Power and the Social

Power and the Social

Power and the Social

Power and the Social

Synopsis

Looking at the different ways power has been theorised from Hobbes to Giddens, this book analyzes the ways in which the theories have been applied. By bringing together theory and substantive analysis, this invaluable introductory text provides a clear and imaginative account of power and power relations. Processes and structures of power are analyzed within key areas of sociological concern, including: * the history of power * race * gender * class * sexuality * the spatial and visual. Investigating a wide range of cases from across the globe, including the 'underclass' in Britain, the power of the military in Latin America, the untouchables in India and the politics of new reproductive technologies, Dr Sallie Westwood adopts a popular approach to the subject, looking at the processes of power as well as structure and at how they function in everyday life.

Excerpt

This book is an extended essay on the theme of power. It began life as a lecture course in which students were offered the opportunity to consider writings by specific authors on power. The book moves forward from the theoretical and philosophical concerns with power to provide an alternative account linking theoretical and substantive concerns. This is not an easy undertaking, and I am sure that as a reader you will bring different understandings to the discussion that follows. This is to be welcomed; the complexities and twists and turns in the stories of power and power relations are much more likely to generate discussion and debate than any simple consensus. Indeed, the aim of the book is to generate debate and dissent, and I very much hope that the book will be used in this way.

Debates around power and power relations are the mainstay of television drama and documentaries and, of course, news coverage such as the US Presidential Election in 2000, which provided an account of the minutiae of the democratic process and the relationship between political and judicial powers. More routinely, television programmes, watched by millions, dramatise power relations within families, between women and men and between the forces of law and order and criminality. Although the dramatic and visual tensions of power plays provide entertainment, one channel, Channel 4 in the UK, has tried to explore power in a more systematic way. A series of programmes was constructed as televisual seminars in which the participants were given the task of constructing a 'power list'. Economic power and the power of multinational corporations figured strongly in the initial 'power list'. As a prelude to these power lists, there was some discussion of the key question, 'What is power?' Like sociologists, the contributors to these programmes, who included political figures, scientists like Susan Greenfield, and people from private industry and the media, were very exercised by this question. In part, the answer around which their discussions coalesced is also of major import for sociological accounts. Power was viewed as a capacity within which is contained the ability to intervene in the lives of others. This introduces the first important distinction when considering the analysis of power: that between an understanding of power as a 'thing', usually signified by the notion of capacity, and the exercise of power, which is necessarily relational. However, although we can see the relational aspects of power in interpersonal situations, it is much more difficult to 'see' the power of Rupert Murdoch to

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