Introduction to Political Science II
Power , Authority & Legitimacy
Definition of Power
• In the natural sciences: ‘force’ or ‘energy’. • In the social sciences:
A) the ability to achieve a desired outcome,
sometimes referred to as power to. B) a relationship as the exercise of control by one
person over another, or as power over.
Steven Lukes’s Definition in Power: A Radikal View
if A gets B to do something A wants but which B would not have chosen to do, power is being exercised.
• In other words, power is the ability to get someone to do what they would not otherwise have done.
• • But Lukes’s distinctions are nevertheless of
value in drawing attention to how power is exercised in the real world, to the various ways in which A can influence B’s behaviour.
The Three Faces of Power
• These are some kind of ways that how power exercised in real life. – [Decision Making] Power can involve the ability to
influence the making of decisions. – [Agenda Setting] Power may be reflected in the capacity to
shape the political agenda and thus prevent decisions being made.
– [Thought Control] Power may take the form of controlling people’s thoughts by the manipulation of their perceptions and preferences.
Decision-making It dates back to Thomas Hobbes’s suggestion that
power is the ability of an ‘agent’ to affect the behaviour of a ‘patient’.
This notion is in fact analogous to the idea of physical
or mechanical power, in that it implies that power involves being ‘pulled’ or ‘pushed’ against one’s will.
This argument’s classic statement can be found in
Robert Dahl’s ‘A Critique of the Ruling Elite Model’ (1958) and it has been central to conventional political science.
Power is concentrated in the hands of a “ruling elite” and this group treated power as the ability to influence the decision making process.
The attraction of this treatment of
power is that it corresponds to the commonsense belief that power is somehow about getting things done, and is therefore most clearly reflected in decisions and how they are made.
Agenda setting The Two Faces of Power (1962) by P. Bachrach and M.
Baratz which describes power by a non-decision making perspective as the second face of power.
They also accepted that the power is reflected in the
decision-making process but brought a new perspective to the concept.
This form of power is the ability to set the political agenda. This kind is difficult – but not impossible – idetify, requaring
as it does an understanding of the dynamics of non- decision-making.
Whereas the decision-making approach to power encourages attention to focus upon the active participation of groups in the process, non-decisions highlight the importance of political organization in blocking the participation of certain groups and the expression of particular opinions.
In the view of Bachrach and Baratz, any adequate
understanding of power must take full account of ‘the dominant values and the political myths, rituals and institutions which tend to favour the vested interests of one or more groups, relative to others’.
• The analysis of power as non-decision-making has often generated elitist rather than pluralist conclusions. Bachrach and Baratz, for instance, pointed out that the ‘mobilization of bias’ in conventional politics normally operates in the interests of what they call ‘status quo defenders’, privileged or elite groups.
Thought Control In reality, no human being possesses an entirely independent mind;
the ideas, opinions and preferences of all are structured and shaped by social experience, through the influence of family, peer groups, school, the workplace, the mass media, political parties and so forth.
So, the third face of power is in relationship with this reality and defines the power as the ability of A to exercise power over B, not by getting B to do what he would not otherwise do, but, in by influencing, shaping or determining his very wants’.
Some of the thinkers that can be placed in this type of power are
Steven Lukes, Herbert Marcuse, some Marxist (and New Left) theorist, Michel Foucault etc.
Marcuse argues in One Dimensional Man that advanced industrial societies control people through the pervasive manipulation of needs, made possible by modern technology. This created what Marcuse called ‘a comfortable, smooth, reasonable, democratic unfreedom’. In such circumstances, the absence of conflict in society may not attest to general contentment and a wide dispersal of power.
A central theme in the radical view of power is the distinction between truth and falsehood, reflected in the difference between subjective or ‘felt’ interests, and objective or ‘real’ interests.
For Marx and ortodox Marxists, the power of the bourgeoisie is ideological, as well as economic and political. In Marx’s view, the dominant ideas, values and beliefs of any society are the ideas of its ruling class. Thus the proletariat as the exploited class is deluded by the weight of bourgeois ideas and theories and comes to suffer from “false consciousness’.
• Postmodern thinkers influenced in particular by the writings of Michel Foucault, have also drawn attention to the link between power and systems of thought through the idea of a ‘discourse of power’.
