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Power: A Radical View (StudIies in Sociology) Paperback – 1 Jan 1975


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Product details

  • Paperback: 64 pages
  • Publisher: Macmillan (1 Jan. 1975)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0333166728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0333166727
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 14 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 326,025 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By John Davidson on 13 April 2001
Format: Paperback
Ok, so a little over the top, but this book is well worth purchasing. In only a little over 50 pages of text, Steven Lukes gives a relevant and believable three dimensional view of what power is.
He believes that power is divided into three levels - Power as force, Power as persuation and Power as manipulation
Read the book to discover which he argues is most potent. You may be surprised!
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Peter McInnes on 5 Mar. 2004
Format: Paperback
This short book, developed from a speech Lukes originally gave at the Sorbonne, isn't exactly groundbreaking (now) and many of the ideas of what Lukes gives as his 'critical' view of power have subsequently been developed and expanded by others. However, what the essay does most convincingly is to build a critique of the behaviouralist, functionalist notions of what constitutes power and how it manifests itself. For this reason alone it is worth having in your library as an entry point to a more fine grained analysis of power as a constitutive force involved in every aspect of the modern world.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 7 reviews
48 of 49 people found the following review helpful
Power has three faces 23 Sept. 2008
By Humblebee - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is essential reading for those interested in the dynamics of power relations and, in particular, how power works to either enhance or undermine democratic participation in society. Over the course of the three essays that constitute the second edition of this book, Lukes develops an idea of power in three dimensions. In the first dimension, power is clearly visible in decision-making processes, where A exercises power over B when A's policy preferences, reflecting A's subjective interests, prevail over B's. Here, power is discernible only where a conflict of interests informs open debate over a public issue. This conflict gives rise to divergent policy preferences competing for public acceptance and political validation.

However, if one were to confine the study of power to its effects in the first dimension, that is, to the outcomes of decision-making processes, one misses other aspects of power detected in the biases of non-decision-making. Non-decision-making power is the power to keep certain issues off the table: it is the power to deny certain individuals or groups access to decision-making processes, and thus to prevent certain grievances from being translated into public issues. While decision-making power, as seen in the first dimension, may be widely distributed among various groups and individuals who alternately succeed in promoting their interests, there may be at the same time unity among these otherwise conflicting interests in preventing certain segments of the population from contributing to the discussion. The second dimension of power consists in this ability to control the agenda, to decide what gets decided--and what doesn't. Here, as in power's first dimension, power is again seen in a conflict situation, only the conflict is now covert, rendered invisible by non-decision-making power.

The third dimension of power incorporates and transcends power's first and second faces. Those who study three-dimensional power recognize not only power as it is exercised in the first and second dimensions but also power where it need not be so exercised. This occurs in the apparent absence of conflict, where power can be seen as the capacity to secure compliance to domination and thereby prevent conflicts or grievances from arising in the first place.

The third face of power is not directly visible, because the securing of willing compliance to domination does not require an explicit exercise of power. However, the mechanisms of such power (domination) are empirically accessible. They may involve the furthering of the material interests of the dominated within certain limits, as part of a class compromise, or they may involve the inculcation of ideologies that bring the dominated to accept the power structure of society as the "natural order of things" or as being divinely established. In both cases, which are not mutually exclusive, the "true interests" of the dominated are obscured; and the dominated are misled to act contrary to their real interests, chief among them being, one may argue, an interest in NOT being dominated and in having more freedom to live according to "the dictates of one's own nature and judgment."

Of course, as Lukes admits, "true interests" is a contested term. There doesn't seem to be a rigid set of objective interests with which everyone can readily identify. Rather than supplying a universal answer to the question of true interests, Lukes responds to this difficulty by providing a set of guidelines for identifying people's interests. The answer, Lukes argues, always depends on three things: the purpose of one's inquiry, one's theoretical framework, and the methods used.

Lukes also recognizes another difficulty in discussing the idea of true interests: It almost always leads to the notion of "false consciousness." False consciousness is a controversial idea, because it is often assumed to have condescending, elitist connotations. However, Lukes regards false consciousness as simply the result of being misled, many instances of which throughout history can be easily identified without much controversy. The mechanisms of false consciousness include censorship, disinformation, and "the promotion and sustenance of all kinds of failures of rationality and illusory thinking, among them the `naturalization' of what could be otherwise and the misrecognition of the sources of desire and belief" (p.149).

The third face of power, as developed by Lukes, expands the conceptual territory of power and reorients its study to include instances of power that escape the attention of those who conceive of power too narrowly, thereby limiting their observations to the realm of political participation. With this book, Lukes makes a vital contribution to the sociological study of power by revealing it as "capacity," and by showing how power works most effectively (and insidiously) when it is hidden.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Crystal clear social thought 30 April 2008
By M. Schaeffer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
This is probably the clearest social science book I have ever read.

Lukes deals with a vast topic and still manages to write a short and very precise book that gives a great overview about the standpoints in the discussion and presents an own convincing argument.

The first part of the book was situated in a specific debate and only deals with the asymmetrical exercise of power by A over B. Lukes third view on power adds that power might be exercised even in the absence of conflict. For example by shaping other peoples interests.

The next two chapters were written more recently and widen the focus to Power as a capacity and the question if power was a capacity, how can it be a meaningful and explanatory concept in the social sciences.

This book is easy to read not because it is an easy introduction to the debate. It is easy to read, because Lukes formulates his argument with huge precision.
Ever asked "How is it even possible to have elected =that= person?"? 5 Mar. 2014
By G Krasichynski - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A short but amazing read. I must have read it 15 times by now. Of the three types of power, as this easy to read, wonderfully cogent book describes, one is different, more persuasive, more seductive, infinitely darker, and when we ask ourselves what went wrong with the world - the answers are right there, laid out for us.

While revealing and precise, academically sound and balanced, it is the simplicity with which it describes very complex dynamics and the clarity it lends to ideas that everybody should know that makes it so impressive. Each time I read it, I get a little more from it!
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Great read: A mind blowing read on power 31 Jan. 2012
By Sunny - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was assigned this text for a graduate course and it is very interesting. While it was hard to get my mind around the concepts of Lukes' views on power, once I did, I understood the material and understand why he is a leader in this field.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A Brief and Helpful Introduction 3 Feb. 2012
By Duane - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
A brief and extremely helpful introduction to the topic of power, and specifically the sociology of power in a political context. My own area of interest is specifically the study of religious conversion from Islam to Christianity and there is much to help here in this book. The author analyzes how power is not only exercised in overt, positive actions, but how power can also be exercised by not allowing issues to surface for open discussion, or even by not allowing a group to learn of a possible interest. That is actually very applicable to the topic of conversion from Islam to Christianity. In the last decades the Internet, the rise of migration and satellite TV (and other things as well) have all made the Christian message available as a live option to Muslims both within and outside of the Muslim world. Previously the political and religious authorities were able to use their power to stymie knowledge of the possibility of becoming Christian (a potential interest for people not satisfied with Islam for whatever reason). That has changed. Lukes' work gives us a helpful and well-informed framework for analyzing these changes.
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