Political Power And Social Theory PdfBy Lebrobitha1972 In and pdf 03.12.2020 at 23:40 7 min read
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Social theories are analytical frameworks, or paradigms , that are used to study and interpret social phenomena. Social theory in an informal nature, or authorship based outside of academic social and political science, may be referred to as " social criticism " or " social commentary ", or "cultural criticism" and may be associated both with formal cultural and literary scholarship, as well as other non-academic or journalistic forms of writing. Social theory by definition is used to make distinctions and generalizations among different types of societies, and to analyze modernity as it has emerged in the past few centuries.
Culture and Politics pp Cite as. In several ways, Swidler provides a more developed analysis of the relationship between culture and social movements than does McAdam. First, she focuses on the ways culture shapes individual beliefs and desires. Thus, culture provides a means by which people make sense of the world. Second, Swidler examines the ways culture provides repertoires of public symbols that structure the kinds of expected responses that individuals develop from their social interactions.
Power (social and political)
In respone to these concerns, my objective in this paper is to review and synthesize social science theory to facilitate a useful engagement between studies of resilience and the concept of power.
The article comprises three parts. First, I briefly review the critique, and how resilience scholars so far have dealt with power conceptually and empirically. Second, I review how power has been used as central concept in social scientific theory, and I introduce a conceptualization of power to study social-ecological interactions.
Finally, I illustrate how power can be used to study social-ecological interactions based on the example of fire domestication, and I discuss implications for further research. A closer look at studies of resilience reveals that several of its core concepts resonate with the idea of power as a human capacity to act in social and ecological conditions.
Resilience studies focus on social-ecological systems and try to explain their evolution regime shifts or transformations and involution social-ecological traps by analyzing causality from social-ecological interaction. For this purpose, they frequently, but not exclusively, rely on three concepts: resilience, adaptability, and transformability. Adaptability refers to the capacity to learn and use knowledge to adjust behavior according to changes from within or outside a social-ecological system.
Through adaptation, organisms succeed to remain within a regime of alternative social-ecological system conditions Folke et al. Transformability also refers to capacity, namely the capacity to produce a change between regimes. In line with these definitions, several resilience studies have measured the abilities of persons or groups to influence social-ecological change Pinkerton , Crona and Bodin , Westley et al. These and other studies Peterson , Kofinas , Duit et al.
However, despite these gains, references to the social scientific literature on power in resilience studies remain limited. The problem rather seems to be how to engage the concept of power in studies of social-ecological interaction.
The social scientific literature on power is far from straightforward, as I will demonstrate in more detail in the next section Sources and Dimensions of Power. Moreover, using power as a concept will draw resilience scholars into ontological debates that until now have not explicitly influenced their studies. One such debate revolves around the question of whether power should be considered a property of systems, structures, and events, or a property of distinct actors.
Indeed, resilience studies rarely clarify how the central concepts of resilience, adaptability, and transformability can refer to properties of social-ecological systems as well as to the organisms and humans that inhabit them. This distinction is nevertheless important because it is required to allocate responsibility for outcomes Morriss , Young Still, drawing direct causal links between collective outcomes and individual actors is complicated for social-ecological systems.
Resilience studies frame social-ecological interactions as dynamic relations between parts and wholes, which redirects focus to how the actions of parts interlink to cause structural outcomes such as regime shifts or traps Levin et al.
Because the social-ecological interactions under study take place across global and local scales, it often becomes difficult to clearly demonstrate causal connections, i. Consequently, it is often problematic to assign responsibility for the evolution and involution of social-ecological interactions. I will return to these questions and efforts in the discussion section.
In the following sections, I will first review the debate on power as social science concept and then use this debate to conceptualize power as a tool for the analysis of social-ecological interactions.
According to a well-known statement, the concept of power should be considered just as fundamental to the social sciences as the concept of energy is to physics Russell  Power is deemed fundamental, first because it can explain social causality Hobbes ; see also Sayer , Reed This purpose is clearly also relevant for resilience studies. As noted previously, the various sources and dimensions of power can help to clarify and measure different aspects of adaptability, transformability, and resilience Peterson , Kofinas , Pinkerton , Crona and Bodin , Duit et al.
However, this is not the only reason why power is an important concept for social scientists; there are two more reasons for studying power Morriss The second reason is to assign responsibility to people for bringing about certain desirable or undesirable outcomes.
