• Save
Political Sociology Week 2: Theories of Power
Upcoming SlideShare
Loading in...5
×
 

Political Sociology Week 2: Theories of Power

on

  • 3,392 views

his week we will be examining classical theories of political sociology examining the origins of political power. Marx and Weber have generally been seen as instigators of the two main currents in ...

his week we will be examining classical theories of political sociology examining the origins of political power. Marx and Weber have generally been seen as instigators of the two main currents in political sociological understandings of state power. Marx and Marxists have emphasised the role of capitalism in creating class divisions that stratify society. Max Weber has been credited with spawning both elitist and pluralist theories. While elitism argues that power is basically controlled by the same culturally reproduced group of power-mongers over generations, pluralists believe that power can be influenced by various groups in civil society exerting pressure on the centre of power.

Marxists tend to have a class-based explanation of the state, emphasising its determination by economic structural factors and the way in which states are driven by capitalist rather than democratic priorities. They see the state as subordinate to particular economic interests rather than as balanced between the interests of plural groups in society. There are, however, differences of emphasis amongst Marxists and within the writings of Marx himself on the question of precisely how and to what extent the state is subordinate to capitalist economic priorities. We shall look at these differences, in order to explain the complexities within Marxist thinking about the importance of the state for understanding society. This has been of crucial importance for the field of political sociology.

Weber was pessimistic about the possibility of mass participation in modern nation-states. He emphasised the role of parliament as a training ground for politicians rather than as a democratic arena. He suggested that parties tend to subvert parliaments and stressed the role of charismatic leadership. He also analysed processes of rationalisation and bureaucratisation, the distinctiveness of the modern nation-state, the importance of legitimacy and authority and the way in which classes and other sorts of groups struggle for power.

Statistics

Views

Total Views
3,392
Views on SlideShare
3,290
Embed Views
102

Actions

Likes
2
Downloads
0
Comments
0

4 Embeds 102

https://studydirect.sussex.ac.uk 60
http://www.scoop.it 18
http://www.alanalentin.net 17
http://www.slideshare.net 7

Accessibility

Upload Details

Uploaded via as Apple Keynote

Usage Rights

© All Rights Reserved

Report content

Flagged as inappropriate Flag as inappropriate
Flag as inappropriate

Select your reason for flagging this presentation as inappropriate.

