‘What is political power?’

Rationale of the essay
A central aspect of political science is to understand where power comes from and how it is used. Almost
every sub-heading in political science relates to this issue.
What you are asked to do in this paper is to read the literature (see below) on the ideas of power and how
it is assessed in political science and to pick a side and justify your side.
You will to write an introduction which explains your opinion and gives the specific points that you will
raise. The body of the paper will be your analysis of your opinion, this is where you show why you think
what you think and what you can show to prove or back your opinion up. The conclusion is where you will
give your clear thoughts to tie the information to the opinion made in the introduction.
Planning
The first thing to do is to draw up an essay plan. This outlines where you want to go and is drawn up while
you do your research. It does not need to be too detailed, but broad themes will do.
Example:
1) Introduction
a. The three faces of power is the best view on the types of power
b. I believe that the second face is the real view of power
2) Face 1
a. Can conflict prove power?
b. Is there conflict – Dahl’s new haven experiment
3) Face 2
a. Is conflict real? Do decision makers fight for a narrow view rather than a public view?
b. Bachrach’s non-decision making view
4) Face 3
a. Can we know if it is conflict or consensus?
b. We cannot really prove thought control.
5) Conclusion
a. Face 1 has evidence to show that it is real.
b. Face 2 can be implied, but is harder to prove
c. Face 3 is not expressly provable.
Introduction
An introduction is where you (1) explain what you think the question means, (2) how you intend to answer,
and (3) what specifically you will bring up to answer it.
As we know that power is the central theme to political science, and we know there are different
interpretations of power:
It is a power by an authority to guide people to do what is best for society (benign power)
It is shown when collective actions are made. The more groups involved the more power the
decision has (a consensus view)
It is shown when an authority does what they think is best, regardless of other views or
information. It is more important to win the right to make the decision. (the conflict view)
Power is rarely shown by the authorities, but they are acting upon a theme provided by other
powerful actors in society. (the non-decision making view)
Power is shown not by direct decision making but by the ability of an authority to push and pull a
population to their ideas through the manipulation or changing of the populations needs.
(thought control view)
Example
(1) Power is a central theme of political sciences. The analysis of forms of rule, the role of the public,
the role of non-state actors, and even how public opinion is collected, managed or manipulated
all refer back to how power is shown in society and politics. Therefore, political power is the study
of where power is held in a form of rule. (2) There are a number of interpretations of political
power. Steven Luke’s ‘three face of power’ provides a strong framework to assess the role of
power in politics. (3) By looking at the concepts within his theory this paper will analyse each face
of power on their scientific merits. Due to this approach, the existence of viewable evidence of
the first face of power will outweigh the implications of the other two faces of power. As a result,
the expectation is that the conflict view will look like the more common approach to power.
Body of the paper.
In the body of the paper you will briefly touch upon the broad themes that you want to bring up to argue
your point. Therefore if you want to argue, for example, that Dahl’s New Haven theory is wrong, you can
use the view of Bachrach and Baratz (in the readings) to argue that Dahl only looks at what is public facing
in decision making and ignores what may have changed the boundaries of what the decision makers will
debate.
A paragraph should be like a mini-essay of sorts. It should unfold a premise, theory or argument, which
adds to your overall argument. One way to do this (which also keeps the paper concise and helps with
word count) is to set your paragraphs up in three sections. (A) to introduce the context/premise of the
point/theme that is being advanced, (B) your evidence/example/analysis which strengthens your case, (C)
concluding line to state the importance of the evidence presented in reflection to (A):
(A) The non-decision making face of power is a direct criticism of Dahl’s pluralistic approach to power.
(B) Bachrach and Baratz analysed the conclusions of Dahl’s research and argued that this was
faulty because while no single concentration of power was found in the decision making process,
it does not mean that individuals in the decision making process do not win all, or most, of the
time on specific issues, as opposed to the group as whole agreeing over a number of decisions.
(C) therefore, the pluralistic view can only be proved by manipulating the figures into a broad
theme, whereas if the votes in New Haven were broken down then we would see that power lays
with individual members in conflict with other members of the decision making board.
And from here you would go into explaining specifically what the second face of power is.
Conclusion
The conclusion is where you are to tie up the broad base of your arguments and reflect on your opinion
put forward in your introduction. This is NOT the place to put new information. It should validate why you
thought what you did and how you have supported it, coming to a distinct point. Try to be concise.
Example
The study of political power has a number of themes and directions. As a result it is unclear specifically
where power lies in all events. But that is because there are no universal rules in political science. On a
broad theme, where evidence has directed the research, it would appear that power is most likely to be
seen in the first face of power because it is where the decision making process is at its most transparent,
and where there is more evidence to compare the views of the wider public with that of the authorized
decision makers.
Bibliography
Following your conclusion, you will write a bibliography, and you can follow the examples below, which
also serve as a reading list (these are available on the portal).
Phillips Shively, W. 2011. Power and Choice: An Introduction to Political Science. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Grigsby, Ellen. 2012. Analyzing politics: An Introduction to Political Science. 5th Edition. Belmont: Cengage
Learning.
Heywood, Andrew. 2004. Political Theory: An Introduction. 3rd Edition. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
If you want advice on other books to read please let me know.

 

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