In this chapter I seek to broaden the discussion of the concept of power. I begin from the fact of unending disagreement about how power is to be conceived and ask whether we need the concept at all and, if so, what for. I will then draw a sort of conceptual map in order to situate and focus upon the argument of PRV and the debate of which it was part. Because PRV was a response and contribution to an ongoing debate within American political science, it was also caught up in the presuppositions of that debate whose shared concept of power, based on Dahl’s ‘intuitive idea’ that ‘A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do’ (Dahl 1957 in Scott (ed.) 1994: vol. 2, p. 290), has been condemned as ‘sterile’ (Taylor 1984: 171). That condemnation was made in the light of subsequent theorizing about power, notably by Michel Foucault, whose treatment of power promised to broaden and deepen the discussion. I think the condemnation of the earlier debate is too dismissive: Dahl and his followers brought welcome and healthy precision, clarity and methodological rigour to the study of an admittedly narrow range of important questions.
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