Table of Contents:


Tarnow considers what power hijackers have over air plane passengers and draws similarities with power in the military. He shows that power over an individual can be amplified by the presence of a group. If the group conforms to the leader's commands, the leader's power over an individual is greatly enhanced while if the group does not conform the leader's power over an individual is nil.


The seminal work of Steven Lukes Power: A radical view (1974) was developed from a talk he was once invited to give in Paris. In this brief book, Lukes outlines two dimensions through which power had been theorised in the earlier part of the twentieth century (dimensions 1 and 2 below) which he critiqued as being limited to those forms of power that could be seen. To these he added a third 'critical' dimension which built upon insights from Gramsci and Althusser. In many ways this work evolved alongside of the writing of Foucault and serves as a good introduction to his thoughts on power.


• Power is decision making

• Exercised in formal institutions

• Measure it by the outcomes of decisions.

In his own words, Lukes states that the "one-dimensional, view of power involves a focus on behaviour in the making of decisions on issues over which there is an observable conflict of (subjective) interests, seen as express policy preferences, revealed by political participation."

Two-dimensional: 1D plus:

• Decision making and agenda-setting

• Institutions and informal influences

• Measure extent of informal influence

• Techniques used by two-dimensional power structures:

♦ Influence

♦ Inducement

♦ Persuasion

♦ Authority

♦ Coercion

♦ Direct force.

Three-dimensional: Includes aspects of Model 1 and 2, plus:

• Shapes preferences via values, norms, ideologies

• All social interaction involves power because ideas operate behind all language and action

• Not obviously measurable: we must infer its existence (focus on language)

• Ideas or values that ground all social and political activity For example:

♦ Religious ideals (Christianity, secularism)

♦ Self-interest for economic gain

• These become routine - we don't consciously 'think' of them

• Political ideologies inform policy making without being explicit, e.g., neoconservatism.


Alvin Toffler's Powershift argues that the three main kinds of power are violence, wealth and knowledge with other kinds of power being variations of these three (typically knowledge). Each successive kind of power represents a more flexible kind of power. Violence can only be used negatively, to punish. Wealth can be used both negatively (by withholding money) and positively (by advancing/spending money). Knowledge can be used in these ways but, additionally, can be used in a transformative way. Such examples are, sharing knowledge on agriculture to ensure that everyone is capable of supplying himself and his family of food; Allied nations with a shared identity forming with the spread of religious or political philosophies, or one can use knowledge as a tactical/strategic superiority in Intelligence (information gathering).

Toffler argues that the very nature of power is currently shifting. Throughout history, power has often shifted from one group to another; however, at this time, the dominant form of power is changing. During the Industrial Revolution, power shifted from a nobility acting primarily through violence to industrialists and financiers acting through wealth. Of course, the nobility used wealth just as the industrial elite used violence, but the dominant form of power shifted from violence to wealth. Today, a Third Wave of shifting power is taking place with wealth being overtaken by knowledge.

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