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About this book

The second edition of this seminal work includes the original text, first published in 1974, alongside two major new chapters. Power: A Radical View assesses the main debates about how to conceptualize and study power, including the influential contributions of Michel Foucault. Power Revisited reconsiders Steven Lukes' own views in light of these debates and of criticisms of his original argument.

With a new introduction and bibliographical essay, this book has consolidated its reputation as a classic work and a major reference point within Social and Political Theory. It can be used on modules across the Social and Political Sciences dealing with the concept of power and its manifestation in the world. It is also essential reading for all undergraduate and postgraduates interested in the history of Social and Political Thought.

Table of Contents

Introduction

Abstract
Thirty years ago I published a small book entitled Power: A Radical View (hereafter PRV). It was a contribution to an ongoing debate, mainly among American political scientists and sociologists, about an interesting question: how to think about power theoretically and how to study it empirically. But underlying that debate another question was at issue: how to characterize American politics — as dominated by a ruling elite or as exhibiting pluralist democracy — and it was clear that answering the second question required an answer to the first. My view was, and is, that we need to think about power broadly rather than narrowly — in three dimensions rather than one or two — and that we need to attend to those aspects of power that are least accessible to observation: that, indeed, power is at its most effective when least observable.
Steven Lukes

1. Power: A Radical View

Abstract
This chapter presents a conceptual analysis of power. In it I shall argue for a view of power (that is, a way of identifying it) which is radical in both the theoretical and political senses (and I take these senses in this context to be intimately related). The view I shall defend is, I shall suggest, ineradicably evaluative and ‘essentially contested’ (Gallie 1955–6)1 on the one hand; and empirically applicable on the other. I shall try to show why this view is superior to alternative views. I shall further defend its evaluative and contested character as no defect, and I shall argue that it is ‘operational’, that is, empirically useful in that hypotheses can be framed in terms of it that are in principle verifiable and falsifiable (despite currently canvassed arguments to the contrary). And I shall even give examples of such hypotheses — some of which I shall go so far as to claim to be true.
Steven Lukes

2. Power, Freedom and Reason

Abstract
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.
Steven Lukes

3. Three-Dimensional Power

Abstract
PRV, first published as a short book some thirty years ago in the context of an ongoing debate, makes several contentious claims in an extremely brief compass. It offers a definition of the concept of power, claiming both that the concept is ‘essentially contested’ and that the conceptual analysis proposed is superior to those criticized; and it claims to provide a way of analysing power that goes deeper and is at once value-laden, theoretical and empirical. As indicated, these claims face a series of difficulties and objections (not least that they are mutually incompatible) that many critics have pressed and pursued. In considering these claims, difficulties and objections, the question before us is: what in the foregoing presentation, reproduced as Chapter 1 of this volume, is to be abandoned, what qualified, what defended and what developed further?
Steven Lukes
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