lecture notes on soci Essay

Submitted By tropicalbutt
Words: 1729
Pages: 7

History, Power, and Identity (September 18, 13)

Part one
Power: Conceptual Frameworks
Power relations= what kind of questions do we ask?

Power Elites
“As the means of information and of power are centralized, some men come to occupy positions in American society from which they can look down upon, so to speak, and by their decisions mightily affect, the everyday worlds of ordinary men and women […] they are in positions to make decisions having major consequences. Whether they do or do not make such decisions is less important than the fact that they do occupy such pivotal positions: their failure to act, their failure to make decisions, is itself an act that is often of greater consequence than the decisions they do make. For they are in command of the major major hierarchies and organizations of modern society. They run the big corporations. They run the machinery of the state and claim its prerogatives. They direct the military establishment. They occupy the strategic command posts of the social structure, in which are now centered the the effective means of the power and wealth and the celebrity which they enjoy” (‘The Power Elite’ (1956) by Charles W. Mills; pp. 3-4)
The Rationale Behind
Focus on centralized political power, which is manipulated by a selected few
Power is a potential embedded in social and political hierarchies
Mill’s theory builds upon a common sense understanding that power is the exercise of dominance over a mostly suppressed population
Mills challenges the “pluralism thesis” concentration of power ought not to be considered excessive as there would always be powers of a counter-balance
Thesis was defended by many political sociologists (such as Robert Dahl)
However, sociologists today refer to it as “one dimensional view of power” (e.g. Steven Lukes, Power: A Radical View)
(Cultural) Hegemony
Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937)

The Organization of Consent
Securing compliance without the exercise of coercion
How is power socially organized and culturally represented so that subordinate groups tend to consent to the existing system rather than openly challenging it?
Different possibilities are feasible:
There might be a lack of social and political alternatives tto the current ideological frame
The way in which certain (group) privileges are distributed are sufficient to guarantee non-action, despite lingering resentments
Subordinate groups cannot perceive and articulate their real interests (e.g. lack of education, lack of access to critical resources)
We’ll come back to this issue …

Power beyond Coercion
We look at power beyond the framework of domination & (visible) coercion
However: issues of violence are being discussed
Overall we focus on:
Social organization of power and how it is connected to everyday life
Material effects of power relations at the level of individuals and communities
Cultural practices and representations and how these reflect or reproduce power relations
Role of discourse (how knowledge is build, authorized and made hegemonic) in relation to race and ethnic relations

Karl Marx’s Legacy
Social organization of power as linked to capitalist production
Basic premises: capitalism as an economic system is built upon antagonistic relations (between capital-owners and working classes)
Conflict theory in global perspective
Identifies social movements as forms of agency to counter capitalist exploitation
Where it matters for us:
Intersections between class, race, ethnicity and gender
Unpacking “the center’ (e.g. hegemonic culture, mainstream society, whiteness etc.)
Social change and social justice agendas

Marx’ theses on alienation
Worker’s relationship to the product of his/her labor
Reverses the basic idea of labor as a form of self-subsistence
Worker’s relationship to the production process
One becomes a stranger to oneself in exercising the new demands of industrial labor
Worker’s estrangement from his/her own sense of human