Is Power Central to Understanding Politics? Sample Essay

The impression of power had a clip honoured position in the history of political scientific discipline. The construct of power has gained prominence in the recent times particularly with outgrowth of Behaviouralism as a method of analyzing political relations. It focuses on the survey of political relations as a procedure or activity with an interdisciplinary attack. The argument on the centrality of the construct of power for understanding the political relations is the interaction with the different infinite and clip. And the intercession of Foucault comes in this manner as a discovery from the conventional impressions of power.

The Power: Meaning. Nature. Significance and Characteristics The English noun power derives from the Latin ‘petere’ . which means “to be able” . At the simplest degree. power is seen as the ability of a individual to acquire his will done by another individual or a group even against the will of that individual or group. The power achieves different significance in its relational. bilateral and situational features. And it should be discussed in relation with the constructs of force. use. persuasion authorization and legitimacy. It can be besides noticed that the impression of power is discussed in different angles like political power. economic power and ideological power harmonizing to varied schools of idea. Like any other constructs of political relations. power is besides an basically contested construct and different minds have tried to specify the political relations in relation to power. The account of Frederick Watkins was one among this argument in the early stage of development of modern political scientific discipline. He observed that “the proper range of political scientific discipline is non the survey of province or of any other specific institutional composite. but the probe of all associations in so far they can be shown to represent the job of power” 1.

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This position was confirmed by William A. Robson 2 who suggested: “It is with the power in society that political scientific discipline is chiefly concerned- its nature. footing. procedures. range and results’ The significance of power in political phenomenon can be traced in the plants of traditional minds like Aristotle ( 427-322 BC ) . Machiavelli ( 1469-1679 ) . Hobbes ( 1588-1679 ) and Nietzsche ( 1844-1900 ) every bit good as modern authors like Max Webber. Lasswell. A. Kaplan. Hans Morgenthau. Michel Foucault. Scholars like Vilfredo Pareto ( 1848-1923 ) . Gaetano Mosca ( 1858-1941 ) . Robert Michels. C. Wright Mills. Robert Dahl and Steven Lukes besides tried to bring out this kineticss. For H. Laswell and A. Kaplan Politics is the survey of determining and sharing power 3. For Burtrand Russel power is cardinal construct in political scientific discipline in the same sense that energy is treated as a cardinal construct in natural philosophies. Max Webber explains power in the context of national every bit good as in international political relations: “Politics is the battle for the power or the influencing of those in power. and embraces the battle between provinces every bit good as between organized groups within the state” . The significance of power is besides extremely discussed in political discourses. Bertrand Russel 4 has defined power as ‘the production of intended effects’ .

Robert Dahl 5 defined power as a sort of influence ; it is exercised ‘when conformity is attained by making the chance of terrible countenances for non-compliance’ . In brief the argument about the power straight or indirectly is related to the wide constructs of authorization and legitimacy.

Theories of Power
Generally theories of power are discussed in the visible radiation of different positions and outlooks the minds perceive. Broadly we can discourse this as follows.

Class Position:
Class position on power is based on Marxian reading of the societal construction and province. It states that the political power is the merchandise of economic power and ownership of the agencies of production determines the beginning of power. Antonio Gramsci added a new dimension of power while explicating the construct of hegemony in his analysis about the constructions of domination in the society. Harmonizing to him ‘when power is seemingly exercised with the consent of its topic. it is called ‘hegemony’ . Thus the Marxian construct undertakings an ideal classless classless society.

Elitist Theory:
Elitist theory is the oldest construct of power. It shows the power as a tool in the custodies of a limited individual or a group. We see the beginning of elitist theory and its justification in the ideas of Plato. Aristotle. Machiavelli and Hobbes. It was the Plato who put frontward the regulation of ‘Philosopher King’ who has the wisdom over the mass who failed to command their appetency. Aristotle who was largely concerned about the stableness of the political relations suggests the regulation of the minority over the bulk. “The Prince’ written by Machiavelli depict how the swayer control the forces of human nature as a portion of his statesmanship. For Hobbes the crowned head and omnipotent Leviathan is the equivalent word of the power. The elitist theory which emerged as a review to Marxist impression inquiries the possibility of an classless society. Unlike category theory they argue that people differ in their natural properties and therefore the societal stratification is ne’er negligible. While early theoreticians like Pareto and Mosca talk on the personal properties of elites. subsequently theorists focal point on the institutional model.

