Theories of Power Marxism Classical Marxism Basic features of any Marxist analysis of the nature and distribution of power in (Capitalist) society is that they see: 1. Power → concentrated in the hands of a relatively small minority, i.e. bourgeoisie 2. This power is used to further interests of powerful at the expense of the powerless. The powerful seek to maintain their privileged position at the expense of the powerless. 3. Conflict occurs because of different objective interests of an economically powerful section of society (i.e. the r/c (ruling class)) and an economically powerless section of society (i.e. the w/c (working class)). "Objective interests" being ownership and control of the means of production - the objective interests of the ruling class are to maintain their ownership and control for their benefit, whilst the objective interests of the working class are seen to be their seizure of the means of production for the benefit of all. 4. The ultimate source of all power in any society is the ownership and control of the means of economic production.Classical Marxism is similar to elite theories in 2 ways: 1. Power → concentrated in the hands of a relatively small minority, i.e. bourgeoisie 2. This power is used to further interests of powerful at the expense of the powerless Marx & Engels (1950) Power → concentrated in the hands of a relatively small minority, i.e. bourgeoisie → means of production (economic power) Thus, creating a dominance hierarchy In a capitalist society, bourgeoisie use coercion over the proletariat as a way of exploiting their manual labour, allowing profit and surplus value to be accumulated However, if proletariat become submissive to the coercion (and accept it) they develop a false class consciousness. Bourgeoisie‟s interests are fed into the superstructure (e.g. education) allowing their values to dominate and become the norm in society Origins and evolution of the state Engels – State did not exist in communist society Kinship (family networks) were mainly agricultural, no surplus was produced therefore was impossible for wealth to accumulate Then – surplus began being produced → economic dominance developed Consequently – The proletariats views had to be repressed with coercion (police, legal system) Democracy Appears that all members in society have some power i.e. the vote, logically, is perceived as legitimate, just and fair, so less coercion needed Engels – democracy is an illusion as power still rests with those who own the means of production There are 2 ways r/c ensure the state favours their interests:
1. Corruption – bribing the opposition 2. Financial help – from the capitalists (e.g. CBI)End of the state Marx & Engels – Claimed that one day class divisions would cease, the proletariat would seize control power from the bourgeoisie and consolidate communal ownership over the means of production. Both classes would have equal power. Contrasting views of the state have been developed. They differ over the precise way in which they see the bourgeoisie controlling the stateRalph Miliband (1969) – Instrumental Marxist Agreed with Marx & Engels that Power → concentrated in the hands of a relatively small minority, i.e. bourgeoisie Disagreed with pluralists that in democracies where everyone had equal political rights, which appeared to give everyone equal power was „one of the great myths of the epoch‟ State becomes the "instrument" or "tool" through which ruling class domination of society is maintained and strengthened e.g. using the militaryElites and the ruling class Elites (military, MPs) act in the interests of a ruling class because their power and decision- making is dependent upon the co-operation of the economic elite, to preserve capitalism (similar to C.Wright Mills ideas) He supported his claims with empirical evidence:1. USA (1899-1949) – 60% of cabinet ministers were businessmen2. The other proportion, though not businessmen, were from the same kinship and had similar backgrounds and same class. Of the minority which came from the w/c had undergone bourgeoisification – thinking like a bourgeoisie.3. Actions of elites do benefit the ruling class e.g. judges trying to protect private property.Legitimation Milliband addresses the third dimension of power - provided an explanation as to why the majority should accept a state which acts against their interests Argues that the mass of the economically powerless) are ideologically co-opted into the philosophy of capitalism - even though it runs counter to their objective class interests. In this respect, power is basically coercive (in the last resort), but presented to the majority as authority (through advertising, the media, education, experience in the workplace and so forth). This is known as the process of legitimation (mass indoctrination) e.g. Advertising – is political as it serves to increase their power, creating an illusion that they care about public service and community. Thus, their exploitative and oppressive values become disguised and accepted by the mass who become materialisticConclusion Direct interference by members of ruling elite in the running of the state, which is further consolidated through the process of legitmation.