Cancel
  • Full Name Full Name Comment goes here.
    Are you sure you want to
    Your message goes here
    Processing…
Post Comment
Edit your comment
  • \n
  • People around the world were shocked at the candour of trader, Alessio Rastani, who implied on BBC News in September 2011 that investment banks, speculating on failing economies - and not governments - rule the world.\n\nThe current economic crisis has brought many to return to questions, first raised by Karl Marx, about the nature of the relationship between the state and capital and the effect this has on the relationship between classes - effectively between the rich and the poor in society.\n\nAs Kate Nash explains, political sociologists have typically been concerned with the power of the state rather than with more general questions of how power operates.The state is often seen as the most important site of power because, as Max Weber stated, it has the ‘monopoly over the legitimate means of violence’. The state is the only entity that has the right to enforce itself over individuals.\n\nHowever, we all know that whereas this may be true in theory, individuals are subjected to exploitation and sometimes even violence from a whole host of other sources, in particular their employers. \n\nAs Kieran Allen (2011) explains, although the relationship between employers and the workers may appear to be based on the freedom of workers to enter into a contract or withdraw their labour, in fact the freedom of capital is much greater than that of labour. While capital is free to decide where to operate and who to employ, and in many parts of the world under what conditions to do so, workers are only free to choose between working for different capitalists. Very often, even if a worker is treated badly, they do not have the possibility to withdraw their labour as to do so would mean being unable to feed their family.\n\nBut what we are interested in this week is to look at what gives rise to this situation. \nHow does it come about that different groups in society appear to have so many power differentials? \nIn particular, what role is played by the state - if any - in facilitating the unequal relationship between capital and labour?\n\nWe shall focus on three main approaches to the understanding of power which have underpinned political sociology and continue to be relevant to how we interpret the question of ‘who rules’ - Marxist approaches, elitist approaches and pluralist approaches.\n\n\n
  • 1. Marx and Marxist scholars believe that power is exercised through the control of the means of production meaning that those who do not have access to this control - workers - are disempowered, there are nonetheless different attitudes among Marxists as to the degree to which the state mediates class relations.\n\n2. Theorists of power inspired by a Weberian approach place less emphasis on the power of capital. The writings of Max Weber on power and the state have been credited with inspiring two types of approaches to power:\n\n2 (a) Elite theorists privilege the power of the state, often in collusion with big business, and see this power as basically constant despite appearances to the contrary. \n\n2 (b) Pluralists, on the other hand, see power as more circulating and based on the ability of different interest groups in society to seize the popular imagination, shift public opinion and in this way bring about a change in power dynamics.\n\nWe’ll spend the rest of the lecture fleshing out and critiquing Marxist and Weberian approaches by focusing on:\n\n- Marx’s own changing approach to the relationship between the state and capital\n- The reinterpretation by neo-Marxists of Marx’s writing on power, in particular that of Antonio Gramsci\n- Weber’s understanding of power\n- The main currents in elite theory\n- Some ideas from pluralist theories.\n
  • [Show film]\n\nIn this brief video, David Harvey explains how capital is accumulated and gives some clues as to how capitalists come to wield so much power over western societies. Owning the means of production means being able to transform labour into a commodity - meaning that workers are not free to operate outside the capitalist system which needs them for the accumulation of more profit.\n\nBut, it also means that the role of the state is transformed to meet the demands of capital. As western states begin to grow through colonialist expansion and greater innovation fuelled by technological innovation in machinery and transport, they require the wealth created by a growing capitalist class. \n\nWe are interested in how power is constructed and maintained, so our focus will be on the relationship between capital and the state in Marxist thought.\n\nMarxist perspectives on the state are distinguished by the fact that they place primary emphasis on the inextricable relationship between state power and economic power. \n\nUnlike liberal thinkers who depoliticise this relationship, Marx and Marxists believe that the question of who controls the means of production is an inherently political one and cannot be presented as separate from the discussion of where power lies. \n\nThe state and the market cannot be separate entities, because by acting to secure private property and punishing those who violate it, the state is de facto an interested party, on the side of capital.\n\nDespite the importance of the relationship between the state and capital, Marx conceives this relationship differently throughout his career. Kate Nash distinguishes the three periods as follows:\n\n1. The instrumental model: This is the idea put forward by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. They argued that the bourgeoisie, or the dominant capitalist class rule over the people by controlling the liberal state. This is very similar to the beliefs of elite theorists who, as we shall see later, believe there is ultimately no difference between the interests of big business and the interests of the state.\n\n2. The arbiter model: In contrast, Marx highlights the relative autonomy of the state from capital. The state is able to remain relatively autonomous because of its highly structured bureaucracies. These institutions of the state can both shape civil society and curtail the power of the bourgeoisie within the capitalist state. \n\nDunleavy and O’Leary (1987) see the state as acting as an arbiter in cases where the bourgeoisie is unable to completely dominate the proletariat. The main power of the state in Marx’s view, however, is in the surveillance and punishment of groups that resist its power or that of capital. Ultimately the interests of the state and capital coincide because the state cannot sustain its power autonomously from the bourgeoisie whose control over trade and manufacturing keeps the state’s infrastructure alive. \n\n3. The functionalist model: In his latest writings in Capital Vol. 3, a new model is put forward. Here the state is conceptualised as a superstructure while the economy is the base of the society. The economic base determines the functioning of the political superstructure. \n\nThe state (superstructure) functions independently of the bourgeoisie (i.e. is not directly controlled by it), but nonetheless is entirely geared towards creating the right conditions for capital accumulation. So, political power or differences in political views are unimportant. They merely mask the reality whereby the state’s only purpose is to facilitate capital. \n\nAs Kate Nash shows, this third position was the Marxist orthodoxy and fuelled the ideas of Lenin and others leading to the Russian revolution.\n\nHowever, as we shall now see, many neo-Marxists were more inspired by Marx’s second model - the arbiter model - which seems more flexible and nuanced than either of the other two. \n\n\n
  • [Show film]\n\nIn this brief video, David Harvey explains how capital is accumulated and gives some clues as to how capitalists come to wield so much power over western societies. Owning the means of production means being able to transform labour into a commodity - meaning that workers are not free to operate outside the capitalist system which needs them for the accumulation of more profit.\n\nBut, it also means that the role of the state is transformed to meet the demands of capital. As western states begin to grow through colonialist expansion and greater innovation fuelled by technological innovation in machinery and transport, they require the wealth created by a growing capitalist class. \n\nWe are interested in how power is constructed and maintained, so our focus will be on the relationship between capital and the state in Marxist thought.\n\nMarxist perspectives on the state are distinguished by the fact that they place primary emphasis on the inextricable relationship between state power and economic power. \n\nUnlike liberal thinkers who depoliticise this relationship, Marx and Marxists believe that the question of who controls the means of production is an inherently political one and cannot be presented as separate from the discussion of where power lies. \n\nThe state and the market cannot be separate entities, because by acting to secure private property and punishing those who violate it, the state is de facto an interested party, on the side of capital.\n\nDespite the importance of the relationship between the state and capital, Marx conceives this relationship differently throughout his career. Kate Nash distinguishes the three periods as follows:\n\n1. The instrumental model: This is the idea put forward by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. They argued that the bourgeoisie, or the dominant capitalist class rule over the people by controlling the liberal state. This is very similar to the beliefs of elite theorists who, as we shall see later, believe there is ultimately no difference between the interests of big business and the interests of the state.\n\n2. The arbiter model: In contrast, Marx highlights the relative autonomy of the state from capital. The state is able to remain relatively autonomous because of its highly structured bureaucracies. These institutions of the state can both shape civil society and curtail the power of the bourgeoisie within the capitalist state. \n\nDunleavy and O’Leary (1987) see the state as acting as an arbiter in cases where the bourgeoisie is unable to completely dominate the proletariat. The main power of the state in Marx’s view, however, is in the surveillance and punishment of groups that resist its power or that of capital. Ultimately the interests of the state and capital coincide because the state cannot sustain its power autonomously from the bourgeoisie whose control over trade and manufacturing keeps the state’s infrastructure alive. \n\n3. The functionalist model: In his latest writings in Capital Vol. 3, a new model is put forward. Here the state is conceptualised as a superstructure while the economy is the base of the society. The economic base determines the functioning of the political superstructure. \n\nThe state (superstructure) functions independently of the bourgeoisie (i.e. is not directly controlled by it), but nonetheless is entirely geared towards creating the right conditions for capital accumulation. So, political power or differences in political views are unimportant. They merely mask the reality whereby the state’s only purpose is to facilitate capital. \n\nAs Kate Nash shows, this third position was the Marxist orthodoxy and fuelled the ideas of Lenin and others leading to the Russian revolution.\n\nHowever, as we shall now see, many neo-Marxists were more inspired by Marx’s second model - the arbiter model - which seems more flexible and nuanced than either of the other two. \n\n\n