The term ‘elite’ was used by Pareto to bespeak superior societal group 6. He proves that ‘the history of world is a cemetery of nobility. Mosca tried to gestate the elitist theory of power in the context of modern clip of democracy. He held that a changeless competition between the upper category and the lower strata of society led to the ‘circulation of elites’ . Robert Michels ( 1876-1936 ) propounded his thought of ‘Iron jurisprudence of Oligarchy’ to show that every organisation is finally reduced to ‘oligarchy’ . that is regulation of the chosen few 7. Max Webber. who inspired by the elitist theory redefined the democracy as ‘a competition for political leadership’ 8. He emphasized on a democratic theoretical account of authorities instead than a ‘classless society’ which was visualized by Marxists. C. Wright Mills presented a new version of elect theory. which is a combination of several groups who exercised all power by virtuousness of their position in the society9.

Gender Perspective and Constructive View:
The feminist reading of power argues that division of the society on the footing of gender is non natural and patriarchal set up of the society gives the ultimate power to work forces. Friedrich Engels observed that in the antiquity when the establishment of matrimony was non invented. line of descent of a individual could be reckoned merely through female line. 10 The constructive position of power is an overpowering response to the conventional apprehension of the power. It is a displacement from ‘power over’ to ‘power to’ . It enables the laden to authorise himself and defy from the oppressor. Hannah Arendt ( 1906-75 ) distinguishes between ‘power’ and ‘violence’ to get at a constructive significance of the power. She argues that power is ‘not a belongings of an person. It is the human ability non merely to move but to move in concert’ . She links ‘authority’ to the domain of province and ‘power’ in public sphere. 11 The construct of Mahatma Gandhi ( 1869-1948 ) besides can be sighted in this forenoon. Even though he didn’t write any treatise on power his thought of ‘Swaraj’ is based on a power diffused in every portion of the society.

Pluralist Theory:
The pluralist theory of power envisages a spread impression of power in the society instead than a limited one in any individual or a group. Harmonizing to this position the power evolves through the independent and dependent centres of determination. The balance of each interest holders’ power is the basic dogma of this theory and public determinations are the results of the equilibrium. It upholds a really diverse pluralist society. Contemporary pluralist theory appeared in the plants of Robert Dahl and Charles Lindblom. Dahl’s construct of democracy is ‘polyarchy’ where a society is governed by a set of viing involvements groups. with the authorities as little more than an honorable arbiter between them. He recommended public assistance policies to heighten just distribution of power in society. The pluralist theory of power was criticized in its limited focal point on the decision-making facet and it was called as ‘one dimensional’ . It is Steven Lukes who analyzed the whole argument hitherto and gives a comprehensive thought of power. In his ‘Power- A Extremist View’ he explores a ‘third dimension ‘of power over ’one dimension’ and ‘two dimension’ while he elaborates the ideas of Michel Foucault.

Lukes criticizes them as they postulate coercion. influence. authorization. force and use. The Three Dimensional View of Power. offered by Lukes. is a “thoroughgoing critique” of the behavioural focal point. He elaborates the term ‘behavioural’ in as “the survey of overt and existent behaviour and specifically concrete determinations. ” He explains that it is committed to the position that behavior ( action and inactivity. witting and unconscious. existent and possible ) provides grounds for an ascription of the exercising of power” 12. It feels really much realistic when Luke describes that the impression of domination can dwell in its being suppressed and stifled within dealingss between groups. in autocratic households and oppressive educational establishments. and between persons in asymmetrical relationships citing the Ibsen’s celebrated drama A Doll’s House.

