The Forms of Power: From Domination to Transformation

The Forms of Power: From Domination to Transformation

The Forms of Power: From Domination to Transformation

The Forms of Power: From Domination to Transformation

Excerpt

This book arises out of my dissatisfaction with previous theories of power. It develops a theory of power that steers clear of two tendencies evident in such theories: treating power as an objective feature of an agent's situation and universalizing a particular form of power. The theory of power that I develop acknowledges the diverse forms that power can take in the social world, while also treating power as the result of the ongoing interactions of human social agents. It is for this reason that I call it a field theory of social power.

The term "social" indicates the specific focus of this study: to understand the forms in which power affects the interactions that human beings have with one another. This study only concerns the use of the term "power" in the human social world. There are other uses of the term "power"--for example, such natural occurrences as storms or earthquakes are called "powerful"-- but I am only concerned with power as a specifically social phenomenon.

By using the term "social", I also refer to power in all its different forms as a social reality. All the more particular forms of social being such as the political, the economic, and the familial are encompassed by the idea of the social. A theory of social power conceptualizes the forms that power takes in intersubjective human life, abstracting from the specific character of more particular forms of power such as political and economic power.

Previous theorists of power, particularly political theorists, have failed to recognize that power can be exercised within all the different domains that constitute human social life. They have tended to limit their theories of power to the sphere of politics. While a decision made by a political leader might certainly qualify as a paradigm case of the exercise of power, so too might the decision of a corporate executive. By focusing upon social power in general, this study corrects the one-sidedness of such views of power.

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