Power and Authority

  • Created by: KDallers-
  • Created on: 03-06-19 02:05

Intro to Power and Authority

Some consider power to be 'the key to political science'; Stoker and Marsh - politics is about the uneven distribution of power; power is about RELATIONS - these can emerge from institutions, or structures like the STATE (the locus of power)

- Colin Hay - power is CENTRAL to politics - the relation between the STATE AND THE PEOPLE comes through the state exercising policy-making power; power is also about people in this sense, as PEOPLE SEEK POWER - Nietzsche's 'will to power' - also reflected by Hobbes

- What is power? DAHL - the ability to INFLUENCE ANOTHER - relates to the faces of power

- What is AUTHORITY? Considered to be 'legitimate, de jure power' - if power is de facto, authority is de jure as it is recognised by others - Barry - authority is what power develops into

- Ideal types of power and authority - Weber - legal-rational, traditional, charismatic

- Power is NOT the same as COERCION, FORCE or VIOLENCE - can be means of exercising power, but these are NOT what power is

- Relationship between power and authority - does one always need POWER to develop INTO AUTHORITY? Heywood

1 of 7

What is Power?

Weber - power of the knowledge of one's own will - this suggests that power relates to the INDIVIDUAL - it can be held in groups as well - and can be exercised through threats, coercion or violence, to name a few (Goodwin)

POWER OVER something and POWER TO someone - Dowding - 'outcome power' and 'social power' (power through decisions/power in society); with a caveat - Russell - suggests power has to be INTENDED to be used properly; however, power can be HELD AS AN ATTRIBUTE or as 'latent power' (stored up and dormant - TRADE UNIONS are a good example)

Does power restrict freedom? - Foucault-Habermas debate - perhaps not necessarily?

- Plamenatz - power has to be ACKNOWLEDGED - if exercised within the rules, this is not necessarily and inherently NEGATIVE USAGE - power doesn't equal coercion

Power - used FORMALLY to PROTECT the agenda - either through force, coercion or COOPERATION - this is essential, as power can be used to MANIPULATE INTERESTS

ISSUES: 1) Incentivised? What of free will; 2) Unintended - can be used wrongly and lost; 3) Context - PROVISIONAL, RELATIVE, CONDITIONAL, 4) Latent - can be an attribute

2 of 7

1st Face of Power

Dahl - the PLURALIST view of power as an 'organising concept' which relates to decision-making - A exerts power over B so that B does something they would not otherwise do; this means that power AFFECTS OTHERS, is OBSERVABLE (Polsby) and can be MEASURED

- CONFLICT - a crucial element to this conception of power; there must be conflicts of views/interests to see WHO HAS POWER - this is demonstrated through patterns of influence - you can see WHO GETS WHAT THEY WANT to see who has the most power

- PLURALISM - anyone in the polyarchy can have power at one time - various groups in charge of different areas; however, this is a NEGATIVE CONCEPTION - focussed on domination of the specific area - it is both zero-sum and behaviouralist

- HYLAND - "who wants what, who got what they wanted" - A needs to INFLUENCE B SIGNIFICANTLY; PARSONS - power as a mechanism through decision-making

CRITICISMS: ELITIST? Only those who are most successful in conflictual situation are powerful - Wright Mills, the 'ins' and 'outs'; INTERESTS? Assumes these are real, only on the most important issues and free from inluence

- TOO NARROW - doesn't look at WHY decisions are being taken - need to take a step back

3 of 7

2nd Face of Power

This pertains to NON-DECISION MAKING POWER - how do we choose what we take decisions on - looks at the 'scope of the political process' and the 'organisation' of this - Bachrach and Baratz

- Crucial concept is the MOBILISATION OF BIAS (Schattschneider) - the people in power create the 'RULES OF THE GAME' and set their own boundaries in policy conflicts coercively - they 'confine the scope of decision-making' - this face is about TAKING THE ABILITY TO CHOOSE AWAY

- Relates to depoliticisation - can't politically challenge/take decisions on matters that aren't on the agenda - Hyland terms this 'excluding political opinions'

- Power therefore becomes more SUBJECTIVE and COMPLEX, as things are often taken off the agenda behind closed doors and informally by the ELITE GROUPS - is this a neo-elitist view? The 'ins' doing all the work (C.Wright Mills); what is on the agenda is determined by 'law of anticipated reasons' - for example, business interests are always hugely important, so decisions taken on these (Lindblom)

- CRITICISMS - too behavioural? too individualistic? too focussed on conflict + grievances? What about the STEP BEFORE THIS - how do INTERESTS COME ABOUT?

