types of power and the basis for authority are compelling. The means for acquiring and exercising power are described by Russell in a systematic, conspiratorial manner. By understanding its appeal and the methods by which it is attained, Russell argues, mankind can hope to tame power. I felt that in this book Russell sought to deliver a "world-view" a la Karl Marx, whose communist ideas were based on the belief that the source of conflict in the world was man's alienation. With a twist, Russell might say that man's (and man's organizations, which he grants develop an organic life of their own) grasping for power is the chief cause of pain, stifled freedom, and stunted progress.
It's important to keep in mind that this book was first published in 1938 - though it's not hard to do while reading since Russell continuously warns of an impending great war. He refers to WWI as the "War" and an imminent WWII as the "Great War." I think, perhaps, the great motivation for writing it may have been to explain the rise of despotic and totalitarian governments during the era preceding its publication. A defining quote is:
"No other organization rouses anything like the loyalty aroused by the national State. And the chief activity of the State is preparation for large-scale homicide. It is loyalty to this organization for death that causes men to endure the totalitarian State, and to risk the destruction of home and children and our whole civilization rather than submit to alien rule."
Russell is my favorite philosopher and I'm planning to read many more of his books. I strongly recommend his History of Western Philosophy and The Conquest of Happiness. Russell wrote so many books on such a wide variety of subjects. My qualms with Power are its over ambitious reach, the frenetic pace of the writing and Russell's disdain for business and economics. Enjoy!