Power is the most valuable commodity in the world ofpolitics, although it may seem that a need to enhance one’s power may beperceived some as arbitrary, some may seek to enhance it in order to fightsocial injustice, changing government’s agenda. In order to develop the conceptfurther we need to take into consideration the political and social theoristSteven Lukes (1974) by contrasting (his 3rd dimension with the twoother dimensions of power) how power works in government settings versus how itworks in a larger societal context.
Steven Lukes’ ‘a Radical View’ providesinsight to his view on power, whilst arguing and working upon the framework ofBachrach and Baratz.Steven Lukes ‘ARadical View’ analyses all three dimensions of power whilst trying todemonstrate that the 3rd dimension of power, gives a more ‘deeperand more satisfactory analysis of power than…the other two’. Lukes’ viewof power in three dimensions describes ‘that people’s wants may themselves be aproduct of a system which works against their interests’ (Lukes 20051974:37-8).
This dimension of power can be considered as a manipulative power, withthe ability to shape ones desires often in a manner which is secretive. Marxismis a good example of explaining the forces of manipulation in society; this isin regards to capitalist holding all the power and exploiting the workingclass’ own interest. This is taking in mind of societal context whereby peoplein society are suffering from ‘false consciousnesses’ in which Steven Lukes’argues that it’s the ‘supreme and most insidious exercise of power’ . Throughdifferent institutions and methods of channelling information which we then useto influence the working classes decisions and values, the ruling class havebeen able to apply these values whereby the working class have no other optionbut to accept them. This can be described through an example of a Marxism perspectiveon education, which claims that the formal power performs and producesinequality in the interest of the ruling class. For example, the idea that Marxistbelieve the main purpose of education is to maintain social inequality within acapitalist society, this is justified by Marxists Bowles and Ginits’s in theirresearch of ‘School in Capitalist America’ (1976), by arguing that capitalismrequires a workforce with the right set of attitudes, behaviour andpersonality, who are suited to their role as they are exploited and willing toaccept low pay, hard work and orders from their superiors.
Thus, the frameworkof education under a capitalist society operates through the ‘hiddencurriculum’, using this as a method of giving pupils no other alternative butto become skilled employees which capitalist need. As a result of the false consciousness, itwill reproduce an obedient workforce that will accept inequality asinevitability (Bowles , Gintis 1976.Dahl who exemplifies his point of ‘intuitive idea of power’that ‘A has power of B to the extent that he can get B to something B would nototherwise do’, as a result they study on the transparency and the observablebehaviour between the possession of power and its exercise.
As a resultpluralists focus on behaviour over observable conflict in identifying power bystudying decision making as their central task. Thus, the pluralist approachtowards the first dimension of power is considered as groups who simply prevailwhen decision-making takes place, when conflict between actors and individualstake place especially during controversial issues which have the most conflictassociated with it (Lukes 2005 1974: 16-19). Furthermore, some may argue thatthe first dimension of power does not go far enough. Although, it fits in withits pluralist view of Dahl, its role in observing its power relies on thepolitical actors in government setting who are involved in the introduction ofbills and by the process of pushing through legislation.
The influence on newbills being pushed through the legislature can be determined by other actorsoutside of the political domain who can influence the political agenda, whichthe first dimension fails to underline. This is due to constituents who canapply pressure towards its representatives, pressure groups who are involved incommittee groups and lobbyist who have insider status. This point is furtherenhanced by Lukes brief comment mentioning that ‘power cannot reveal the lessvisible way in which a pluralist system may be biased in favour of certaingroups and against others’. (Lukes 2005 1974: 39).
In addition, the second dimension of power is viewed byLukes as an elitist, by Bachrach and Baratz whose work advances and works uponthe first dimension, there focus is on both overt and covert conflict. Thesecond dimension of power works on that it recognizes Dahls observable powerbut adds that power is applied when some issues are organized not to bediscussed; in other words agenda setting power. However, Lukes’ criticises thesecond dimension as the scope of decision making is compromised as certainmatters are excluded, this may be intentional rather than an aim of the groupsand institution, this further enhances the point that Bachrach and Baratz areconcentrated on behaviourism, and trying to comprehend groups and institutionsreasons of issues being excluded (Lukes 2005 1974: 25).
