Compare And Critically Evaluate Contending Conceptions Of 'power' With Reference To Stop The War Coalition

1783 words - 8 pages

When looking at this title we have to understand that there is more than one conception of power, in the World today. In fact, people may have very differing views on what they conceive to be power. In essence there are three basic arguments, which have been put forward in the past hundred years when trying too define political power. The first view is that of Dahl (1961 and 1968), where power is seen in decision-making and those that help cement the final decisions are seen as the holders of power. Bachrach and Baratz (1962), though, take this theory a stage further and in essence come up with an idea that power is not just about the decisions that are made but the planning / agenda setting ...view middle of the document...

405 [Weber [1922] 1957, p. 152]). This forms a basis for the belief that the power lies with the making of decisions. Dahl talks about power being mostly within the elites and that it is these that help communities / governments make decisions and it is these who are turned too for advice with questions of policy. This is seen in Dahl's book 'Who Governs' (1961) (explained by Bachrach and Baratz, 1962), where he took the example of a town, New Haven, and saw how a committee of 'wealthier' residents was set up for discussion over policies. This committee had power whether to accept or veto decisions. This shows A (decision-makers) getting results that B (those who don't contribute opinions) has to obey with no input from B. Bachrach and Baratz took this view of Dahl's and expanded on it. They didn't dismiss it as nonsense but used it as a foundation for their theory. They say, "of course power is exercised when A participates in the making of decisions that affect B...power is also exercised when A ... [is] creating ... practices that limit the scope of the political process to public consideration" (Bachrach and Baratz, 1962). Therefore they are saying that, while power is reflected in decisions made by A which affect B, also the agendas which are set by A reflect the power which is held. This means that there is power involved through the omission, perhaps, of certain topics etc. which could have been discussed and which may have been relevant to the decision making, but which the agenda setters thought may not help their cause or the decision they desired. Steven Lukes, though takes both of these arguments and says that while each have there good points they are missing a major aspect of what he believes in as power. He (Lukes 1974) sees Dahl's view as one-dimensional i.e. only seeing a limited view of a complicated thought; he then says that Bachrach and Baratz see power as two-dimensional, i.e. they have a more substantial viewpoint, but one that is still fundamentally lacking; finally he has his so called 'three-dimensional' view which adds a new dimension to the already conceived ideas, i.e. manipulation. As he points out, "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" (Lukes, S 1974, p.23). This manipulation, in the form of propaganda, is where people can try and change / force the decisions of the 'power' elite through political action (marches etc.). The 'Stop the War Coalition', were trying to do this through the use of massive protests and petitions - they were trying to manipulate power so as to stop governments going to war in Iraq. In certain instances Pressure groups, such as the pole tax pressure group, have managed to manipulate the 'decision makers' into changing a decision. This can run the other way and the holders of power may try and manipulate it in there favour i.e. at the same time as these 'Stop the...

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