  • [Show film]\n\nIn this brief video, David Harvey explains how capital is accumulated and gives some clues as to how capitalists come to wield so much power over western societies. Owning the means of production means being able to transform labour into a commodity - meaning that workers are not free to operate outside the capitalist system which needs them for the accumulation of more profit.\n\nBut, it also means that the role of the state is transformed to meet the demands of capital. As western states begin to grow through colonialist expansion and greater innovation fuelled by technological innovation in machinery and transport, they require the wealth created by a growing capitalist class. \n\nWe are interested in how power is constructed and maintained, so our focus will be on the relationship between capital and the state in Marxist thought.\n\nMarxist perspectives on the state are distinguished by the fact that they place primary emphasis on the inextricable relationship between state power and economic power. \n\nUnlike liberal thinkers who depoliticise this relationship, Marx and Marxists believe that the question of who controls the means of production is an inherently political one and cannot be presented as separate from the discussion of where power lies. \n\nThe state and the market cannot be separate entities, because by acting to secure private property and punishing those who violate it, the state is de facto an interested party, on the side of capital.\n\nDespite the importance of the relationship between the state and capital, Marx conceives this relationship differently throughout his career. Kate Nash distinguishes the three periods as follows:\n\n1. The instrumental model: This is the idea put forward by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. They argued that the bourgeoisie, or the dominant capitalist class rule over the people by controlling the liberal state. This is very similar to the beliefs of elite theorists who, as we shall see later, believe there is ultimately no difference between the interests of big business and the interests of the state.\n\n2. The arbiter model: In contrast, Marx highlights the relative autonomy of the state from capital. The state is able to remain relatively autonomous because of its highly structured bureaucracies. These institutions of the state can both shape civil society and curtail the power of the bourgeoisie within the capitalist state. \n\nDunleavy and O’Leary (1987) see the state as acting as an arbiter in cases where the bourgeoisie is unable to completely dominate the proletariat. The main power of the state in Marx’s view, however, is in the surveillance and punishment of groups that resist its power or that of capital. Ultimately the interests of the state and capital coincide because the state cannot sustain its power autonomously from the bourgeoisie whose control over trade and manufacturing keeps the state’s infrastructure alive. \n\n3. The functionalist model: In his latest writings in Capital Vol. 3, a new model is put forward. Here the state is conceptualised as a superstructure while the economy is the base of the society. The economic base determines the functioning of the political superstructure. \n\nThe state (superstructure) functions independently of the bourgeoisie (i.e. is not directly controlled by it), but nonetheless is entirely geared towards creating the right conditions for capital accumulation. So, political power or differences in political views are unimportant. They merely mask the reality whereby the state’s only purpose is to facilitate capital. \n\nAs Kate Nash shows, this third position was the Marxist orthodoxy and fuelled the ideas of Lenin and others leading to the Russian revolution.\n\nHowever, as we shall now see, many neo-Marxists were more inspired by Marx’s second model - the arbiter model - which seems more flexible and nuanced than either of the other two. \n\n\n
  • [Show film]\n\nIn this brief video, David Harvey explains how capital is accumulated and gives some clues as to how capitalists come to wield so much power over western societies. Owning the means of production means being able to transform labour into a commodity - meaning that workers are not free to operate outside the capitalist system which needs them for the accumulation of more profit.\n\nBut, it also means that the role of the state is transformed to meet the demands of capital. As western states begin to grow through colonialist expansion and greater innovation fuelled by technological innovation in machinery and transport, they require the wealth created by a growing capitalist class. \n\nWe are interested in how power is constructed and maintained, so our focus will be on the relationship between capital and the state in Marxist thought.\n\nMarxist perspectives on the state are distinguished by the fact that they place primary emphasis on the inextricable relationship between state power and economic power. \n\nUnlike liberal thinkers who depoliticise this relationship, Marx and Marxists believe that the question of who controls the means of production is an inherently political one and cannot be presented as separate from the discussion of where power lies. \n\nThe state and the market cannot be separate entities, because by acting to secure private property and punishing those who violate it, the state is de facto an interested party, on the side of capital.\n\nDespite the importance of the relationship between the state and capital, Marx conceives this relationship differently throughout his career. Kate Nash distinguishes the three periods as follows:\n\n1. The instrumental model: This is the idea put forward by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. They argued that the bourgeoisie, or the dominant capitalist class rule over the people by controlling the liberal state. This is very similar to the beliefs of elite theorists who, as we shall see later, believe there is ultimately no difference between the interests of big business and the interests of the state.\n\n2. The arbiter model: In contrast, Marx highlights the relative autonomy of the state from capital. The state is able to remain relatively autonomous because of its highly structured bureaucracies. These institutions of the state can both shape civil society and curtail the power of the bourgeoisie within the capitalist state. \n\nDunleavy and O’Leary (1987) see the state as acting as an arbiter in cases where the bourgeoisie is unable to completely dominate the proletariat. The main power of the state in Marx’s view, however, is in the surveillance and punishment of groups that resist its power or that of capital. Ultimately the interests of the state and capital coincide because the state cannot sustain its power autonomously from the bourgeoisie whose control over trade and manufacturing keeps the state’s infrastructure alive. \n\n3. The functionalist model: In his latest writings in Capital Vol. 3, a new model is put forward. Here the state is conceptualised as a superstructure while the economy is the base of the society. The economic base determines the functioning of the political superstructure. \n\nThe state (superstructure) functions independently of the bourgeoisie (i.e. is not directly controlled by it), but nonetheless is entirely geared towards creating the right conditions for capital accumulation. So, political power or differences in political views are unimportant. They merely mask the reality whereby the state’s only purpose is to facilitate capital. \n\nAs Kate Nash shows, this third position was the Marxist orthodoxy and fuelled the ideas of Lenin and others leading to the Russian revolution.\n\nHowever, as we shall now see, many neo-Marxists were more inspired by Marx’s second model - the arbiter model - which seems more flexible and nuanced than either of the other two. \n\n\n
  • [Show film]\n\nIn this brief video, David Harvey explains how capital is accumulated and gives some clues as to how capitalists come to wield so much power over western societies. Owning the means of production means being able to transform labour into a commodity - meaning that workers are not free to operate outside the capitalist system which needs them for the accumulation of more profit.\n\nBut, it also means that the role of the state is transformed to meet the demands of capital. As western states begin to grow through colonialist expansion and greater innovation fuelled by technological innovation in machinery and transport, they require the wealth created by a growing capitalist class. \n\nWe are interested in how power is constructed and maintained, so our focus will be on the relationship between capital and the state in Marxist thought.\n\nMarxist perspectives on the state are distinguished by the fact that they place primary emphasis on the inextricable relationship between state power and economic power. \n\nUnlike liberal thinkers who depoliticise this relationship, Marx and Marxists believe that the question of who controls the means of production is an inherently political one and cannot be presented as separate from the discussion of where power lies. \n\nThe state and the market cannot be separate entities, because by acting to secure private property and punishing those who violate it, the state is de facto an interested party, on the side of capital.\n\nDespite the importance of the relationship between the state and capital, Marx conceives this relationship differently throughout his career. Kate Nash distinguishes the three periods as follows:\n\n1. The instrumental model: This is the idea put forward by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. They argued that the bourgeoisie, or the dominant capitalist class rule over the people by controlling the liberal state. This is very similar to the beliefs of elite theorists who, as we shall see later, believe there is ultimately no difference between the interests of big business and the interests of the state.\n\n2. The arbiter model: In contrast, Marx highlights the relative autonomy of the state from capital. The state is able to remain relatively autonomous because of its highly structured bureaucracies. These institutions of the state can both shape civil society and curtail the power of the bourgeoisie within the capitalist state. \n\nDunleavy and O’Leary (1987) see the state as acting as an arbiter in cases where the bourgeoisie is unable to completely dominate the proletariat. The main power of the state in Marx’s view, however, is in the surveillance and punishment of groups that resist its power or that of capital. Ultimately the interests of the state and capital coincide because the state cannot sustain its power autonomously from the bourgeoisie whose control over trade and manufacturing keeps the state’s infrastructure alive. \n\n3. The functionalist model: In his latest writings in Capital Vol. 3, a new model is put forward. Here the state is conceptualised as a superstructure while the economy is the base of the society. The economic base determines the functioning of the political superstructure. \n\nThe state (superstructure) functions independently of the bourgeoisie (i.e. is not directly controlled by it), but nonetheless is entirely geared towards creating the right conditions for capital accumulation. So, political power or differences in political views are unimportant. They merely mask the reality whereby the state’s only purpose is to facilitate capital. \n\nAs Kate Nash shows, this third position was the Marxist orthodoxy and fuelled the ideas of Lenin and others leading to the Russian revolution.\n\nHowever, as we shall now see, many neo-Marxists were more inspired by Marx’s second model - the arbiter model - which seems more flexible and nuanced than either of the other two. \n\n\n
  • [Show film]\n\nIn this brief video, David Harvey explains how capital is accumulated and gives some clues as to how capitalists come to wield so much power over western societies. Owning the means of production means being able to transform labour into a commodity - meaning that workers are not free to operate outside the capitalist system which needs them for the accumulation of more profit.\n\nBut, it also means that the role of the state is transformed to meet the demands of capital. As western states begin to grow through colonialist expansion and greater innovation fuelled by technological innovation in machinery and transport, they require the wealth created by a growing capitalist class. \n\nWe are interested in how power is constructed and maintained, so our focus will be on the relationship between capital and the state in Marxist thought.\n\nMarxist perspectives on the state are distinguished by the fact that they place primary emphasis on the inextricable relationship between state power and economic power. \n\nUnlike liberal thinkers who depoliticise this relationship, Marx and Marxists believe that the question of who controls the means of production is an inherently political one and cannot be presented as separate from the discussion of where power lies. \n\nThe state and the market cannot be separate entities, because by acting to secure private property and punishing those who violate it, the state is de facto an interested party, on the side of capital.\n\nDespite the importance of the relationship between the state and capital, Marx conceives this relationship differently throughout his career. Kate Nash distinguishes the three periods as follows:\n\n1. The instrumental model: This is the idea put forward by Marx and Engels in the Communist Manifesto. They argued that the bourgeoisie, or the dominant capitalist class rule over the people by controlling the liberal state. This is very similar to the beliefs of elite theorists who, as we shall see later, believe there is ultimately no difference between the interests of big business and the interests of the state.\n\n2. The arbiter model: In contrast, Marx highlights the relative autonomy of the state from capital. The state is able to remain relatively autonomous because of its highly structured bureaucracies. These institutions of the state can both shape civil society and curtail the power of the bourgeoisie within the capitalist state. \n\nDunleavy and O’Leary (1987) see the state as acting as an arbiter in cases where the bourgeoisie is unable to completely dominate the proletariat. The main power of the state in Marx’s view, however, is in the surveillance and punishment of groups that resist its power or that of capital. Ultimately the interests of the state and capital coincide because the state cannot sustain its power autonomously from the bourgeoisie whose control over trade and manufacturing keeps the state’s infrastructure alive. \n\n3. The functionalist model: In his latest writings in Capital Vol. 3, a new model is put forward. Here the state is conceptualised as a superstructure while the economy is the base of the society. The economic base determines the functioning of the political superstructure. \n\nThe state (superstructure) functions independently of the bourgeoisie (i.e. is not directly controlled by it), but nonetheless is entirely geared towards creating the right conditions for capital accumulation. So, political power or differences in political views are unimportant. They merely mask the reality whereby the state’s only purpose is to facilitate capital. \n\nAs Kate Nash shows, this third position was the Marxist orthodoxy and fuelled the ideas of Lenin and others leading to the Russian revolution.\n\nHowever, as we shall now see, many neo-Marxists were more inspired by Marx’s second model - the arbiter model - which seems more flexible and nuanced than either of the other two. \n\n\n