Nicos Poulantzas (1969) – Structuralist Marxist Took a structuralist approach – emphasises importance of social structure, whilst, minimising the importance of the individuals in society, whereas Miliband emphasised the importance of individuals He criticised MilibandThe state and the capitalist system He described the state as being vital to the stability of the capitalist system which works in the interests of the ruling class. Where Milliband argues that the social backgrounds of individual members of the State elite are significant, Poulantzas argues this is irrelevant since, in order to achieve a position of power it can be taken for granted that individuals will be thoroughly steeped in the norms, values and beliefs of a ruling class. It is not necessary for members of ruling elite to occupy elite positions within the state. The existence of a capitalist system was sufficient for themRelative Autonomy The ruling class don‟t directly govern the state, so is free from direct control. BUT, ruling class use the state as a medium of serving their interests Relative autonomy is essential in representing the capital, thus, the state requires freedom and independence1. Divisions exist within the bourgeoisie, so the state as freedom to act on their behalf2. Direct rule by the bourgeoisie would lead to internal conflict, weakening their power3. The State is "relatively autonomous" from the ruling class – i.e. governments may make decisions that go against the specific, short-term, interests of a ruling class, but, in the long-term, governments make decisions designed to ensure the long-term survival of the Capitalist system. If this involves making concessions to the working class then such concessions have to be made……… and in doing so….4. Relative autonomy gives the illusion that the state is representative of the whole people.Repressive and ideological state apparatus (SA) Poulantzas developed Milibands process of legitmation by dividing it into 2: Repressive S.A Ideological S.A Based on coercion Based on manipulation of beliefs Army Church Police Schools Government Family He emphasised the division because: 1. Both are crucial to the survival of capitalism and to keep the proletariat with a false class consciousness 2. I.A depends on the R.A to maintain it (mutual interdependence) 3. A change in the R.A will lead to a change in the I.A 4. To remove the state – institutions such as family would have to be abolished??!!!
Criticisms of Poulantzas Miliband claimed him of structural super determinism – not all aspects of behaviour by the state were determined by the infrastructure Non-falsifiable - Miliband pointed out there was no empirical evidence to support his claims Institutions such as family were so relatively autonomous that they could be disregarded as part of the stateEvidence to support Marxism Marxists have adopted more sophisticated ways of operationalising the concept of power in order to measure it.Decision Making – 1st face of power Westergaard & Resler (1976) – Took a positivist approach (objectivity) - power can only be measured by its results o Power is only visible through its consequences o The concentration of wealth with the bourgeoisie provides proof of their power as legitimate o Welfare state does not redistribute wealth, as the money is financed from the taxation of the w/c and m/c Concessions to the w/c Such as free education and healthcare, diffuses possible protests by them, yet still leaves the inequalities unchangedNon-decision making – 2nd face of power Alternatives are very limited and only safe decisions are allowed – i.e. which don‟t challenges the fundamentals of the capitalistsIdeology – 3rd face of power False class consciousness keeps certain issues suppressed Westergaard & Resler (1976) – ruling class ideology promotes the view that the private property, profit etc and the inequalities which result are legitimate and normal. When this occurs, dominance by the ruling class results But because their ideologies are promoted and accepted by the mass, the r/c rarely have to exercise powerCriticisms of Marxism Marxist theory of state cannot explain why the state became stronger rather than „withering away‟ in communist societies e.g. Russia They don‟t acknowledge that there are other avenues to power other than wealth. – value freedom in their research Lack of objectivity – Marx was a political radical, committed to the proletariat revolution Functionalist idea of meritocracy challenges the elitist nature of Marxist theory
Neo-Marxism Gramsci (1971) - Argued against the view that the Marxist view of power was „economically reductionist‟ – i.e. the economic infrastructure determined to any degree what occurred in the superstructure of society Agreed that economic infrastructure did have an effect on the superstructurePolitical and Civil Society He divided the superstructure into; political society and civil society, similar to Poulantzas‟ division of the state apparatus into repressive and ideological. 1. Political Society (Repressive State Apparatus) – Consisted of the state, concerned with the use of force/coercion by the military, police and legal system to repress troublesome citizens 2. Civil Society (Ideological State Apparatus) - Consisted of the „private‟ institutions e.g. churches, schools and mass media. Defined the „state‟ as “the state = political society + civil society” Methodologically – He used a broad definition of the „state‟Hegemony……..Is the ability of the r/c to persuade and shape the political ideas and moral values ofthe population, without using force Effective control can be maintained if the r/c can retain their beliefs through the civil society. Hegemony will work if the r/c make concessions to the subject class, to maintain an element of compromise Consequently, r/c hegemony will never be complete for the following 3 reasons:1. Historic Blocs2. Concessions3. Dual ConsciousnessHistoric Blocs…..when 2 or more groups within a class form an alliance. Gramsci saw both the r/c and w/c as being divided into groups – e.g. the r/c has landowners, financiers. No one group can maintain dominance over society, meaning these groups would have to form an alliance If successful by achieving a high level of hegemony a historic bloc would be formed. However, would never be 100% successful as the group is formed on the basis of internal compromiseConcessions Have to be made in order to rule by consent, rather than by force. Thus, some policies benefit the subject class – e.g. free educationDual Consciousness Impossible for r/c to completely indoctrinate the w/c, concessions have to be made So dual consciousness is a result of ideas from the ruling class‟s control over the civil society to persuade the subject class that capitalism is desirable.