In addition, as Bachrachand Baratz work focused on a system of bias, whereby, it represents a dominantset of beliefs which work to privilege and benefit certain groups than others,(Lukes 20051974:21) therefore; individuals may unconsciously be unfollowingthis as a norm without noticing it. Furthermore, Lukes also adds thatpluralists and elitists such as Bachrach and Baratz, have formed a concept thatin order for power to thrive and succeed, it must be necessary to haveconflict. The first dimension of power is named the decision makingdimension, this power can be clearly observed by other individuals in governmentsettings, therefore it is considered to be transparent. This allows people tounderstand clearly why power decisions are put in place and how they areapplied, due to its transparency; the process is opened to scrutiny during eachstep of its political process. This is mostly seen in democratic countries asthe exercise of power is open to criticism. This is classed as a classic ideaof politic power, as political actors priority is to acquire this type of powerto implement their cause, as they contest elections their political actions arecentred on gaining this power and therefore the exercise of this power islegitimised. As a result, in contrary toLukes’ it can be argued that this system is a tried and tested system and it’s readilyoperational this can be seen in the introduction of the same sex couples act of2013. (Jason 2018 7)The second dimension of power is named the non-decisionmaking dimension this due to the nature that power is exercised behind closeddoors.
This nature of power is only visible to political actors who areinvolved in its agenda setting whilst keeping away from the public eye. Thesecond dimension of power is an elitist view of power, although the firstdimension of power acknowledges who is involved there are also specific viewsleft out of the agenda setting process to avoid conflict. An example of this is when the conservative governmentrefused to discuss devolution, this type of power can be used to prevent andlimiting decisions as much as making them, this is seen in democratic countriesbut not as much as the 1st dimension.Finally, it can be argued that Steven Lukes’ overallapproach on his critique over Dahl (1961) and Bachrach and Bartz (1970), inregards to their application of its focus on behaviour, although he suggeststhat this power may not be actualized due the discrepancy of individualsinterest and the interests of such power and elitist individuals which theyexclude form the process of making decisions. As Lukes suggest that it relieson the ’empirically basis’, it can be argued that the discovery of real notsubstantial, as the discovery of real interest is not up to the power subjectin this case A but to the object B, by exercising its choice in a condition ofself-government by political participation (Bradshaw, A. 1976).
In conclusion, itcan be argued that the significance of Lukes’ critique towards the pluralistsDahl in the first dimension and neo-elitist Bachrach and Baratz, in comparisonto the third dimension, that these authors applied more focus towardsbehaviourism of individuals in government settings during the process ofdecision making, it also brings into question whether if society would workmore harmoniously if we only used the first dimension of power. Perhaps wewould be only observant of the legislations in the decision-making process, butnot what Lukes describes are ‘power cannot reveal the less visible wayin which a pluralist system may be biased in favour of certain groups andagainst others’, but would we avoid the benefits of the second dimensions, inwhich it takes certain individuals who possess only bad intentions by excludingthem debates and being able to shape policies. This also brings up its ownissues of excluding individuals and straining the freedom of speech. As a result, the third dimension in whichSteven Lukes’ takes power, to another level this is because he views the thirddimension as the most ‘supreme and most insidious exercise of power’ which bothother dimension fail to mention. As a result, in a societal context,individuals are under a false consciousness as they are manipulated and thereperception is shaped without them having any knowledge. I believe that StevenLukes’ dimension does a good job in evaluating the other two dimensions, althoughits significances are insufficient in the form of exploring power and how itcan be exercised.
The third dimension can not only be applied in governmentsettings but also societal context whereby individuals are being reproduce forinequality and to continue feeding the existence of a capitalist society, asthere perception is shaped through education of the thought that meritocracywill allow them to succeed in life, they unconsciously being exploited as theysee no alternative and view their decisions and options as natural.