'A gets B to do something that he or she would not otherwise do. Does this sum up the essence of political power?

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‘a gets b to do something that he or she would not otherwise do’. does this sum up the essence of political power?

Questions of power are arguably the most important in the field of politics, and as such the concept of power is one of the most frequently discussed topics amongst political scientists. Power is such a wide concept that this essay will not be able to discuss motivation; that is, why an individual may want to exert power over another individual, although this is a crucial question when discussing this topic. Instead, this essay will focus on the ‘faces of power’ debate; the three widely recognised faces, decision-making, agenda-setting and preference-shaping as well as Foucault’s research into a fourth face of power. As well as outlining the arguments put forward by political scholars, this essay will critically analyse each theory and ultimately sum up the essence of political power.

In “The Concept of Power” (1957) Robert Dahl looks at the relationship between preferences and decisions before concluding that power is a one dimensional concept regarding the power of A to affect the decisions of B. Dahl’s view of power is that it is quantifiable by counting the number of decisions that are made and determine that whoever has the most decisions in their favour is the most powerful. While analysing Dahl’s one dimensional view of power, Hay stated that “the powerful are those whose opinions hold sway in the decision making area. This pluralist view of society insinuates that power is widely dispersed throughout society, with groups of people competing with each other in order to advance their own interests. The quote in the essay title is referring to the one dimensional view of power, as summarised by Dahl in “The Concept of Power”, thus Dahl would have agreed with the statement that this is the essence of political power. An example of the first face of power is that both A and B are aware that a watch is worth £50, but B buys the watch off of A for £100. Thus it can be said that A has exercised power over B in terms of decision making, since B would not have paid £100 for the watch if A had not influenced him. It should be noted that this example relies upon both political actors having full information; if B was unaware of the true value of the watch then there would be no need for the exercise of power. This is a crucial assumption and one which will be addressed later.

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Dahl’s argument has faced much criticism from political scientists such as Heywood and Clegg for being too narrow. As well as the aforementioned assumption, it must be noted that only key decisions are studied, which raises the problem of to what extent we are able to distinguish issues which are often ignored. Furthermore, potential power is not considered, thus inferring that power which is not exerted cannot be regarded as power. This is clearly a flawed theory as many people who hold power do not wield it regularly. Moreover, as the term ‘one face of power’ suggests, Dahl’s argument ignores ...

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4/5 1) This is a really common theme for essay titles in political analysis. Political power, and how it might be defined and measured, is really the backbone of what we do as political scientists - so it's wise to know the basic concepts that need to be covered in such an essay (the three faces of power, plus arguably fouth, Foucauldian face). 2) This response is well-written, workmanlike, and addresses the core themes that ought to be in here competently and broadly correctly. However, it is missing an intellectual angle - at no point do I really know what the author thinks! This means that it is highly unlikely to get more than a low 2.1. 3) What the marker really wants to know is *what you think*. Was Dahl right? If not, why not? In what circumstances? Why do people agree with Dahl? On what terms was this debate constructed? Does it miss anything out? What empirical applicability might the debate have? Etc, etc. These are the sorts of questions that distinguish really good answers in political analysis.