But, everyone is subject to different experiences in their life – e.g. poor working conditions and low pay, would lead to a person wanting reformsOverthrow of capitalism To an extent, power is derived from economic control But, power can also be derived from control over peoples beliefs and values Because the r/c do not have total control over the subject class‟s beliefs, they can not monopolise power (i.e. they have the largest share) Gramsci stated that an „intellectual‟ from within the subject class would have to rise up, shape the ideas of their class, gain support and then be able to secure a historic bloc allowing them to overcome the r/c hegemony. PluralismClassical Pluralism1. Pluralism claims to explain the nature and the distribution of power in Western democratic societiesAgree with Functionalist views of power that it derives from the whole population and that:1. The Government and state are for our benefit, acting in our interests2. Western democracies are the most advanced and effective way of exercising control and governing a country3. State power is legitimate rather than coerciveHowever, disagree on 3 aspects:1. Nature of power2. Role of sectional interests3. Role of the stateSectional Interests Accept that members of society accept common sets of values (like Parsons), BUT not to every issue Due to industrialisation → has created many specialised divisions of labour e.g. Doctors, teachers – which they do by joining Trade Unions Argue that 1 division (e.g. class) wont dominate all their other interests de Tocqueville (1835) – a democratic political system requires that individuals have a large number of interests, BUT if 1 division came to dominate others, a society would become unworkable, suggesting that diversity is neededE.g. Northern Irelands division over religion, the Protestants (majority) and the Catholics(minority) has led to conflict for 100s of years. Thus, representativeness is achieved by choice between political partiesThe State Deny that society has a „value consensus‟ as everyone has different interests so leaders cant serve all their interests Therefore, see the state as a bridge between differences and that every group has its interests met at some point Raymond Aaron – „Government becomes a business of compromise‟
Political parties and interest groups Has to be competition between 2 or more parties for there to be a representative govt. (e.g. labour, conservative) Therefore, the electorate has a choice over which party represents its interests This is done via - media influencing policy making If a party doesn‟t represent our interests, we will change our voting preference, leading to the emergence of another party Political parties have to have a sufficiently broad appeal to collect enough votes to win an election. In this respect, they have to broaden their appeal to different sectional interests. Interest Groups Differ from political parties as they do not seek election, but merely to influence the decision-making processes. Represent explicitly sectional interests ("narrow based" such as the R.S.P.C.A., or relatively "broad based" such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), the Trades Union Congress (TUC) and so forth) and compete with each other to influence political policy- making. 2 types of interest groups 1. Protective Groups – Defends the interests of its members e.g. BMA, BDA, CBI 2. Promotional Groups – Supports a particular cause e.g. FoF, RSPCA, F4F The government may take into account the views of pressure groups, but they don‟t have to choose them Measuring power Believe Western societies are democratic because Governments reflect a compromise between various sectional interests. This is done by opinion polls.Robert Dahl - In his study of local politics in New Haven, Connecticut, USA, Dahloperationalised power in terms of "decision making".Aim - To see if any particular issue dominated policy making (e.g. education, urban renewal, andhealthcare). (The idea is similar to pocket book voters).Decision-making process in New Haven involved a variety of interest groups, all attempting toinfluence political decision-making.Results - Some groups were dominant over some issues, whilst others were dominant over otherissues. Inconclusive evidence to support his hypothesisConclusion – Power is dispersed, but interest groups only become involved when issues weredirectly related to themRejected the idea that this decision-making process could be characterised as an economicallydominant group / class also dominating the political decision-making process. The C.B.I …….An amalgamation of 3 employer‟s federations with membership of over 200 of the top companies They have direct access to high profile MP’s and civil servants Grant & Marsh (1967) – Examined the extent to which such an economic power has influence over policy making For example…….. CBI was 100% against the Iron and Steel Act (1967) which was to renationalise the iron and steel industry, but they failed. Waste Disposal Act – CBI failed
