Lukes on Power essay


Lukeson Power

Lukes(2005), in his book &quotPower:A radical View&quotfocuseson three views of power one-dimensional, two-dimensional andthree-dimensional views. This paper discusses these three views ofpower.

TheOne-Dimensional View of Power

Thisview was put forward by American Political Scientists Robert Dahl(1961), Nelson Polsby (1968), and Raymond Wolfinger (1971). Accordingto this view, A has power over B such that A can make B do somethingthat B would not otherwise do. This approach is characterized by itsmethod for studying, which is behaviorist, and focuses mainly onstudying power as it happens in decisions. For a group to have powerover another there must be a degree of conflict and different sets ofpreferences to the point where one set of preferences is chosen overanother set (Watson, 2012 p. 102). One dimensional view of powermainly focuses on subjective interests seen as policy preferencesrevealed by political participation, behavior, decision-making,observable conflict, and key issues.

Two-DimensionalPower View

Bachrachand Baratz (1970) have questioned the one-dimensional view and arguethat it presents a too basic and `sanguine` perception of Americanpolitics. The two argued that power has two dimensions it is awholly embodied decision on one side, but it is also exercised bythose who can set limits on decisions in the first place, on theother side. Bachrach and Baratz further stated that “power isexercised when A is involved in making decisions that affect B. Powercan also be exercised when A dedicates his energies to developing orstrengthening social and political values and institutional practicesthat limit the scope of the political process to public considerationof only those issues which are comparatively inoffensive to A. To theextent that A succeeds in doing this, B is prevented, for allpractical purposes, from bringing to the fore any issues that mightin their resolution be seriously unfavorable to A`s set ofpreferences” (Haugaard, 2006 p. 86). These entities operate tobenefit different groups of people in the society while excludingothers. Lukes evaluates this model and explains that it has two ideasof power first, where A directly affects B and secondly, where Aaffects B through threats of some sanction. According to this powerdimension, there are different ideas embraced by this view of powerwhich include influence, coercion, authority, manipulation, andforce. These constitute the means by which individuals having powerinfluence others. Bachrach and Baratz (1970) criticized thetwo-dimensional power view in that the level at the pluralist is toodependent on power that can be observed by looking at behavior oractual action.

Three-DimensionalPower View

Lukes(2005) states that three-dimensional view of power involves athorough going critique of the behavioral focus on previousapproaches to power. This behavioristic is too individualistic andfails to appreciate that power operates through other means,including organizational rules and systemic bias over whichindividuals have little or no control. Power can operate where thereis no conflict, through shaping wants and desires (Andreassen &ampCrawford, 2013 p. 84). It might involve latent conflict which is saidto exist between the interests of those exercising power and the&quotreal interests&quot of those they exclude.

Aradical view of power depends on establishing counter factual andthis can be very difficult to establish, the unconscious view isdifficult to establish if power is operating under conditions ofpeople being unaware of doing so, and finally, it can be difficult todetermine where power is operating and where there is simplestructural determination.


Andreassen,A.B. &amp Crawford, G. (2013), HumanRights, Power and Civic Action: Comparative Analyses of Struggles forRights in Developing Societies,London, Routledge.

Bachrach,P., &amp Baratz, M. S. (1970), Powerand poverty. theory and practice,New York, Oxford University Press.

Haugaard,M. (2006), Power:A reader,Manchester, Manchester Univ. Press.

Lukes,S. (2005), Power:A radical view,Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

Watson,E. (2012), Threedimensions of power, preformance and centrality,M. Sc. University College London.