The third reason is to assess the performance of social systems and institutions, i. These last two reasons refer to purposes that resilience studies might not explicitly consider, but which would nevertheless be relevant: Locating responsibility for the outcomes of social-ecological interactions is crucial for political and legal reasons, and assessing the sustainability performance of social arrangements in relation to social justice and equity is important for moral and ethical reasons.
If these reasons for using power as a concept to study social-ecological interactions seem plausible, the next step would be to handle the confetti of labels and theories that come with the term. Indeed, as some famous scholars noticed long ago, power is not a straightforward concept.
Today, little seems to have changed. Power is shapeshifting; it is what its environment makes it, and therefore, it exists in many forms, e. As introduced earlier, a conventional way to define power is by referring to abilities or capacities Morriss Power sources such as wealth, muscle power, reputation, social connections, access to natural resources, or technology, are often used to signal these abilities.
It is true that the ability of people to exercise power depends on such sources, but it is important to realize that these sources in and of themselves do not constitute power. As I explain later, this does not disqualify using sources as indicators of power see e.
Although highlighting very different dimensions of power, these scholars all refer to the ability of people to shape or influence the conduct of other people. Power in these approaches always has a face, i.
The crucial insight from these studies is that the power of social actors to influence outcomes power to can only exist in conditions that have been socially structured Pansardi This means that power does not only refer to the direct dependence between two given people as in many conventional definitions of power; e.
It also includes the indirect dependence between individual actors and a host of other people that shape the conditions that allow two given people to interact Elias . These conditions include social structures Merton and also social events, which refer to specific situated actions and interactions in time and place Reed Social structures influence human abilities and are shaped by interactions of countless others who are often not immediately visible because they are distant in historical time and geographical space.
A social event, on the other hand, refers to the unintended, unanticipated outcome of social interaction, which in turn influences the future actions of persons involved see Elias . The power imbued from social structures or events is of a different kind. Power from social structures refers to how the abilities of actors are shaped by the structures of social relations in which they are embedded, whereas power from social events refers to how time- and place-specific processes of action and interaction enable or limit such abilities Portes , Reed There is considerable debate in the social sciences about whether or not social structures and events can count as forms of power Digeser , Hayward and Lukes If they are considered as forms of power, there is a danger that power relations are reified.
In this case, an abstract system or sequence of events is thought to bear responsibility for a certain outcome e. Not considering these situations impedes the analytical and evaluative purposes of power analyses. The scene illustrates that people can be powerless but not dominated, that people can have power that they never exercise, and that people can exercise power without intention or awareness see also Parsons , Hayward , Foucault .
The scene features a farmer, named Muley, and his family. They are facing a tractor driver that is about to bulldoze their shack and plough their land. And look - suppose you kill me? He got his orders from the bank. This dialog clearly shows a situation in which a person is dominated but not necessarily as a result of the doings of specific powerful individuals.
For Muley, this explanation is difficult to accept because he really wants to hold someone responsible for his misery. These examples from The Grapes of Wrath illustrate that it is often impossible, because of complex causality, to track precisely which past actions of people cause current wrongdoings. They could perhaps have more power if these institutions and networks were organized differently. Such an observation is an evaluation of a society, or part of a society, and not necessarily a distribution of praise or blame to specific individual people Morriss These dilemmas are directly relevant for studies of social-ecological interactions, including studies of resilience.
To understand and change the causal interaction between earth processes and human societies, it is necessary to include human power as well as to understand how this power is shaped through social and ecological conditions.
Box 1 presents an outcome of a social-ecological interaction, the Dust Bowl and the response of American society to this ecological threat, that vividly illustrates the tension that can occur between the analytical or evaluative and the moral purpose of an analysis of power.
As a result of its polymorphous nature, the social science definitions of power run into the thousands Wrong . Dimensions and sources of power are thus understood as a cluster of characteristics: a family in which members share some traits but no one trait identifies the family as distinct from others Pigliucci The traits are not mutually exclusive, but rather presuppose each other. Introducing power as a family resemblance concept avoids equating power exclusively with one of its dimensions or sources Reed However, understanding and applying social science concepts of power to the study of social-ecological interactions continues to be complicated.
