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I am author of the books Political Internet(Routledge, 2017), Intimate Speakers ( Fingerprint! 2017), has finished the typescript of three books—first, on Internet and sexuality; second, on the negative impacts of social media; and third, a novel—and is presently working on a narrative non-fiction with the working title Lovescape: Why India is afraid of love.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Concept of Power

There are different facets to power.Power can be manifold in society.The relation power brings about is also far reaching in society.

  • The first dimension of power/the pluralistic approach
  • The second face of power/nondecision-making
  • The third dimension of power
  • Discursive power

The first dimension of power/the pluralistic tradition

Robert A. Dahl:

“A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B wouldn’t otherwise do.” (Dahl 1957, p. 203)

Nelson W. Polsby:

Power should be analyzed by investigating “…who participates, who gains and who loses from alternative outcomes, and also who prevails in decision making.” (Polsby 1970)

Focus is directed towards

overt decision-making procedures,

cases where different actors have different preferences, and

what is explicitly said and done in a decision-making or negotiation procedure.

The second face of power/nondecision-making

Power might already have been exercised before it comes to public decision-making. Many decisions might already be taken when the agenda is settled.

Bachrach & Baratz (1968/1970):

Control of the agenda is a crucial aspect of power-exercise.

"mobilization of bias":

a set of predominant values, beliefs, rituals, and institutional procedures operates to the benefit of certain persons, groups and perspectives at the expense of others.

“mobilization of bias” is sustained through nondecision-making.

The result of nondecision-making is:

that certain persons, perspectives, issues or conflicts never enter the overt political arena.

Nondecisions can take several forms;

By force

By threat of sanctions

By norms, rules or procedures

By the existence of certain values, myths etc

By the "rule of anticipated reactions":

situations where B has less power than A and therefore decides to not make demand upon A in the case of a confrontation, of fear that A will invoke sanctions against him.

The third dimension of power


The most effective and treacherous use of power is to prevent conflicts from arising.

Steven Lukes:

"...A may exercise power over B by getting him to do what he does not want to do, but he also exercises power over him by influencing, shaping or determining his very wants. Indeed, is it not the supreme exercise of power to get another or others to have the desires you want them to have - that is, to secure their compliance by controlling their thoughts and desires?”

(Lukes 1974, p 23)

The focus of power-analysis is directed towards the establishment of certain awareness. Here, education, mass media, and socialisation processes etc gets a crucial role.

Discursive power

Focus is directed towards the creation and establishment of conceptions of “the way things are”.

Michel Foucault:

Power relations are immanent in all social processes.

Power is a relational phenomenon.

Power is a productive force; it is about the production of our conceptions of reality and of “the way things are”.

Discourse:

…a set of concepts, categorizations, ideas and meanings that produce forms for how things are presented, interpreted and understood. A discourse is a way of talking about something, which at the same time presents this something in a certain light (“this is how it is”, “this is how it happened”).

(Hajer 1995, Jacobsson 2000, Burr 1995)

To discuss:

Have you any personal experience of power exercise in any of these terms?

How can these perspectives be of use for you in your future profession?

Prepared by Biju P R,Assistant Professor in Poltical Sceince,Govt Brennen College,Thalassery

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