Robert Dahl: “A getting b do what b would otherwise not do.” Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz: “non-decisions/agenda-setting power”



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Question 1:

How did Robert Dahl define ‘power’? What is the innovation led by Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz to the studies on power? What is the novelty of Steven Lukes’ approach? Find real world or fictional examples for the three dimensions of power.

Guiding Notes:

  • Robert Dahl: “A getting B do what B would otherwise not do.”

  • Peter Bachrach and Morton Baratz: “non-decisions/agenda-setting power” Power operates by creating silences and non-decisions. Look at who set the ‘rules of the game’ and exclude some topics/alternatives from the agenda. If A influences the system and limits the choices of B indirectly, we say that A has ‘agenda-setting’ power.

  • Steven Lukes: “ideological domination”: the subordinated party is not aware of his/her genuine interests. So, s/he does not protest the system. On the contrary, s/he continues to work for the system.

Question 2:

Who are powerful in British politics, in your opinion? How do we know that they are powerful? Is the political power dispersed among them or is there only one elite who unevenly dominates the rest?

Guiding Notes:

-UK Prime Minister?

-UK Parliament?

-Queen?

-Political Parties (New Labour, Tories, LibDems)?

- interest groups (trade unions, NGOs etc.)?

-devolved government of Scotland? devolved government of Wales? Executive of Northern Ireland?

-the European Union?

  • How do we know they are powerful?

If we follow Robert Dahl, we look at decision-making process and focus on actors’ behaviour. If one manages to successfully change a policy or prevent its change, we can conclude that it is powerful.

  • Distribution of power in UK political system is dispersed (polyarchy) rather than elitist because political actors share powers.


Question 3:

What are the different modalities of exercising power? Is it only about coercion? Could you find an example where a political actor persuaded another to follow him/her without resorting to threats?

Guiding Notes:

-violence/coercion

-incentives, financial rewards

-persuasion

Example: The EU persuaded its member states to lower greenhouse gases in order to protect the environment. They obeyed the EU because protecting the environment is in their interests.

Question 4:

Explain the difference between ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’, concepts advanced by Joseph Nye from Harvard University. Would you suggest the Spanish government to use hard or soft power against separatists? Why?

Guiding Notes:

Hard power: using coercive means such as police force, financial sanctions, ability to hire and fire

Soft power: changing other’s behaviour by influencing, educating, and persuading

Question 5:

Explain the difference between ‘hard power’ and ‘soft power’, concepts advanced by Joseph Nye from Harvard University. Would you suggest the American government to use hard or soft power against terrorism? Why?

Guiding Notes:

Hard power: using coercive means such as police force, financial sanctions, ability to hire and fire

Soft power: changing other’s behaviour by influencing, educating, and persuading

Question 6:

What is the difference between political power and authority? What are the three types of authority according to Weber? Could you give examples for each type of authority?

Guiding Notes:

Political authority: legitimate power. People respect the rules of the authority not because they fear punishment but because they believe the rules are legitimate and should be obeyed.



3 types of authority:

  1. legal (Courts, European Court of Human rights)

  2. traditional (Queen, Sheikh in an Islamic country)

  3. charismatic (Ghandi)

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