Michel Foucault- Starting of a new epoch of argument
Foucault. one of the most debated minds in the post-modern period. explored the construct of power. He concentrated upon the construct of power and how power and cognition are profoundly interwoven. He makes a triangular relationship between power. right and truth. For him ‘power is the built-in portion of the production of truth and there is a ‘politics of truth’ in any society whose result determines what is deemed true and by what processs it is lawfully arrived at’ . He undertakings an ubiquity power at every degree of societal organic structure. In his words “Power is everyplace: non because it embraces everything. but because it comes from everyplace. … Power is non an establishment. nor a construction. nor a ownership. It is the name we give to a complex strategic state of affairs in a peculiar society” 13. Foucault’s positive attitude about the power makes him to deny the necessariness of repressive. prohibitory. negative or exclusionary impressions of power.

He gives relevancy to ‘discourse’ as an instrument and an consequence of power and proves that co-existence besides can be used against the oppressor. Modern political administration which involves a combination of micro and macro power is rooted on Foucault’s construct of governmentality. In Foucault’s phrase authorities involves “the behavior of conduct” . the directing and channeling of behaviour of organic structure single. the organic structure societal. and the organic structure politic by means other than force or even expressed regulation. 14 Foucault’s conceptualisation of power shows a holistic attack to the much debated attempts to specify the province. He argues that the State is a codification of dealingss of power at all degrees across the societal organic structure. It is a construct which provides a ‘scheme of intelligibility for a whole group of already established establishments and realities’ . Further. he states that ‘the State is a pattern non a thing’ and inquiries the State as the primary beginning of power.

The whole argument about the nature of province and its interaction with a individual or the society revolve around the construct of power. The inquiry about the centrality of power to political relations makes the sense from the Aristotle. the Father of Political Science to most modern-day minds. Now the argument on the power and its nature continues in the kingdom of domestic political relations every bit good as international political relations. The realist impression of power in international political relations and the construct ‘Balance of Power’ is good debated in their very interventionist nature. The altering equation of the power is clear characteristic of ‘Occupy Wall Street Movement’ and ‘Arab Spring” . The concerns about the failure of the state province in modern clip and the individuality political relations in the post- colonial states show the relevancy Foucaultian ideas. The Dalit and minority political relations in India are the consequence of cardinal inquiry in this respect.

The dismaying excess national sentiments show the urgency to reconstitute the equation of power. The policies of good administration and transparence are the right measure in a good way. This is the clip when Gandhian ‘moral anarchist’ entreaties to the powerful psyches to edify the whole system off from any sort of power corruptness. The above treatment proves that argument power was the basis of political idea. But at the same clip political relations is more than understanding the power construction. The power attack to political relations dainties adult male as a unit of analysis instead than an abstract establishment. Its focal point on the political relations is a dynamic procedure. It enlarges the range of political scientific discipline beyond the populace sphere to the other societal administrations every bit good as human interactions. Therefore understanding the power transcends the views of political relations every bit good as political scientific discipline.


1. Adams. I. . & A ; Dyson. R. W. ( 2007 ) . Fifty Major Political Thinkers. Rutledge. Blackwell Printing

5. Contemporary Political Doctrine: An Anthology. ( 2005 ) . ( p. 760 ) . John Wiley & A ; Sons 7. hypertext transfer protocol: //www. michel-foucault. com/concepts/index. html MA Development 2012-2013 1312 ) .

6. Power after Foucault. Wendy Brown. The Oxford Handbook of Political Science ( 2009 ) . ( p. Page 6

4. Jonathan Wolff. An Introduction to Political Philosophy. Oxford University Press. I996

2. Gauba. ( 2000 ) . An Introduction To Political Theory ( 4 Edition ) Macmillan India Ltd. 2010

3. Robert E. Goodin and Philip Pettit. Contemporary Political Philosophy-An Anthology.


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