  • Neo-Marxists including the Italian Antonio Gramsci, the French Louis Althusser (a functionalist) as well as later figures such as Nicos Poulantzas are inspired by Marx but take issue with the economic determinism of Marx’s third approach to state power. \n\nWe do not have time to go into the differences between the various neo-Marxist thinkers, so will focus on one important idea first posited by Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci goes back to Marx’s second, less well-known approach, which places more emphasis on the state’s role as arbiter between labour and capital and bring back an emphasis on politics rather than economics alone.\n\nThe idea of hegemony associated with Gramsci has become central to the work of many scholars who seek to show how political culture is shaped by the predominance of certain ideologies over others, and how this in turn determines the opportunities some have and to which others are denied. \n\nUnlike Marx, Gramsci does not consider the state to be the only site where politics is done. He places great emphasis on the role of civil society - that is competing groups within society such as trade unions, the Church, and so on.Today we could add in the myriad interest groups (environmentalists, women’s and gay rights, consumer rights groups, etc. as being part of this). Politics is about sensitising and involving these groups rather than merely being a functional and institutional set of processes practiced at the level of the state.\n\nThe job of those who want power, in Gramsci’s view is twofold.\n\n1. Firstly, hegemony is about the dominant class - the bourgeoisie in Gramsci’s view - gaining consent for its rule. It does this through a series of negotiations and compromises with other groups in civil society, most significantly workers. So, it is not just that capitalists harness state power in order to extract the working class’s labour in a directly exploitative sense. Workers also participate in creating this situation by accepting it and complying with it for the mist part.\n\nGramsci explains this by noting the relationship between coercion and consent. He says that ultimately the ability to create consent rests on the state’s capacity to repress its citizens if they fail to comply through its control of the means of violence - the army, the police, prisons, etc. \n\nBut Steve Jones (2006) problematises this relationship by pointing out that most repressive institutions operate with a high dgree of consent. For example, most ordinary people call for more - not less - police on the streets. \n\n2. This relates to the other important aspect of Gramsci’s thought - hegemony as the creation of commonsense. As Jones explains, rarely do states in the West carry out the kind of direct violence against its own systems that Gramsci experienced in fascist Italy. However, the state operates what Pierre Bourdieu calls ‘symbolic violence’ - the creation of a discourse according to which it is right to marginalise, exclude, imprison or deport those deemed undesirable to society. For example, it has become almost universally accepted that ‘illegal immigrants’ should be deported to their countries of origin even if they risk human rights abuses or their country is at war.\n\nThis is hegemony as commonsense - quite simply, the ideas of the dominant political and economic class becomes those that are most widely accepted in society. In the current context, this perhaps explains why the majority of UK citizens accept the government’s austerity measures as a necessary bitter pill: the consequences of not bailing out the banks are seen as worse than challenging the supremacy of finance capitalism. So ordinary people face higher bills, job insecurity, and worse for what is portrayed to be a common goal. As David Cameron says, ‘we’re all in this together’. The slogan can only work, for a Gramscian perspective, because the ideas of the ruling class have successfully become hegemonic. \n\n3. Gramsci opposes commonsense to good sense. Good sense is much more akin to what we generally take ‘commonsense’ to mean. Gramsci says that any progressive project must appeal to ordinary people’s good sense, meaning it must function on the level of emotions so that people can connect to it. So, movements that seek to challenge the powers of the dominant class will not work if they are too intellectual. Leaders of progressive movements have to connect with people on the things that matter to them in their daily lives. If this can be done, according to Gramsci, hegemony can shift. In other words, the current status quo whereby the state rules in the interests of capital is not inevitable. We can therefore see in Gramsci’s ideas a precursor to the pluralist theories of power that we will shortly come to. \n\n
  • Neo-Marxists including the Italian Antonio Gramsci, the French Louis Althusser (a functionalist) as well as later figures such as Nicos Poulantzas are inspired by Marx but take issue with the economic determinism of Marx’s third approach to state power. \n\nWe do not have time to go into the differences between the various neo-Marxist thinkers, so will focus on one important idea first posited by Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci goes back to Marx’s second, less well-known approach, which places more emphasis on the state’s role as arbiter between labour and capital and bring back an emphasis on politics rather than economics alone.\n\nThe idea of hegemony associated with Gramsci has become central to the work of many scholars who seek to show how political culture is shaped by the predominance of certain ideologies over others, and how this in turn determines the opportunities some have and to which others are denied. \n\nUnlike Marx, Gramsci does not consider the state to be the only site where politics is done. He places great emphasis on the role of civil society - that is competing groups within society such as trade unions, the Church, and so on.Today we could add in the myriad interest groups (environmentalists, women’s and gay rights, consumer rights groups, etc. as being part of this). Politics is about sensitising and involving these groups rather than merely being a functional and institutional set of processes practiced at the level of the state.\n\nThe job of those who want power, in Gramsci’s view is twofold.\n\n1. Firstly, hegemony is about the dominant class - the bourgeoisie in Gramsci’s view - gaining consent for its rule. It does this through a series of negotiations and compromises with other groups in civil society, most significantly workers. So, it is not just that capitalists harness state power in order to extract the working class’s labour in a directly exploitative sense. Workers also participate in creating this situation by accepting it and complying with it for the mist part.\n\nGramsci explains this by noting the relationship between coercion and consent. He says that ultimately the ability to create consent rests on the state’s capacity to repress its citizens if they fail to comply through its control of the means of violence - the army, the police, prisons, etc. \n\nBut Steve Jones (2006) problematises this relationship by pointing out that most repressive institutions operate with a high dgree of consent. For example, most ordinary people call for more - not less - police on the streets. \n\n2. This relates to the other important aspect of Gramsci’s thought - hegemony as the creation of commonsense. As Jones explains, rarely do states in the West carry out the kind of direct violence against its own systems that Gramsci experienced in fascist Italy. However, the state operates what Pierre Bourdieu calls ‘symbolic violence’ - the creation of a discourse according to which it is right to marginalise, exclude, imprison or deport those deemed undesirable to society. For example, it has become almost universally accepted that ‘illegal immigrants’ should be deported to their countries of origin even if they risk human rights abuses or their country is at war.\n\nThis is hegemony as commonsense - quite simply, the ideas of the dominant political and economic class becomes those that are most widely accepted in society. In the current context, this perhaps explains why the majority of UK citizens accept the government’s austerity measures as a necessary bitter pill: the consequences of not bailing out the banks are seen as worse than challenging the supremacy of finance capitalism. So ordinary people face higher bills, job insecurity, and worse for what is portrayed to be a common goal. As David Cameron says, ‘we’re all in this together’. The slogan can only work, for a Gramscian perspective, because the ideas of the ruling class have successfully become hegemonic. \n\n3. Gramsci opposes commonsense to good sense. Good sense is much more akin to what we generally take ‘commonsense’ to mean. Gramsci says that any progressive project must appeal to ordinary people’s good sense, meaning it must function on the level of emotions so that people can connect to it. So, movements that seek to challenge the powers of the dominant class will not work if they are too intellectual. Leaders of progressive movements have to connect with people on the things that matter to them in their daily lives. If this can be done, according to Gramsci, hegemony can shift. In other words, the current status quo whereby the state rules in the interests of capital is not inevitable. We can therefore see in Gramsci’s ideas a precursor to the pluralist theories of power that we will shortly come to. \n\n