Clean Air Act – CBI failed Power is equally distributed – this is supported by empirical evidence from o Dahl‟s study, the U.S.A o Grant & Marsh – U.K However, Bachrach & Baratz (elite pluralists) claim Dahl ignored the idea of „potential power‟ (which can be observed, thus, measured) No one group dominates the decision making process The decision makers are democratically elected Conclusion – Despite powerful membership and access to high levels of parliament, still had limited influence. Because governments need to retain power, they have to make a compromise between the interests of the elite and the majority of the country Evaluation of classical pluralism Have a lot of supportive empirical evidence from Grant, Marsh and Hewitt Marxist argue classical pluralists overemphasise the role of decision making John Urry (1973) – In the interests of parliament to allow a variety of interest groups to influence „safe decisions‟ (what the government wants) This fosters the illusion that there is a real political participation, showing society that they are democratic. Thus, reinforcing the powerful (elite). Marsh (1977) – himself rejected classical pluralism and then opted for the fragmented elite theory. Ignore the 3rd face of powerRichardson & Jordan (1979) – Conducted a study Aim → to see if all pressure groups had the same level of influence Method → Analysed decision making by the British government Found → govt. tries to minimise conflict as much as possible, compromising and listening to all the different views. Although the govt. sees all the interest groups as equal, doesn‟t necessarily mean they actually are 1. Insider group – perceived by the govt. as the legitimate representatives 2. Outsider group – less consulted, no strong figure heads# 3. Promotional groups – have even less influence (their agenda‟s tend to be more long term) Overall → believe some groups have more influence over others. Elite Pluralism ……see power as the ability to influence decision making Elite pluralism is similar to classical in the following ways: 1. See Western societies as democratic 2. Governments are a „business of compromise‟ 3. Power is equally distributed Elite pluralism differs from classical in the following ways: 1. Believe some members of society have more power than others 2. Believe there is more than 1 face of power 3. Believe the „elites‟ control decision making
Marsh & Locksley (1983) Believed some pressure groups had more influence over others. Found → T.U had a lot more influence than environmental groupsWynn GrantSupporter of elite theory, has noted changes in British politics 1. Power of pressure groups has declined 2. number of pressure groups has increased 3. pressure groups no longer focus exclusively Westminster to exert their influence 4. Increasingly, more are being consulted by govt.Conclusion Liberalism draws heavily on pluralist ideas – i.e. that Western democracies are the best form of representative govt. ElitismClassical Elitism Differs from both Functionalism and Pluralism in that it sees power in society as being monopolised by a small minority (elite, bourgeoisie) Sees society divided into 2 groups the ruling minority and the ruled There is a small organised elite or oligarchy(power shared between the elite), at the centre of the state of all societies whether they are elected or not4 points that classical elite theorists agree on are:1. Equality in politics is impossible, as everyone is born unequal in terms of intelligence, wealth etc.2. Throughout history, if a „few‟ have always rules the „many‟, that‟s the way it should stay as it would upset the „social fabric‟ i.e. it‟s inevitable.3. Humans have an inconsistency with their feelings, therefore are incapable of having authority/power.4. They want to prevent the spread of socialism and other revolutionary ideas Because people are unequal, it was inevitable and makes sense for the best to be the elite and for them to dominate the political decision-making process.Pareto His theory of “continuous circulation of elite groups” helps to explain political parties/rulers change. Pareto argued that elite groups ruled politically because of their members superior intelligence, education, cunning Mosca - argued that elite groups ruled politically because of their superior organizational ability.2 types of governing elite:1. Lion elites – Take direction, is able to rule by coercion (e.g. military regimes).2. Fox elites – Are cunning, able to rule by manipulation When major changes occur, it‟s a result of change between elites called the „circulation of elites‟ as they are easily corrupted and want an easy way of life and living with many privileges When one type of elite replaces another, they lack the qualities of their counterpart.