4 of 7

3rd Face of Power

Described by S.Lukes - about PREFERENCE-SHAPING - looks and interests and how these are shaped; the step before DECISIONS about agendas and policies are taken - in the first instance; a more STRUCTURAL view of power than the other two faces

- Argues that power can be exercised by 'preventing one from having grievances by shaping their preferences' - almost a manipulative view of power; can influence your mind and take away free will - a SOCIOLOGICAL VIEW - how agents have their interests subverted

- Hay - how actors 'have an effect' on the interests of others; LUKES - power through 'influencing, shaping and determining his very words' - asks why individuals hold their interests and HOW THEY COME ABOUT? Through socialisation processes + preventing certain demands

CRITICISMS: ROLE OF AGENCY? people can exercise free will, and their preferences are not always shaped; furthermore, it is not always coercive to shape preferences - may be simple political campaigning (Scott); HARD TO PROVE EMPIRICALLY? lack of behavioural ouput - how can you prove one's interests are NOT REAL? (Polsby); CONFLATIN? makes power, responsibility and adaptability roll into one - consequently, it is viewed as TOO PEJORATIVE (Foucault - power is ubiquitous, shouldn't view pejoratively), and TOO ADAPTABLE (Wolfinger)

5 of 7

Authority, Power and The State

VIEWS OF STATE + POWER: PLURALIST - heavily linked to decision making - power is dispersed and competitive due to the polyarchy, and agents make decisions where they are in power; ELITE - societal elites hold power (the 'ins'), and this is mainly agential - normally through the role of setting the agenda (Bachrach + Baratz); Marxist - power is held by the RULING CLASS - 'cultural hegemony' on power (Gramsci) - this can also be LATENT

AUTHORITY - this results from de jure power, as a result of consisten obedience - should be amoral and brutal to achieve authority? Machiavelli suggests so, proven by Milgram Experiment - brutality succeeds in achieving power - an OBJECTIVE PRODUCT, but SUBJECTIVE method of achieving it; HOFFMANN + GRAHAM - power and authority can DIVERGE

- Locke - there can be cooperative authority through contractual theories - no room for coercion; authority is a GOAL of society, and this relates to Weber's 'ideal types' - it is a method of obtaining power - POWER AND AUTHORITY coexist, and authority is LEGITIMATE POWER - achieved through legal-rational in West, but charismatic in dictatorships (Hitler, for example)

- WINCH - authority stems from defending the status quo? However, this can WEATHER AWAY - Hobbes - authority is reliant on ACCEPTANCE AND LEGITIMACY, not tradition; various VIEWS OF AUTHORITY + STATE - contractual, corporatist, nightwatchman, oppressive - how does state use it?

6 of 7

Key Thinkers of Power and Authority

Stoker + Marsh; Hay - politics is about power

Nietzsche; Hobbes - people obsessed with power

Dahl; Parsons; Polsby; Hyland - first face of power (Hyland also 2nd)

Barry; Machiavelli; Locke; Winch; Hoffman + Graham - authority

Weber - ideal types + definition of power; also Dowding; Russell for this

Foucault-Habermas - is power positive/negative?; Plamenatz - pro-Foucault

Goodwin - types of power

Wright Mills - 'ins' and 'outs' in first 2 faces

Bachrach + Baratz; Schattschneider - 2nd face

Lukes - preference shaping; criticised by Scott

7 of 7


No comments have yet been made

Similar Government & Politics resources:

See all Government & Politics resources »See all Intro to Politics resources »