One important reason is that social scientists frequently fail to indicate how dimensions or sources of power relate to one another e. This failure encourages the interpretation that one or more sources, or dimensions, are essential for some person or activity to count as powerful, and runs counter to the idea of power as a family resemblance concept.
I next attempt to amend for this failure by presenting a conceptualization of power that can be used for the study of social-ecological interactions. Although the conceptualization of power presented here is strongly influenced by the sociological theories just discussed, it will differ from this tradition in its explicit effort to incorporate social-ecological interactions.
Goertz proposes to conceptualize social phenomena on three levels. I will explain these levels using the concept of resilience to illustrate their interrelation. The basic level refers to the concept as it is used and known in theory. Goertz remarks that, most often, research tries to explain the affirmation of the basic level concept, without indicating its negation.
Indeed, negations of resilience are often not explicitly defined but see Miller et al. The secondary level includes the constitutive attributes of the basic-level concept. The indicator level includes the operationalization of the secondary-level elements. It refers to the level at which empirical data or information can be gathered. Marshall and Marshall , for example, operationalize social resilience with the following indicators: 1 perception of risk associated with change; 2 perception of the ability to plan, learn, and reorganize; 3 perception of the ability to cope; and 4 level of interest in change.
A crucial purpose for conceptualization is to explicate how elements at the indicator and secondary levels combine to form the basic-level concept. Goertz identifies two principle structures: essentialist structures, highlighting necessary and sufficient conditions; and family resemblance structures in which conditions share certain features. Much of the debate and confusion in social science about the definition of power comes from not clearly distinguishing these two principles.
At the basic level, social scientists are united in defining power intrinsically as a social relation. The debate and confusion begins at the secondary level with the introduction of agent-centered and structural views of power see Hayward and Lukes , Raik et al.
Several scholars have explicated the relations between these two different forms of power. Making structures, events, and agency logically equivalent acknowledges the empirical observation that, in social reality, the two forms of power power to and power over are intimately interrelated Pansardi Based on this argument, it follows that both agent-centered and structural dimensions of power together are necessary for social power to exist.
It is wrong to think that one of the two is more important as in an essentialist structure , and equally wrong to think that either one of them constitutes social power as in a family resemblance structure.
To avoid the agency-structure dualism and the associated risks of personification and reification, respectively it is important to re-emphasize that social power refers to the ability of actors to influence outcomes.
Based on the foregoing, this ability consists in directly shaping conduct individual and that of others as well as shaping the social and ecological contexts that structure the range of possibilities and abilities of others Hay Having identified the basic- and secondary-level items of power and the nature of their relationship, it is now possible to populate the level of indicators, i.
Cultural Power and Social Movements
In respone to these concerns, my objective in this paper is to review and synthesize social science theory to facilitate a useful engagement between studies of resilience and the concept of power. The article comprises three parts. First, I briefly review the critique, and how resilience scholars so far have dealt with power conceptually and empirically. Second, I review how power has been used as central concept in social scientific theory, and I introduce a conceptualization of power to study social-ecological interactions. Finally, I illustrate how power can be used to study social-ecological interactions based on the example of fire domestication, and I discuss implications for further research.
This article analyses the relationship between political theory and social theory. The separation of political and social theory and of political theory from other areas in the study of politics is a relatively recent development. In spite of their differences, however, political and social theory share the one set of historical roots and, partly in consequence, a core set of assumptions. They specifically share intellectual and cultural history. Barry Hindess, after working as a sociologist in Britain, learned to pass as a political scientist at Australian National University, where he is now an Emeritus Professor in the School of Politics and International Relations. His publications include papers on time, liberalism and imperial rule, and Discourses of Power: from Hobbes to Foucault , Governing Australia ed.
This volume of Political Power and Social Theory stretches its canvas broadly. Its four constituent Review of Radical Political Economics / Summer
14.3 Theories of Power and Society
In social science and politics , power is the capacity of an individual to influence the actions, beliefs, or conduct behaviour of others. The term authority is often used for power that is perceived as legitimate by the social structure , not to be confused with authoritarianism. Power can be seen as evil or unjust ; however, power can also be seen as good and as something inherited or given for exercising humanistic objectives that will help, move, and empower others as well. In general, it is derived by the factors of interdependence between two entities and the environment.
These remarks raise some important questions: Just how democratic is the United States? Whose interests do our elected representatives serve? Is political power concentrated in the hands of a few or widely dispersed among all segments of the population?
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