Both writers saw the general (politically disorganized) mass of the population as being controlled through manipulation, propaganda and the like to serve the interests of powerful elites.Evaluation His view of political power was pretty-much all-encompassing, he attempted to resolve the problem of political change (how, if an elite was effectively all-powerful, could it be replaced by another elite?) by reference to the idea that elites, after they achieve power, have a relatively limited life-span. That is, they become corrupted etc. In this respect, we can see the theory of "circulating elites", lose their political vitality over time and are replaced. It‟s over-simplistic, as he provides no real explanation as to why elites should necessarily become decadent or decay. Assumes that all political systems are all the same, doesn‟t recognise that the politically powerful may rule through a combination of economic, military, political and ideological power. Reductionist and deterministic Doesn‟t provide a way of measuring these superior qualities, or how and why these qualities arise. Just assumes it. Notion of lions and foxes are just an illustration of his own interpretations of the elite structure For Pareto, there appears to be little basic difference between democratic societies and totalitarian societies.Mosca Agreed with Pareto on the idea that elite groups had superior qualities to "the masses" Elites ruled because of their superior internal organizational abilities Recognized that the organizational qualities needed to assume power varied from society to society. Unlike Pareto, Mosca did attempt to distinguish between democratic and totalitarian societies, However, his basic position was that democracy could never be anything more than a manipulative, legitimating, process whereby elites consolidated their power by co-opting the masses to support the interests of the powerful (rather than by truly representing the interests of the masses). Saw democratic societies as an open system where everyone‟s social values could influence the management of a society.Radical Elitism Are in favour of democracy, whereas classical elites are fearful of it Believe elite nature of society is NOT class based C. Wright Mills (1956) – Suggested that US democracy had become dominated by a power elite Certain elite groups arose to control various institutions in society. Some institutions more- powerful than others (an economic elite, for example, was likely to be more powerful than an educational or religious elite), These elite groups who controlled such institutions would hold the balance of power in society as a whole - they would dominate politically on the structural level of power. Mills saw power as exploitation, whereas Pareto saw it as inevitable Identified 3 major institutions (or "power blocs") within the State that he considered to be of primary significance in terms of the potential for wielding power in society:
1. Political elite2. Military elite3. Corporate eliteAll have the same backgrounds and use „vocabularies of motive‟ to justify their positions.„vocabularies of motive‟ – an ideological discourse used to communicate with the peopleyou wish to influence Each of these institutions formed a power bloc in its own right (since each has a set of specific interests) and each was dominated by internal elite Although such elites were powerful in their own right, in any society there exists a necessary degree of overlap and co-operation between these power blocs: The military (elite) requires political co-operation (identification of legitimate enemies, for example) and economic co-operation. Corporations require co-operation from government, defence contracts etc. Federal government requires the support of the Military, a strong corporate sphere and so forth. Thus, Mills argued that the degree of necessary co-operation between elites within these power blocs effectively meant that they formed a "power elite" within society. Their overlapping general interests meant that, whilst they may have differing specific interests, these are subjugated to the wider interest of maintaining elite status, power and rule. The social cohesiveness of the power elite was seen to be strengthened by the centralisation and concentration of:1. Economic power amongst a minority of powerful groups / individuals.2. Political power amongst a minority of powerful groups / individuals.3. The shared social backgrounds (and hence values) of the members of each elite. Thus, for Mills, the members of different elites frequently inter-changed, such that certain powerful individuals could be members of more than one elite at any given time Politics, according to Mills, becomes thoroughly permeated by a business / military ideology - there may be different parties and different politicians, but they will pursue the same basic policies because they are effectively tied-into the military / industrial complex of power. Britain - over the past 20 years, Labour Party has been forced to progressively jettison any pretence it may