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Assess the view that most power in modern western societies is held by people who have not been democratically elected.

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Introduction

Assess the view that most power in modern western societies is held by people who have not been democratically elected. It is believed that people who have not been democratically elected hold most power in western societys, however how true is this? Throughout history people have been born into positions of power, if your father was a lord, you would most likely also be a lord. Marxists believe that this division of power still exist in modern society today. Unlike Functionalists who believe in a fair merocratic society, Marxists believe that the social class you are born in is where you'll most likely end up staying. However this theory is critised for being far to deterministic as many people from the working classes are able to make there way up the social ladder. Marxists believe that everything designed in society is there to favour the bourgeois, from the State to the legal system. Althusser believes that economic determinism needs to be rejected. According to Althusser, societies comprise of 3 levels: The economic, the political and the ideological. Although the economy is 'determinant' in the last instance', the political and ideological levels are not mere reflections of the economy but have 'relative autonomy' and don't have effects on the economy. Stephen Lukes identified three ways in which sociologists have approached the study of power. Each involves studying a different dimension or 'face' of power. He argues that an understanding of power requires an awareness of all three faces. ...read more.

Middle

Robert Dahl conducted a study of local government in New Haven and found that no-one group is seen to actually dominate the decision-making; power is therefore shared among a range of groups. The idea is rejected by pluralists that democracy is possible in a one-party state, since there must be opposition parties and a range of pressure groups to represent the views of those who disagree with the governing party. Pluralists claim to have solid evidence for their view of the distribution of power from case studies of decision-making on a local level (Dahl) and at a national level (Hewitt) There have been many criticisms of pluralism, first of all it is believed that measuring power by examining decisions ignores non-decision making. It also ignores the fact that that people may accept and even welcome decisions which are against their interests and its is shown that some groups exercise more power than others and so is an unequal representation of interests and many interests may not be represented at all. Marxists also argue that the pluralists' focus on the decisions taken by local and national governments ignores the possibility that the real centre of power is elsewhere. As a result of the criticisms of pluralism many classical pluralism supporters modified or changed their positions. Robert Dahl has accepted that the unequal distribution of wealth and income in the USA makes equal political influence impossible. ...read more.

Conclusion

He identified 3 key institutions as the centres of power, The Federal government, the major corporations and the military. Mills believed that these 3 elites are closely related because of their similar origins, education and kinship and because there interests are in twined. Critics of Mills argue that he only showed that the elites in the USA have potential for control, he failed to show that they had actual hold control. In addition pluralist disagree with this theory and argue that there are many other elites such as pressure group leaders, religious, trade unions and so on, who can provide a counterbalance to these more powerful elites. Marxists also reject the notion of a power elite, arguing that real power in capitalist societies derives not from positions in institutions but from ownership and control of the means of production. In conclusion it seems as though there are many different approaches to the view on power in society, whether the people are in power because they were democratically elected or whether there, there because they were born into it. However many of the views tend to ignore the problems with black people and women. Why are there only 25% of women in parliament and why are there only 6 black MP's? Although functionalist believe we live in a fair merocratic society it's becoming fairly obvious that we don't. Though many views have may have some truth behind them it extremely hard say that one person's opinion of power in society is wrong. It really depends if you believe in the power of the people or not. ...read more.

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