  • Neo-Marxists including the Italian Antonio Gramsci, the French Louis Althusser (a functionalist) as well as later figures such as Nicos Poulantzas are inspired by Marx but take issue with the economic determinism of Marx’s third approach to state power. \n\nWe do not have time to go into the differences between the various neo-Marxist thinkers, so will focus on one important idea first posited by Antonio Gramsci. Gramsci goes back to Marx’s second, less well-known approach, which places more emphasis on the state’s role as arbiter between labour and capital and bring back an emphasis on politics rather than economics alone.\n\nThe idea of hegemony associated with Gramsci has become central to the work of many scholars who seek to show how political culture is shaped by the predominance of certain ideologies over others, and how this in turn determines the opportunities some have and to which others are denied. \n\nUnlike Marx, Gramsci does not consider the state to be the only site where politics is done. He places great emphasis on the role of civil society - that is competing groups within society such as trade unions, the Church, and so on.Today we could add in the myriad interest groups (environmentalists, women’s and gay rights, consumer rights groups, etc. as being part of this). Politics is about sensitising and involving these groups rather than merely being a functional and institutional set of processes practiced at the level of the state.\n\nThe job of those who want power, in Gramsci’s view is twofold.\n\n1. Firstly, hegemony is about the dominant class - the bourgeoisie in Gramsci’s view - gaining consent for its rule. It does this through a series of negotiations and compromises with other groups in civil society, most significantly workers. So, it is not just that capitalists harness state power in order to extract the working class’s labour in a directly exploitative sense. Workers also participate in creating this situation by accepting it and complying with it for the mist part.\n\nGramsci explains this by noting the relationship between coercion and consent. He says that ultimately the ability to create consent rests on the state’s capacity to repress its citizens if they fail to comply through its control of the means of violence - the army, the police, prisons, etc. \n\nBut Steve Jones (2006) problematises this relationship by pointing out that most repressive institutions operate with a high dgree of consent. For example, most ordinary people call for more - not less - police on the streets. \n\n2. This relates to the other important aspect of Gramsci’s thought - hegemony as the creation of commonsense. As Jones explains, rarely do states in the West carry out the kind of direct violence against its own systems that Gramsci experienced in fascist Italy. However, the state operates what Pierre Bourdieu calls ‘symbolic violence’ - the creation of a discourse according to which it is right to marginalise, exclude, imprison or deport those deemed undesirable to society. For example, it has become almost universally accepted that ‘illegal immigrants’ should be deported to their countries of origin even if they risk human rights abuses or their country is at war.\n\nThis is hegemony as commonsense - quite simply, the ideas of the dominant political and economic class becomes those that are most widely accepted in society. In the current context, this perhaps explains why the majority of UK citizens accept the government’s austerity measures as a necessary bitter pill: the consequences of not bailing out the banks are seen as worse than challenging the supremacy of finance capitalism. So ordinary people face higher bills, job insecurity, and worse for what is portrayed to be a common goal. As David Cameron says, ‘we’re all in this together’. The slogan can only work, for a Gramscian perspective, because the ideas of the ruling class have successfully become hegemonic. \n\n3. Gramsci opposes commonsense to good sense. Good sense is much more akin to what we generally take ‘commonsense’ to mean. Gramsci says that any progressive project must appeal to ordinary people’s good sense, meaning it must function on the level of emotions so that people can connect to it. So, movements that seek to challenge the powers of the dominant class will not work if they are too intellectual. Leaders of progressive movements have to connect with people on the things that matter to them in their daily lives. If this can be done, according to Gramsci, hegemony can shift. In other words, the current status quo whereby the state rules in the interests of capital is not inevitable. We can therefore see in Gramsci’s ideas a precursor to the pluralist theories of power that we will shortly come to. \n\n
  • Max Weber, who along with Marx and Durkheim is seen as one of the founding fathers of European sociology, objected to Marx’s focus on the interrelationship between the state and capital.\n\nHe has been seen as a precursor to both elitist and pluralist thought, containing both perspectives within his theory of the state. \n\nWeber was a champion of European liberal-democracy and he thus opposed revolutionary Marxist ideas about the destruction of the state. Weber sees the power of the state and the bureaucracy upon which it is based, as inevitable. Quite simply, in organisations as large-scale as the state the rise of functionaries who have the technical skill and knowledge necessary to run such large and complex machines is unavoidable. \n\nWeber’s unique contribution to theorising the modern state is his characterisation of the state as having the monopoly over the legitimate means of violence in a given territory. The legitimacy of the modern western state in this domain is provided by the legal structure in which people believe and generally see as functional. \n\nTherefore, the state is separate to capital. Although the rise of capitalism helped shape and enlarge modern state bureaucracies, it cannot be reduced to the interests of the economically dominant class. \n\nWeber’s analysis of the nature of the state contains elements of both elitism and pluralism. Weber sees the power of the bureaucracy - more than that of political leaders - as potentially oligarchic (all powerful). He was therefore concerned with the necessity of holding the bureaucracy accountable. \n\nHowever, he advocates for the importance of a well-trained representative parliamentary system because he sees it as giving rise to great leaders who could ensure ‘national greatness’ (Held: 42). Inter-national competition for Weber, who believed in the primacy of the nation-state, was more important than democracy as a principle for society, which he saw as generally impossible. \n\nLike the pluralists, Weber saw interest groups and political parties - so-called ‘status groups’ - as equally important to classes in the establishment of state power. \n\nHowever, like elite theorists, he was extremely pessimistic about the ability of different groups to take power once bureaucratic control become established. Moreover, he does not see this as entirely negative because direct accountability to the masses would result in the inefficiency of the administration and he views the majority of society as uninterested in the working of politics.\n\nKeeping Weber’s important influence on both elitists and pluralists in mid, let us now turn to a discussion of Elite theory.\n\n
  • An elitist approach to an understanding of power covers two groups of theorists - those who see elitism in matters of power and politics as a good things and those who see it as a bad thing.\n\n1. Originally associated with two Italian thinkers Pareto and Mosca, ‘good elitism’ focuses on the necessity of strong rulers. Pareto famously characterised leaders as divisible into cunning foxes and strong and constant lions, both of whom were necessary to maintain rule over complex nation-states in competition with each other.\n\nMuch elite theory is justified by the idea of the ‘tyranny of the majority’. This is based on the idea that ordinary people will naturally turn on minorities who need protection from a strong state. However, anarchist and socialist thinkers have challenged this idea, focusing instead on individuals’ capacity for cooperation if not faced with the hardships imposed by an exploitative capitalist system.\n\n2. A second type of elite theorist does not see elite rule as good, but as inevitable. This position is most commonly associated with the German social democrat Robert Michels, and the American sociologist C. Wright Mills as well as Joseph Schumpeter.\n\nMichels:\n\nBased on a Weberian analysis of modern state structures, Robert Michels saw rule by the elite as inevitable and government by the people as ultimately impossible:\n\nThe most formidable argument against the sovereignty of the masses is, however, derived from the mechanical and technical impossibility of its realisation.\nRobert Michels, Government by the Masses\n\nHe sees what he termed, ‘the iron rule of oligarchy’ as a constant of modern bureaucratic states which can only be run hierarchically. Quite simply, a nation-state is too large an entity for all disputes to be solved directly by the rulers who cannot possibly be concerned by everything that happens in society. \n\nMichels, unlike other elitists, sees this as tragic. While democracy in principle accords the state the right to rule on the people’s behalf, this is very quickly perverted. This is because the sheer complexity of organisations in modern society require a greater degree of expertise which creates a need for elites who are well-versed in the technologies of rule. \n\nEven workers’ organisations are blighted by the rule of elites, according to Michels. Looking at the growth of trade unions and the German Socialist Party, he shows that however democratic the principles upon which they are founded, the need to raise funds and build up an electoral machine gives rise to a trained elite with their ‘knowledge of legal matters and their capacity as letter-writers’ (Michels: 29). \n\nUnder these conditions, Michels claims, democracy disappears. He follows Rousseau who said that ‘at the moment that a people gives itself representatives, it is no longer free, it no longer is’ (Michels: 36). The act of electing who will reign over them is the only freedom left to the people who are deluded into thinking that this constitutes freedom. \n\nHe turns to the anarchist thinker Proudhon who claimed that as soon as democratic representatives gain power they turn their attention to the reinforcement of their influence and control. \n\nMichels agrees with Mosca that as soon as an election is over the power of the electors is over. Democracy is an illusion and elite rule is inevitable.\n\nMills:\n\nC. Wright Mills’s 1950 study of ‘The Power Elite’ influentially consolidated elite theory as a major focus of US political sociology. \n\nMills divides the elite into three main groups: the military, the corporate and the political. The connections between the three have become cemented after World War Two with the ‘growth of a permanent war establishment in a privatised incorporated economy’ (Nash, 2000: 14). \n\nThe oligarchic rule over US society by these three groups is damaging to democracy, preventing it from functioning. Mills focuses on the reproduction of the ruling class which go to the same schools and universities and nepotistically promote each other to the exclusion of others. Mills also places emphasis on the role of the media in creating ignorance among the public which he sees as leading to a mix of complacency and the understanding by individuals that they lack power to bring about change. \n\nIt may be fair to argue that the relationship between these three groups is still alive and well, coming to the fore over the last decade with the interrelated interests of the government, the military and the corporate world being ensured through the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.\n\n[something on Essed’s cloning cultures]\n\n3. Elitism versus Marxism\n\nIt may sound as if the position taken by elite theorists such as Mills and Michels is no different from Marx’s when he sees the state as functioning only to protect the interests of the capitalist class. However, it is necessary to point out the differences in these approaches.\n\nNeither Mills nor Michels sees the bourgeoisie as the only source of real power as Marxist elitists such as Ralph Miliband saw it. For Michels, it is the state bureaucracy which is the ultimate source of power because it continues to control institutions despite changes in government and the economy.\n\nFor Mills, a state elite which mirrors the unevenness of power relations in society holds the reigns of power. Turning now to ideas of pluralism, we might want to ask the extent to which recent changes, such as the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency may have changed Mills’s perspective. On the one hand, Obama as a black man is from an excluded minority group. On the other hand, he went to Ivy league colleges and had a career which mirrored many of his white contemporaries. \n\nDoes Obama make the case for elitism or pluralism?\n\n\n\n \n