have had to being a "radical", "socialist" party that will carry- through wide-ranging changes in the balance of economic power. Whilst the Conservative and Labour parties differ in relation to specific policies (over "safe decisions"), a basic, underlying, consensus exists about the overall nature of society and its political / economic institutions (over "non-safe" decisions)Evaluation The works of Gramcsi and Althusser (neo-Marxist) and Mills, Schiller and Scott have shown to various degrees that democracies have failed to deliver on their early promise: to provide for an equal voice for everyone. These theories have become anachronistic i.e. they are no longer able to fully explain to us what is happening, to states and their populations; in the 21st century. The problems are threefold:
1. Globalisation: the processes of globalisation have diminished the role of nation states.2. New Social Movements: there is a new politics which is not necessarily centred on thenation-state.3. The cultural turn in political sociology. Dahl (1961) – Many elite groups compete with each other to influence government policy, therefore power is not concentrated but spread out around the decision-making process (issue areas). Argues it‟s the election process that restrains the elite from gaining too much power. WeberianTheory of Power Max Weber - German politician as well as an influential social scientist. Stressed importance of distinguishing between power, authority and legitimacy. Power – In the form of coercion, domination or repression Authority – Being able to win the hearts and minds of the subordinates, with the threat of force Legitimacy - The process by which power is granted to those in authority (e.g. voting)Economic and Political Power Marx believed economic power meant political power BUT Weber disagrees Weber claims is possible to distinguish between the 2 In govt people give orders, others follow them, but only because they are seen to be highly educated etc. So, it‟s their status rather than economic power that gives them power. Therefore, Weber believes there are 3 dimensions to domination by a group over another1. Class (Charismatic) – Seen both as a social group with same economic circumstances, BUT, also a more individualistic, as each person within that social group has „life chances‟ which can change the economic circumstances.2. Status (Traditional)- How an individual or group is valued by society, therefore some groups may enjoy more privilege than others. e.g. doctors3. Party (Rational-Legal)– Not just political parties, can be any organisation striving for power e.g. Trade Unions, pressure groups.3 types of authority:1. Charismatic – The devotion for a leader by the subordinates. A leader achieves this via emotional speeches. The subordinates believe they have exceptional powers and therefore the leaders are able to control the followers e.g. Hitler2. Traditional – The view that authority has risen as a result of the strong belief in culture and traditions, this allows the leaders to operate obedience over their followers e.g. the monarchy3. Rational-Legal – Based on the acceptance of a set of impersonal rules. I.e. those with authority are able to issue orders because others accept the legal framework that supports their authority and decision. The rules which their authority is based on are rational because they help to achieve goals by setting out the means e.g. bureaucracy in parliament Milgram (1974) – His electric shock experiment demonstrated the concepts of power, authority and conformity. He believed cruelty was not committed by „cruel‟ people but by
„normal‟ people, under certain circumstances who feel it is acceptable to do so. The volunteers thought the confederates were being electrocuted but weren‟t. Shows how authority from people at the top can convince those at the bottom of the hierarchy that their actions are justified. e.g. HolocaustEvaluation Highly influential to the pluralist view – some of whom adopted his definition of power Weber addresses the same concerns as Marx, but came to different conclusions. Steven Lukes - A Radical View of Power Criticised Dahl‟s operationalisation of power and his methodology Lukes refers to the 2 faces of power as: 1. Actual power – being able to actually change someone‟s views 2. Potential power – when someone takes into consideration your views There are 3 faces/dimensions to power 1. Decision making / Actual Power 2. Non-decision making / Potential Power 3. HegemonyDecision MakingThe power to put an issue onto the agenda over other issuesE.g. if the T.U got an issue onto the agenda it would mean they had the power over others.Non-decision Making Power to prevent an issue being put onto the agenda They prevent people from looking at other alternativesHegemony Shaping peoples ideas or manipulating them, which benefits the other group but could damage the group that is being manipulated? Illustrated by a quote “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do” (Dahl)
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