According to Terence Ball, ‘power is arguably the single most important organising concept in social and political theory’ (Ball, 1992, p. 14). Like the other concepts we have examined in this book, although we are often able to employ the word in a serviceable enough fashion, things become more difficult when we try to pin down exactly what ‘power’ is. Indeed, as one leading theorist of power has observed, although scholars are able to discuss how ‘to gain, resist, seize, harness, secure, tame, share, spread, distribute, equalize or maximize’ power, they cannot agree ‘about how to define it, how to conceive it, how to study it, and if it can be measured, how to measure it’ (Lukes, 2005, p. 61). In this chapter we try to sort through some of these disagreements about power by comparing four different views about what it is, and by exploring their complex relationships with democracy and freedom. Before doing so, however, it will be helpful to establish some general features of power and to explore a closely related concept — domination.
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