  • An elitist approach to an understanding of power covers two groups of theorists - those who see elitism in matters of power and politics as a good things and those who see it as a bad thing.\n\n1. Originally associated with two Italian thinkers Pareto and Mosca, ‘good elitism’ focuses on the necessity of strong rulers. Pareto famously characterised leaders as divisible into cunning foxes and strong and constant lions, both of whom were necessary to maintain rule over complex nation-states in competition with each other.\n\nMuch elite theory is justified by the idea of the ‘tyranny of the majority’. This is based on the idea that ordinary people will naturally turn on minorities who need protection from a strong state. However, anarchist and socialist thinkers have challenged this idea, focusing instead on individuals’ capacity for cooperation if not faced with the hardships imposed by an exploitative capitalist system.\n\n2. A second type of elite theorist does not see elite rule as good, but as inevitable. This position is most commonly associated with the German social democrat Robert Michels, and the American sociologist C. Wright Mills as well as Joseph Schumpeter.\n\nMichels:\n\nBased on a Weberian analysis of modern state structures, Robert Michels saw rule by the elite as inevitable and government by the people as ultimately impossible:\n\nThe most formidable argument against the sovereignty of the masses is, however, derived from the mechanical and technical impossibility of its realisation.\nRobert Michels, Government by the Masses\n\nHe sees what he termed, ‘the iron rule of oligarchy’ as a constant of modern bureaucratic states which can only be run hierarchically. Quite simply, a nation-state is too large an entity for all disputes to be solved directly by the rulers who cannot possibly be concerned by everything that happens in society. \n\nMichels, unlike other elitists, sees this as tragic. While democracy in principle accords the state the right to rule on the people’s behalf, this is very quickly perverted. This is because the sheer complexity of organisations in modern society require a greater degree of expertise which creates a need for elites who are well-versed in the technologies of rule. \n\nEven workers’ organisations are blighted by the rule of elites, according to Michels. Looking at the growth of trade unions and the German Socialist Party, he shows that however democratic the principles upon which they are founded, the need to raise funds and build up an electoral machine gives rise to a trained elite with their ‘knowledge of legal matters and their capacity as letter-writers’ (Michels: 29). \n\nUnder these conditions, Michels claims, democracy disappears. He follows Rousseau who said that ‘at the moment that a people gives itself representatives, it is no longer free, it no longer is’ (Michels: 36). The act of electing who will reign over them is the only freedom left to the people who are deluded into thinking that this constitutes freedom. \n\nHe turns to the anarchist thinker Proudhon who claimed that as soon as democratic representatives gain power they turn their attention to the reinforcement of their influence and control. \n\nMichels agrees with Mosca that as soon as an election is over the power of the electors is over. Democracy is an illusion and elite rule is inevitable.\n\nMills:\n\nC. Wright Mills’s 1950 study of ‘The Power Elite’ influentially consolidated elite theory as a major focus of US political sociology. \n\nMills divides the elite into three main groups: the military, the corporate and the political. The connections between the three have become cemented after World War Two with the ‘growth of a permanent war establishment in a privatised incorporated economy’ (Nash, 2000: 14). \n\nThe oligarchic rule over US society by these three groups is damaging to democracy, preventing it from functioning. Mills focuses on the reproduction of the ruling class which go to the same schools and universities and nepotistically promote each other to the exclusion of others. Mills also places emphasis on the role of the media in creating ignorance among the public which he sees as leading to a mix of complacency and the understanding by individuals that they lack power to bring about change. \n\nIt may be fair to argue that the relationship between these three groups is still alive and well, coming to the fore over the last decade with the interrelated interests of the government, the military and the corporate world being ensured through the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.\n\n[something on Essed’s cloning cultures]\n\n3. Elitism versus Marxism\n\nIt may sound as if the position taken by elite theorists such as Mills and Michels is no different from Marx’s when he sees the state as functioning only to protect the interests of the capitalist class. However, it is necessary to point out the differences in these approaches.\n\nNeither Mills nor Michels sees the bourgeoisie as the only source of real power as Marxist elitists such as Ralph Miliband saw it. For Michels, it is the state bureaucracy which is the ultimate source of power because it continues to control institutions despite changes in government and the economy.\n\nFor Mills, a state elite which mirrors the unevenness of power relations in society holds the reigns of power. Turning now to ideas of pluralism, we might want to ask the extent to which recent changes, such as the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency may have changed Mills’s perspective. On the one hand, Obama as a black man is from an excluded minority group. On the other hand, he went to Ivy league colleges and had a career which mirrored many of his white contemporaries. \n\nDoes Obama make the case for elitism or pluralism?\n\n\n\n \n
  • An elitist approach to an understanding of power covers two groups of theorists - those who see elitism in matters of power and politics as a good things and those who see it as a bad thing.\n\n1. Originally associated with two Italian thinkers Pareto and Mosca, ‘good elitism’ focuses on the necessity of strong rulers. Pareto famously characterised leaders as divisible into cunning foxes and strong and constant lions, both of whom were necessary to maintain rule over complex nation-states in competition with each other.\n\nMuch elite theory is justified by the idea of the ‘tyranny of the majority’. This is based on the idea that ordinary people will naturally turn on minorities who need protection from a strong state. However, anarchist and socialist thinkers have challenged this idea, focusing instead on individuals’ capacity for cooperation if not faced with the hardships imposed by an exploitative capitalist system.\n\n2. A second type of elite theorist does not see elite rule as good, but as inevitable. This position is most commonly associated with the German social democrat Robert Michels, and the American sociologist C. Wright Mills as well as Joseph Schumpeter.\n\nMichels:\n\nBased on a Weberian analysis of modern state structures, Robert Michels saw rule by the elite as inevitable and government by the people as ultimately impossible:\n\nThe most formidable argument against the sovereignty of the masses is, however, derived from the mechanical and technical impossibility of its realisation.\nRobert Michels, Government by the Masses\n\nHe sees what he termed, ‘the iron rule of oligarchy’ as a constant of modern bureaucratic states which can only be run hierarchically. Quite simply, a nation-state is too large an entity for all disputes to be solved directly by the rulers who cannot possibly be concerned by everything that happens in society. \n\nMichels, unlike other elitists, sees this as tragic. While democracy in principle accords the state the right to rule on the people’s behalf, this is very quickly perverted. This is because the sheer complexity of organisations in modern society require a greater degree of expertise which creates a need for elites who are well-versed in the technologies of rule. \n\nEven workers’ organisations are blighted by the rule of elites, according to Michels. Looking at the growth of trade unions and the German Socialist Party, he shows that however democratic the principles upon which they are founded, the need to raise funds and build up an electoral machine gives rise to a trained elite with their ‘knowledge of legal matters and their capacity as letter-writers’ (Michels: 29). \n\nUnder these conditions, Michels claims, democracy disappears. He follows Rousseau who said that ‘at the moment that a people gives itself representatives, it is no longer free, it no longer is’ (Michels: 36). The act of electing who will reign over them is the only freedom left to the people who are deluded into thinking that this constitutes freedom. \n\nHe turns to the anarchist thinker Proudhon who claimed that as soon as democratic representatives gain power they turn their attention to the reinforcement of their influence and control. \n\nMichels agrees with Mosca that as soon as an election is over the power of the electors is over. Democracy is an illusion and elite rule is inevitable.\n\nMills:\n\nC. Wright Mills’s 1950 study of ‘The Power Elite’ influentially consolidated elite theory as a major focus of US political sociology. \n\nMills divides the elite into three main groups: the military, the corporate and the political. The connections between the three have become cemented after World War Two with the ‘growth of a permanent war establishment in a privatised incorporated economy’ (Nash, 2000: 14). \n\nThe oligarchic rule over US society by these three groups is damaging to democracy, preventing it from functioning. Mills focuses on the reproduction of the ruling class which go to the same schools and universities and nepotistically promote each other to the exclusion of others. Mills also places emphasis on the role of the media in creating ignorance among the public which he sees as leading to a mix of complacency and the understanding by individuals that they lack power to bring about change. \n\nIt may be fair to argue that the relationship between these three groups is still alive and well, coming to the fore over the last decade with the interrelated interests of the government, the military and the corporate world being ensured through the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.\n\n[something on Essed’s cloning cultures]\n\n3. Elitism versus Marxism\n\nIt may sound as if the position taken by elite theorists such as Mills and Michels is no different from Marx’s when he sees the state as functioning only to protect the interests of the capitalist class. However, it is necessary to point out the differences in these approaches.\n\nNeither Mills nor Michels sees the bourgeoisie as the only source of real power as Marxist elitists such as Ralph Miliband saw it. For Michels, it is the state bureaucracy which is the ultimate source of power because it continues to control institutions despite changes in government and the economy.\n\nFor Mills, a state elite which mirrors the unevenness of power relations in society holds the reigns of power. Turning now to ideas of pluralism, we might want to ask the extent to which recent changes, such as the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency may have changed Mills’s perspective. On the one hand, Obama as a black man is from an excluded minority group. On the other hand, he went to Ivy league colleges and had a career which mirrored many of his white contemporaries. \n\nDoes Obama make the case for elitism or pluralism?\n\n\n\n \n
  • Advocates of the idea of pluralism deny the elitist notion that power is hierarchically organised. Rather, power is more diffused in society and can be mobilised by different groups at different times and under different circumstances. \n\nAlthough pluralists admit the existence of inequality in liberal-democracies, they do not reduce it to the unequal control over the means of production, as Marxists do. Pluralist thought can be seen as being a reaction to both Marxist and elitist frameworks.\n\nRichard Bellamy:\n\nRichard Bellamy (2001) traces the development of pluralist thought, and advances a new theory that he sees as adaptable to contemporary western societies. Firstly, he emphasises the theme of functional representation. Under this premise, early pluralists writing at the beginning of the 20th century argued that people identify more with functional associations, such as trade unions, than with territorial units, such as nation-states. Therefore, it is impossible for people to be represented adequately on a territorial basis. Rather they should be represented according to their memberships of different organisations, be they political, cultural, social, religious and so on. They envisaged the political system as being organised as a federal structure in which the interests of the various associations to which individuals belong would be represented. \n\nWithin such a system, the principle of the corporate personality is key. This means that associations do more than just collectively represent individuals’ interests; they form their identity. What association you belong to says a great deal about who you are, possibly more than what nation you belong to. In pluralist thought, power of the state to impose one single vision of society is seen as less significant than the interest of individuals, and their associations. \n\nOn this basis, pluralists see it as more effective to devolve power from the centre, creating horizontal rather than top-down structures. Whereas pluralists do not advocate the end of the state, they envisage its power as much more federal in nature. \n\nRobert Dahl:\n\nDahl’s 1957 study of the organisation of politics in New Haven is a landmark study of power from a pluralist perspective. Dahl sees power as epitomised by the statement ‘A has power over B’. However, A’s power over B is limited in scope and A does not have the capacity to control everything that B does. In other words, power is constrained by context. \n\nDahl’s study which led to this conclusion was based on his examination of decision-making around several key issues in local politics in New Haven. He concluded that there was no dominant group or person in the town. Rather, different groups concentrated their interests on different issues, meaning that sometimes one group set the agenda, while at other times, on different issues, another group held sway. \n\nThis is what Dahl calls polyarchy. Politics are based on coalitions of minorities, rather than on majorities. In some cases, individuals will find themselves in the majority, and in others, in the minority on a specific issue.