• Discourses are a form of power in that they set up antagonisms and structure relations between people, who are defined as subjects or objects, as ‘insiders’ or ‘outsiders’.
• Postmodern theorists come close to seeing power as ubiquitous, all systems of knowledge being viewed as manifestations of power.
Politics’ traditional concern is the exercise of power; however it is often more narrowly interested in the phenomenon called ‘authority’, and especially ‘political authority’.
Authority is a form of power but they are
distinguished from one another as contrasting means through which compliance or obedience is achieved.
• power can be defined as the ability to influence the behaviour of another,
• authority can be understood as the right to influence the behaviour of another,
Authority is an important topic for modern sociology and Max Weber is one of them who concerned to explain why, and under what circumstances, people were prepared to accept the exercise of power as rightful or legitimate.
He defined authority simply as a matter of people’s belief
about its rightfulness, regardless of where that belief came from and whether or not it is morally justified.
Weber’s approach treats authority as a form of power;
authority is ‘legitimate power’, power cloaked in legitimacy
A final difficulty in clarifying the meaning of authority arises from the contrasting uses of the term. People can be described as being either ‘in authority’ or ‘an authority’.
To describe a person as being in authority is to refer to his or her
position within an institutional hierarchy. A teacher, policeman, civil servant, judge or minister exercises authority in precisely this sense. They are office-holders whose authority is based upon the formal ‘powers’ of their post or position.
To be described as an authority is to be recognised as possessing
superior knowledge or expertise, and to have one’s views treated with special respect as a result.
Kinds of Authority
The most influential attempt to categorize types of authority was undertaken by Max Weber
He constructed three ‘ideal-
types’, which he accepted were only conceptual models but which, he hoped, would help to make sense of the highly complex nature of political rule.
Traditional Authority Weber suggested that in traditional societies authority
is based upon respect for long-established customs and traditions.
Traditional authority is regarded as legitimate because
it has ‘always existed’ and was accepted by earlier generations.
The most obvious examples of traditional authority are
found amongst tribes or small groups, in the form of ‘patriarchalism’ and ‘gerontocracy’.
Charismatic Authority This form of authority is based entirely upon the power of
an individual’s personality, his or her ‘charisma’. Charismatic authority owes nothing to a person’s status,
social position or office, and everything to his or her personal qualities and, in particular, the ability to make a direct and personal appeal to others. Charismatic authority should not be think simply as a gift or
natural propensity. Political leaders often try to ‘manufacture’ charisma, either by cultivating their media image and sharpening their oratorical skills or, in orchestrating an elaborate ‘cult of personality’ through the control of a propaganda machine.
Legal – Rational Authority
This was the most important kind of authority since, in Weber’s view the dominant mode of organisation within
modern industrial societies. Legal-rational authority was characteristic of
the large-scale, bureaucratic organizations that had come to dominate modern society.
Legal-rational authority operates through the existence of a body of clearly defined rules; in effect, legal-rational authority attaches entirely to the office and its formal ‘powers’, and not to the office-holder.
Legal-rational authority arises out of respect for
the ‘rule of law’, in that power is always clearly and legally defined, ensuring that those who exercise power do so within a framework of law.
• Legitimacy is usually defined simply as ‘rightfulness’. • Legitimacy is the quality that transforms naked power
into rightful authority; it confers upon an order or command an authoritative or binding character, ensuring that it is obeyed out of duty rather than because of fear.
• The terms of legitimacy and authority sometimes be used synonymously; however people are said to have authority whereas it is political systems that are described as legitimate.
Different opinions and definations about legitimacy
• Weber: a belief in the ‘right to rule’, a belief in legitimacy; providing its peoples are prepared to comply, a system of rule can be described as legitimate.
• Aristotle: the rule was legitimate only when it operated to the benefit of the whole society rather than in the selfish interests of the rulers.
• Rousseau: Government was legitimate if it was based upon the ‘general will’.
David Beetham: The Legitimation of Power
• power can be
said to be legitimate only if three conditions are fulfilled.
• 1) power must be exercised according to established rules, whether embodied in formal legal codes or informal conventions.
