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Critically Examine The Main Theory Of Power

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Critically Examine The Main Theory Of Power A broad distinction can be made between two types of power: 1. Authority is power that is accepted as legitimate - e.g. the power of Parliament to pass laws in a society where citizens accept the political system. 2. Coercion is based upon the imposition of power using force, or the threat of force, against people who do not accept it as legitimate. Weber defines power as the ability of people to get their own way despite the opposition of others. He distinguishes three different types of authority: 1. Charismatic authority is based upon what are believed to be the special qualities of an individual. 2. Traditional authority is based upon a belief in the rightness of accepted customs. 3. Rational-legal authority is based upon the acceptance of an impersonal set of rules, e.g. an exam system or a legal system. These are ideal types (idealised, pure forms of authority) which in reality will tend to be mixed together. Lukes (1974) provides an alternative, radical view of power. He sees Weber's views as being largely based upon decision making (the first face of power). The second face is non-decision making, where some issues are prevented from reaching the point where decisions are made. The third face power is ideological power, where people are persuaded to accept the exercise of power over them even when it is against their interests - e.g. women accepting patriarchal power. ...read more.


* Lions achieve power through incisive action and the use of force. * Foxes rule by cunning. Elites tend to circulate, with lions being replaced by foxes, and foxes then being replaced by lions, and so on. Pareto can be criticised for simply assuming that elites are superior to the mass, ignoring the importance of wealth, and so on. Modern elite theories offer more plausible views. C.Wright Mills in the 1950s in the USA argued that there were power elite which had power through holding key positions (command posts) in three institutions: 1. Major corporations 2. The military 3. The federal government The three elites were connected through intermarriage, movement of individuals between elites, a similar educational background and membership of the same prestige clubs. As a unified group they were able to exercise power over a divided and passive mass of the population who took little interest in most political issues. Marxists argue that elite theory neglects the importance of economic power as opposed to the power based on positions held. * Like Elite theory, Marxist theories see power as concentrated in the hands of a minority. * Unlike elite theory, they see it as concentrated in the hands of a ruling class which derives its power from ownership of the means of production. Marx and Engels argued that the ruling class used their power to exploit subordinate classes. * It was in the interests of the subject classes to overthrow ruling-class power, but the ruling class used the superstructure to try to prevent this. ...read more.


at work) tended to make people radical, whereas the ideology promoted by the ruling class tended to make them more conservative. * Control over ideas was an important in maintaining or overthrowing ruling class hegemony as was control over the economy. * Many individuals are critical of the power of the rich. * Groups such as trade unions have some genuine power to change government policy. * To maintain hegemony, governments have to make some real concessions to the working class, and they have to try to incorporate class factions (e.g. the petty bourgeoisie) outside the ruling class. Neo-Marxist views avoid the mistake of seeing wealth as the only source of power. However, they provide a clearly theory about the nature of power and do not clearly explain which non-economic factors sometimes take on more importance. All the previous theories can be seen as society-centred: they examine the way in which society shapes the actions of the state. State centred theories see the state as an independent actor, able to exercise power in its own right and pursue its own interests. Skocpol (1985) argues that states have considerable autonomy, and their primary aim may be to increase their own power. They have administrative control over territory, the ability to raise taxes and the ability to recruit talented people to work for them. States such as the communist regimes in China and Russia, and the Napoleonic regime in France, demonstrate the considerable power that states can possess. Critics argue that such approaches may exaggerate state power. They also point out that some supposedly society-centred approaches recognise that the state has some independent power. Chirag Patel - 1 - ...read more.

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