Several years ago a group of faculty members at Michigan State University began meeting informally to discuss studies of community decision-making. We soon became known among ourselves as "the power-structure group." I volunteered to collect, systematically, reprints of articles in the power field, and prepared summaries of a number of the more interesting pieces for discussion at group sessions. My colleagues found these useful and since several staff members of the Institute for Community Development were in the group, we decided to undertake a compilation of relevant abstracts as an Institute project. Wishing to extend my own acquaintance with the literature, I agreed to prepare the abstracts.
This monograph is the result. It differs from the usual collection of abstracts in that many of the summaries are detailed rather than tantalizingly cryptic. This characteristic results from the purpose for which they were originally planned. I saw nothing to be gained subsequently by severely condensing them.
At the time of writing, I count six Institute research projects directly or indirectly concerned with community decision-making and know of several others within the University. In many ways the study of community decision-making has become a cozy enterprise where contributing a piece of research is like joining a private club. Every researcher "owns" a city and students hack away at the subject matter with a kind of Elizabethan confidence in their ability to make important discoveries. I suspect in fact that the decade just past will be regarded as the "golden age" or the "classic period" of power-structure studies in the social sciences because it has been a period when researchers have been intensely interested in their own work and that of their colleagues. The articles summarized here, supplemented by the books listed in the bibliography, provide a survey of the field during this exciting period.
My standard of selection was that an article shed light on how decisions are made at the local level, and as a political scientist, I was also particularly interested in articles describing the activity of local government. These articles deal with how individuals, as part of a power configuration or acting alone, influenced specific decisions and thus shaped policy. The collection attempts to be comprehensive rather than selective.
My intention here is to note some of the ideas developed in these articles that seem to me particularly perceptive and useful, and secondly, to discuss four major questions that emerge as important when one has reviewed the literature of the subject. It . . .