\n\nCritiques of Dahl:\n\nDahl’s conclusions and those of other pluralists led to the belief that all individuals and groups have power sometimes in some circumstances. Even the least powerful are able to make their voices heard at some stage. \n\nHowever, critics have claimed that Dahl’s conception of power is overly optimistic and does not take into account the inequalities that exist in society before decision-making takes place. In other words, by looking at the decision-making process alone, Dahl and his colleagues failed to see that some issues never make it onto the agenda in the first place. \n\nIn other words, whereas there are minorities among those allowed to the negotiating table, there are others - many more - who never get invited to participate. This continues to be the case for many ethnic and racialised minorities, sexual minorities, the disabled and so forth.\n\nWill Kymlicka:\n\nLater theorists, taking note of Dahl’s shortcomings and attempting to resuscitate the notion devised a rather different conception of pluralism. For example, Will Kymlicka, writing from the Canadian context develops a view which requires certain safeguards to be put in place for pluralist decision-making to take place. \n\nHe links participation in the political arena to group rights. In order to make it onto the agenda, those groups with less power have to be granted rights that have been denied them, leading to their exclusion from politics. \n\nKymlicka talks about self-government rights, polyethnic rights and special representation rights (Bellamy, 2001). Particularly the last two attempt to redress the inequalities faced by ‘minority’ groups in our diverse societies. To be implemented, they require certain measures to be put into place which meet the requirements of those who do not originate in the dominant cultural group. \n\nA concrete example is the institutionalisation of affirmative action programmes to redress the inequality faced by non-white people, women, the disabled and others in education, the workplace etc. We will take up the discussion of ‘special rights’ when we look at the theme of citizenship and inequality in Week 8.\n
  • Advocates of the idea of pluralism deny the elitist notion that power is hierarchically organised. Rather, power is more diffused in society and can be mobilised by different groups at different times and under different circumstances. \n\nAlthough pluralists admit the existence of inequality in liberal-democracies, they do not reduce it to the unequal control over the means of production, as Marxists do. Pluralist thought can be seen as being a reaction to both Marxist and elitist frameworks.\n\nRichard Bellamy:\n\nRichard Bellamy (2001) traces the development of pluralist thought, and advances a new theory that he sees as adaptable to contemporary western societies. Firstly, he emphasises the theme of functional representation. Under this premise, early pluralists writing at the beginning of the 20th century argued that people identify more with functional associations, such as trade unions, than with territorial units, such as nation-states. Therefore, it is impossible for people to be represented adequately on a territorial basis. Rather they should be represented according to their memberships of different organisations, be they political, cultural, social, religious and so on. They envisaged the political system as being organised as a federal structure in which the interests of the various associations to which individuals belong would be represented. \n\nWithin such a system, the principle of the corporate personality is key. This means that associations do more than just collectively represent individuals’ interests; they form their identity. What association you belong to says a great deal about who you are, possibly more than what nation you belong to. In pluralist thought, power of the state to impose one single vision of society is seen as less significant than the interest of individuals, and their associations. \n\nOn this basis, pluralists see it as more effective to devolve power from the centre, creating horizontal rather than top-down structures. Whereas pluralists do not advocate the end of the state, they envisage its power as much more federal in nature. \n\nRobert Dahl:\n\nDahl’s 1957 study of the organisation of politics in New Haven is a landmark study of power from a pluralist perspective. Dahl sees power as epitomised by the statement ‘A has power over B’. However, A’s power over B is limited in scope and A does not have the capacity to control everything that B does. In other words, power is constrained by context. \n\nDahl’s study which led to this conclusion was based on his examination of decision-making around several key issues in local politics in New Haven. He concluded that there was no dominant group or person in the town. Rather, different groups concentrated their interests on different issues, meaning that sometimes one group set the agenda, while at other times, on different issues, another group held sway. \n\nThis is what Dahl calls polyarchy. Politics are based on coalitions of minorities, rather than on majorities. In some cases, individuals will find themselves in the majority, and in others, in the minority on a specific issue.\n\nCritiques of Dahl:\n\nDahl’s conclusions and those of other pluralists led to the belief that all individuals and groups have power sometimes in some circumstances. Even the least powerful are able to make their voices heard at some stage. \n\nHowever, critics have claimed that Dahl’s conception of power is overly optimistic and does not take into account the inequalities that exist in society before decision-making takes place. In other words, by looking at the decision-making process alone, Dahl and his colleagues failed to see that some issues never make it onto the agenda in the first place. \n\nIn other words, whereas there are minorities among those allowed to the negotiating table, there are others - many more - who never get invited to participate. This continues to be the case for many ethnic and racialised minorities, sexual minorities, the disabled and so forth.\n\nWill Kymlicka:\n\nLater theorists, taking note of Dahl’s shortcomings and attempting to resuscitate the notion devised a rather different conception of pluralism. For example, Will Kymlicka, writing from the Canadian context develops a view which requires certain safeguards to be put in place for pluralist decision-making to take place. \n\nHe links participation in the political arena to group rights. In order to make it onto the agenda, those groups with less power have to be granted rights that have been denied them, leading to their exclusion from politics. \n\nKymlicka talks about self-government rights, polyethnic rights and special representation rights (Bellamy, 2001). Particularly the last two attempt to redress the inequalities faced by ‘minority’ groups in our diverse societies. To be implemented, they require certain measures to be put into place which meet the requirements of those who do not originate in the dominant cultural group. \n\nA concrete example is the institutionalisation of affirmative action programmes to redress the inequality faced by non-white people, women, the disabled and others in education, the workplace etc. We will take up the discussion of ‘special rights’ when we look at the theme of citizenship and inequality in Week 8.\n
  • Advocates of the idea of pluralism deny the elitist notion that power is hierarchically organised. Rather, power is more diffused in society and can be mobilised by different groups at different times and under different circumstances. \n\nAlthough pluralists admit the existence of inequality in liberal-democracies, they do not reduce it to the unequal control over the means of production, as Marxists do. Pluralist thought can be seen as being a reaction to both Marxist and elitist frameworks.\n\nRichard Bellamy:\n\nRichard Bellamy (2001) traces the development of pluralist thought, and advances a new theory that he sees as adaptable to contemporary western societies. Firstly, he emphasises the theme of functional representation. Under this premise, early pluralists writing at the beginning of the 20th century argued that people identify more with functional associations, such as trade unions, than with territorial units, such as nation-states. Therefore, it is impossible for people to be represented adequately on a territorial basis. Rather they should be represented according to their memberships of different organisations, be they political, cultural, social, religious and so on. They envisaged the political system as being organised as a federal structure in which the interests of the various associations to which individuals belong would be represented. \n\nWithin such a system, the principle of the corporate personality is key. This means that associations do more than just collectively represent individuals’ interests; they form their identity. What association you belong to says a great deal about who you are, possibly more than what nation you belong to. In pluralist thought, power of the state to impose one single vision of society is seen as less significant than the interest of individuals, and their associations. \n\nOn this basis, pluralists see it as more effective to devolve power from the centre, creating horizontal rather than top-down structures. Whereas pluralists do not advocate the end of the state, they envisage its power as much more federal in nature. \n\nRobert Dahl:\n\nDahl’s 1957 study of the organisation of politics in New Haven is a landmark study of power from a pluralist perspective. Dahl sees power as epitomised by the statement ‘A has power over B’. However, A’s power over B is limited in scope and A does not have the capacity to control everything that B does. In other words, power is constrained by context. \n\nDahl’s study which led to this conclusion was based on his examination of decision-making around several key issues in local politics in New Haven. He concluded that there was no dominant group or person in the town. Rather, different groups concentrated their interests on different issues, meaning that sometimes one group set the agenda, while at other times, on different issues, another group held sway. \n\nThis is what Dahl calls polyarchy. Politics are based on coalitions of minorities, rather than on majorities. In some cases, individuals will find themselves in the majority, and in others, in the minority on a specific issue.\n\nCritiques of Dahl:\n\nDahl’s conclusions and those of other pluralists led to the belief that all individuals and groups have power sometimes in some circumstances. Even the least powerful are able to make their voices heard at some stage. \n\nHowever, critics have claimed that Dahl’s conception of power is overly optimistic and does not take into account the inequalities that exist in society before decision-making takes place. In other words, by looking at the decision-making process alone, Dahl and his colleagues failed to see that some issues never make it onto the agenda in the first place. \n\nIn other words, whereas there are minorities among those allowed to the negotiating table, there are others - many more - who never get invited to participate. This continues to be the case for many ethnic and racialised minorities, sexual minorities, the disabled and so forth.\n\nWill Kymlicka:\n\nLater theorists, taking note of Dahl’s shortcomings and attempting to resuscitate the notion devised a rather different conception of pluralism. For example, Will Kymlicka, writing from the Canadian context develops a view which requires certain safeguards to be put in place for pluralist decision-making to take place. \n\nHe links participation in the political arena to group rights. In order to make it onto the agenda, those groups with less power have to be granted rights that have been denied them, leading to their exclusion from politics. \n\nKymlicka talks about self-government rights, polyethnic rights and special representation rights (Bellamy, 2001). Particularly the last two attempt to redress the inequalities faced by ‘minority’ groups in our diverse societies. To be implemented, they require certain measures to be put into place which meet the requirements of those who do not originate in the dominant cultural group. \n\nA concrete example is the institutionalisation of affirmative action programmes to redress the inequality faced by non-white people, women, the disabled and others in education, the workplace etc. We will take up the discussion of ‘special rights’ when we look at the theme of citizenship and inequality in Week 8.\n
  • \n

