Power is a term that has seen much talk and debate. The significance of the word has been examined and created by numerous individuals from fluctuating strolls of life; scholastics, rationalists, legislators, and numerous others. It is a term whose comprehension is important to how we, as people, see and live in our social world, as it is an idea that administers our regular living in a few routes; some of which we are not by any means mindful of. Steven Lukes, characterizes Power as far as, what he calls 'Dimensions', these Dimensions are approaches that can be utilized to think about power relations and the theory of power as a whole. Steven Lukes argued that in order to properly understand the theory of power one must recognize the three dimensions of power, this essay will critically discuss this argument.
The concept of power is ambiguous, and to this day it continues to evolve, and yet every individual possesses, to some extent, a degree of power. Power is relational (A influencing B) the ability to affect others through observable conflicts or behaviour. Many authors and scholars like Robert Dahl and S Lukes reached this conclusion by observing social norms and social structures, through their observations they realized that power has more to do with influence than force. Lukes (1974:71) expands on this argument when he says that some occasions or choices might be affected in a wide range of various ways although some are more vivid then others, this is why he sees it necessary to analyse always the forms of power in play when power is exercised. M Lorenzi (2006:87) says that each of the three dimensions of power contains a unique value and understanding and appears to get a handle on just a piece of the puzzle of power in policy making. Be that as it may, since policy making at its centre is constituted by this battle between contending interests, it is basic to comprehend the theory of power, its dispersion, method of influence and its effects, how do the powerful enforce the compliance of the people they rule?
As a result of his argument that the study of power requires an acceptance and analysis of the three dimensions of power, Lukes then proceeds to analyse the three dimensions of power, starting with One Dimensional power. One dimensional power is a more direct form of power, one that includes instructions given and action performed as a result of those instructions. Robert Dahl puts it like this, “A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do.” (Dahl 1957:203). So basically this form of power has cause and effect in it, the reason person A does something is because person B influenced him to do it, A Teacher or lecturer instructing his/her students on what to homework to do and how to do it is a perfect example of one dimensional power. As the students would not have to do any homework had it not been because of the direct influence of the teacher or lecturer.
The initial people to criticize this view of power and to signify Dahl's were Bachrach and Baratz, who proposed that power isn't as restricted as that, however despite what might be expected – it is significantly more complicated, they highlight the non-decision making process. This non-decision making is too deliberately just as the choice itself is purposefully made by an actor, which means that by choosing what should and shouldn’t be discussed a person has power even though it may not be direct (Bachrach and Baratz, 1970:8). Lukes (1974:72)also critiques this dimension of power by claiming that “it falls foul oh what Keith Dowding called the ‘blame fallacy’. The blame Fallacy happens when we make the inquiry “who benefits from a supposed power structure? And conclude that the beneficiary must the one exercising the power”. (Parvin&Chambers 2012:73) For example, if it can be proven that the national government system supports public schools more than private schools, then concluding that public schools have a greater influence in the government system is logical. Dowding argues that some people are simply lucky and not powerful, he calls this being “systematically lucky”, an example he gives of systematic luck, is when capitalist in an democratic state desire to be re-elected, and try to persuade people to vote for them, and because people have their own interests in my mind they will vote for that person, they don’t vote because of the person or party but because of their own interests, thus is systematically lucky. (K. Dowding 1991:1). Therefore this dimension of power is considered to fall in foul of the blame fallacy, for in the end it’s the person who is already in power who reaps the benefits of his power.
It is because of such criticism to one dimensional power that Lukes therefore discusses two dimensional power. Two dimensional power is the power the people have to influence political agendas, the power to influence what issues should not be discussed and what issues should be discussed. The two dimensional approach to power delves deeper into the nature of power and powerlessness by involving analyses of potential issues, grievances, non decision-making and non-participation. M Wiegmann (2018:8) says
"The major contribution of the second dimension is to expand the importance of power to the first stage of the policy process: agenda-setting. The way in which public attention is focused on or diverted from certain issues constitutes an important manifestation of power within the policy process.”
An example of two dimensional power is last year in South Africa when the wife of former Zimbabwe president assaulted a South African in South African soil, but because of the value of relations between Zimbabwe and South Africa, nothing was done about the matter. Lukes (1974:74). gives us the example of air pollution, in many developing countries or cities air pollution is a problem to the residents of that area, this issue or agenda is not discussed in meetings because of the huge amounts contributed by those factories.
Criticism of two dimensional power according to Lukes is that its perspective of power is restricted in that it concentrates just on discernible clashes, regardless of whether obvious or undercover. Lukes claims that A can likewise practice control over B by impacting, molding, or deciding his needs and inclinations. Another criticism of this form of power is that this view is too focused on behavioralism, which is the investigation of solid choices, though inaction can likewise be the result of socially organized and socially designed aggregate conduct. The third point on which this view is viewed as deficient is in its claim that non-basic leadership control just exists where there are grievances which are denied entry into the political procedure as issues. In accordance with the past contentions, Lukes contends that power can be additionally practiced by anticipating grievances - by forming recognitions, perceptions, and inclinations so as to secure the acknowledgment of the business by the public.
As result Lukes therefore discusses three dimensional power. Three dimensional power in light of the examples is a kind of power that influences peoples desires, what they want and need. “The most effective use of power does not force people to do things that they do not want but rather affects what they want to do” (Parvin&Chambers 2012:74). M Wiegmann (2018:9) puts it like this
“It goes beyond the second face by also focusing on the power of one to shape the interests of the other. It still analyses decision making, control over agenda, and (potential) issues. But besides the observable conflict in policy making, it also looks at latent conflict. It does not only take into consideration the subjective interests of the groups as voiced in debates, but also their real interests”.
Advertising and marketing is a perfect example of this, advertisements persuade you to end up buying or doing something that you would not have bought had you not seen the ad.
The main issue of this form of power is the means by which to legitimize the relevant counterfactuals. We have to legitimize our claim that B (the receiving participant) would have thought and acted in an different way, and we additionally need to determine the ways or instruments in which A (the participant in power) acted or withdrew from acting keeping in mind the end goal to keep B from doing as such. For example, all together to assemble confirmation to help the claim that an obvious instance of agreement is not authentic but rather forced, one must explore inaction, think about structural and, institutional power, and consider manners by which requests are prevented from being raised.
Power is not one sided as it seems at first glimpse, Lukes argues that in order to properly understand the concept of power one must consider all its dimensions. Lukes analysis the three dimensions of power and also gives criticism of each dimension, as a result of this one can argue that a person should not concentrate on one, but rather researchers and scholars ought to recognize the presence of all dimensions consider them when surrounding speculations or making claims about the power relations in a specific setting.
Bachrach, P. and Baratz, M. (1962). Two Faces of Power. American Political Science Review, 56(04), pp.947-952.
Lorenzi, M. (2006). Power: a radical view by Steven Lukes. Crossroads,6 (2), 87-95.
Parvin&Chambers 2012 Political Philosophy--A Complete Introduction: A Teach Yourself Guide 1st Edition.
Robert Dahl 1957, "The concept of power." Behavioral Science, Journal of Sociology: Kansas.
S. Lukes, 1974, Power: A Radical View ed.1, Macmillan: London.
Wiegmann, M. (2018). Lukes’ Three Faces of Power: Their Importance for the Policy Process. [online] Academia.edu. Available at: http://www.academia.edu/9958026/Lukes_Three_Faces_of_Power_Their_Importance_for_the_Policy_Process [Accessed 9 Apr. 2018].