• 2) these rules must be justified in terms of the shared beliefs of the government and the governed
• 3) Legitimacy must be demonstrated by the expression of consent on the part of the governed.
Following Beetham, it can be argued that legitimacy is conferred only upon regimes that exercise power according to established and accepted principles, notably regimes that rule on the basis of popular consent.
Constitutionalism and consent
• Liberal democracy is - its supporters argue - is able to guarantee continued legitimacy by ensuring that government is exercised in accordance with the wishes, preferences and interests of the general public
• Such regimes operate within certain ‘rules of power’, taking the form of some kind of constitution.
• These ensure that individual liberty is protected and government power is constrained.
• Liberal democracies provide a basis for popular consent in the form of regular, open and competitive elections.
Definition of Constitution
• Simply, the rules which govern the government.
• Sets of the rules which allocate duties, powers and functions to the various institutions of government and define the relationship between individuals and the state.
• In so doing, constitutions define and limit government power, preventing government acting simply as it chooses.
• Constitutions confer legitimacy upon a regime by making government a rule-bound activity. Constitutional governments therefore exercise legal-rational authority; their powers are authorized by constitutional law.
• The mere existence of a constitution does not in itself ensure that government power is rightfully exercised.A constitution confers legitimacy only when its principles reflect values and beliefs which are widely held in society
• Constitutional governments may nevertheless fail to establish legitimacy if they do not, in some way, ensure that government rests upon the consent or agreement of the people. The idea of consent arose out of social contract theory and the belief that government had somehow arisen out of a voluntary agreement undertaken by free individuals.
• The conventional image of liberal democracies is that they enjoy legitimacy because, on the one hand, they respect individual liberty and, on the other, they are responsive to public opinion.
• However, critics suggest that constitutionalism and democracy are little more than a facade concealing the domination of a ‘power elite’ or ‘ruling class’.
• MILIBAND: liberal
democracy = capitalist democracy; it serves the interests of private property and ensure the long- term stability of capitalism. Docsity.com
• So radikal thinkers in the Marxist and anarchist traditions adopted a more critical approach to the legitimation process, one which emphasizes the degree to which legitimacy is produced by ideological manipulation and indoctrination.
• • Ideological control can be used to maintain stability and
build legitimacy (the capacity to manipulate human needs)
• Example: totalitarian regimes which propagate an ‘official ideology’ and ruthlessly suppress all rival creeds, doctrines and beliefs.
• education is reduced to a process of ideological indoctrination
• the mass media is turned into a propaganda machine • ‘unreliable’ beliefs are strictly censored • political opposition is brutally stamped out, and so on.
• However, Marxists claim to identify a similar process at work within liberal democracies.
• Despite the existence of competitive party systems, autonomous pressure groups, a free press and constitutionally guaranteed civil liberties, Marxists argue that liberal democracies are dominated by ‘bourgeois ideology’.
• In the Marxist tradition, ‘ideology’ denotes sets of ideas which tend to conceal the contradictions upon which all class societies were based. Ideologies therefore propagate falsehood, delusion and mystification.
• Ideology thus operates in the interests of a ‘ruling class’, which controls the process of intellectual production as completely as it controls the process of material production.
• modern Marxists have clearly acknowledged that cultural, ideological and political competition does exist, but stress that this competition is unequal,
• Such indoctrination may, in fact, be far more
successful precisely because it operates behind the illusion of free speech, open competition and political pluralism.
• Antonio Gramsci who drew attention to the degree to which the class system was upheld not simply by unequal economic and political power but also by what he termed bourgeois ‘hegemony’, the ascendancy or domination of bourgeois ideas in every sphere of life.
• The circumstances in which the legitimacy of a regime is called into question and, ultimately, collapses.
• within liberal democracies there are ‘crisis tendencies’ which challenge the stability of such regimes by undermining legitimacy. Docsity.com
• The core of this argument was the tension between a private-enterprise or capitalist economy, on one hand, and a democratic political system, on the other; in effect, the system of capitalist democracy may be inherently unstable
• the electoral mechanism allows liberal democracies to adjust policy in response to competing demands, thus enabling the system as a whole to retain a high degree of legitimacy, even though particular policies may attract criticism and provoke unpopularity.