As mentioned before,the second dimension, similarly to the first is also an observable conflict ofinterest. However, it is described as being more covert than overt. Due to it being moreovert, in practise and in real-life scenarios, we see that it portrays a moretransparent structure of power. The openness in which power is practised allowsthe populace to see who the power lies with and who is in control of it.Steven Lukes detailsthe Dimensions of Power extensively in his 2005 book Power: A Radical View – I will be referencing this book often whileanalysing the significance of Lukes 3rd Dimension of Power. The first dimension is often called the’pluralist’ view of power, with well-known academics such as Dahl, Polsby andWolfinger classing themselves within this bracket (Lukes, 2005).
It is labelledas being pluralist due to the open ‘competition’ for power that it provides.Being mostly common in democratic political systems, the populace is publicallyable to witness groups competing for power and are also able to observe theoutcome and the following exercise of power by whichever group. Lukes describes poweras being an ‘essentially contested concept’, a term first coined by W. B.Gallie in his journal Proceedings of theAristotelian Society (Gallie, 1956). Without delving too much into Gallie’sformulation of the concept, it explains how concepts “inevitably involve endless disputes about their proper uses on thepart of their users” (Gallie, 1956).
Additionally, an essentially contested concept is ratified by its ability tomeet four standards. The first requirement standard is that the concept is complex,meaning that the concept, of power in our case, has a number of differentelements. Power can be seen as being individual or collective. Power can bemeasured against another body or measured in line with another. Evaluative and openness are two otherrequirements. The openness of a concept allows us to subject it to differentcontexts and interpretations.
Thelast requirement, which relates back to the complexity of the concept, ensuresthat the different elements present are able to take different values. Forexample, when looking at Lukes’ interpretation of power, we notice that heplaces much more of an emphasis on relative power, compared to absolute. He disclosespower, explained as “A exercises power over B when A affects B in a mannercontrary to B’s interests” (Lukes, 2005).
Takingfrom Gallie’s essentially contested concepts, Lukes draws his own conclusionsabout power and how it is essentially a conflict of interests. Under theseconflicts of interests fall a few different types of interests. More specifically,these types of interests are refined into what we now understand as being theDimensions of Power of which, according to Lukes, there are three – himself beingthe mind behind the third.
The word ‘power’ in itselfhas been under debate for centuries. Throughout the course of time, Philosophersand politicians alike have provided the world with many descriptions anddifferent discourses. From classical works such as Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince (Machiavelli, 1532) andThomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (Hobbes,1651), which disclosed the broader importance of power, specifically powerfulleadership or sovereign government. The last century, however, has seen anincrease in the actual discourse of power. One of the theorists who would beclassed in this category is Steven Lukes, who defines power in three dimensions(Lukes, 2005). He argues that these three dimensions, predominantly the thirddimension, implicitly establish the effectiveness of the power belonging to anindividual, a group or any form of institution in which power can be vested in.
The exploratory analysis of these dimensions allows us to study contemporarybodies of power in order to come to critically significant conclusions. This iswhat this essay will aim to do, by rigorously analysing each differentdimension with an emphasis on Lukes proposed third dimension of power.