‘A gets B to do something that he or she would not otherwise do’. Does this sum up the essence of political power?
As a whole, this statement sufficiently provides an overarching view of political power in the pres ence of conflict. However, according to Steven Lukes, we need to acknowledge the existence of more comprehensive conceptions of political power, especially in the absence of a direct conflict of interest. This essay will attempt to use his arguments to demonstrate the nuances that underpin political power and will contextualise using the various case studies ranging from the politics in China to USA. Furthermore, it will attempt to evaluate the extent of success certain approaches of political power have over others. Ultimately it will demonstrate that political power has evolved in accordance to the sophistication of the population and this has demanded radical shifts in the way those in power govern them.
Analysis of Definition Provided
Before approaching the concept of political power in depth, a brief analysis of the statement given is in order. The definition, falling under the pluralist school of thought is broad enough that it highlights the basic idea of political power in successfully getting someone to achieve what one party ones, and it enables one to look into a more comprehensive conception of power. It prompts us to consider the means in which this is achieved either via coercion, force or manipulation and influence and enables us to question the legitimacy, authority and extent of political power across various levels.
However, an extension of this statement is necessary if we wish to encompass the evolving nature of political power. Approaching it from a constructivist point of view in which perceptions are created for the purpose of achieving power. Perhaps one which states that ‘A gets B to do what B would not otherwise do to the point that B accepts A’s point of view as his own unquestioningly’. In this respect, we can see that political power has overcome the conflict of interests and achieved a modus operandi that is much more sustainable as compared to overt force or a system of threats and inducements - not always guaranteeing submission. Hence as the essay continues, let us observe the ascension of this mode of political power.
Power and Interests
Underlying the basis of power is the relationship between the agent and the one being acted upon. The variable that will undergo change is the interests or desires of the one in which action is being exerted on. This can be defined as interests or naturally imbued desires. Reformists deplore that not everyone's wants are given equal weight by the political system. The radical maintains that people's wants may themselves be a product of a system which works against their interests and in such cases relates the latter to what they would want and prefer were they able to make the choice. And the liberal takes people as they are and applies want-regarding principles to them relating their interest to what they actually want or prefer. (Lukes, 2002) For the purpose of this essay, it will tend towards the view of the radical in paving an answer for the future of political power paradigms.
The Three Dimensions of Power
We will now address Lukes’ denominations of power in three dimensions, which critiques outwardly the statement in question.
“A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do” (Dahl 1957, p. 201)
The first statement refers to A's capacity while the second specifies a successful attempt - difference between potential and actual power, between its possession and its exercise. The focus on observable behaviour in identifying power demonstrates the pluralists’ method in studying decision-making as their central task. Dahl argues that identifying 'who prevails in decision making' seems the best way to determine which