Political Sociology Week 2: Theories of Power Political Sociology Week 2: Theories of Power Presentation Transcript

  • Political Sociology 1 Week 2: Theories of Power
  • Who Rules?“The governments don’t rule the world,Goldman Sachs rules the world.” Alessio Rastani, Trader
  • Who Rules?“The governments don’t rule the world,Goldman Sachs rules the world.” Alessio Rastani, Trader View slide
  • 3 Approaches Marxian Weberian Elitist PluralistNeo-Marxist View slide
  • Marx:Capital & the State
  • Marx:Capital & the State
  • Marx:Capital & the StateThe instrumentalmodel
  • Marx:Capital & the StateThe instrumentalmodel
  • Marx:Capital & the StateThe instrumentalmodelThe arbiter model
  • Marx:Capital & the StateThe instrumentalmodelThe arbiter modelThe functionalistmodel
  • Hegemony
  • HegemonyGaining consent
  • HegemonyGaining consentCreatingcommonsense
  • HegemonyGaining consentCreatingcommonsenseMobilising Goodsense
  • Max Weber: Pluralist Elitist or Elitist Pluralist?
  • Elitism: Good or Bad?
  • Elitism: Good or Bad? Lions & Foxes
  • Elitism: Good or Bad? Lions & Foxes The ‘iron rule of oligarchy’
  • Elitism: Good or Bad? Lions & Foxes The ‘iron rule of oligarchy’ Elitism vs. Marxism
  • Pluralising politics
  • Pluralising politics Bellamy’s functional representation
  • Pluralising politics Bellamy’s functional representation Dahl’s Polyarchy
  • Pluralising politics Bellamy’s functional representation Dahl’s Polyarchy Kymlicka’s group rights
  • Case Study: HackgateIn groups:What are the mainelements of the case?Which elements ofMarxist, elitist, orpluralist theories bestdescribe the case?Create a tag cloud tosummarise the politicalsociological analysis ofHackgate (small, medium,large).