As mentioned before,
the second dimension, similarly to the first is also an observable conflict of
interest. However, it is described as being more covert than overt.
Due to it being more
overt, in practise and in real-life scenarios, we see that it portrays a more
transparent structure of power. The openness in which power is practised allows
the populace to see who the power lies with and who is in control of it.
Steven Lukes details
the Dimensions of Power extensively in his 2005 book Power: A Radical View – I will be referencing this book often while
analysing the significance of Lukes 3rd Dimension of Power. The first dimension is often called the
‘pluralist’ view of power, with well-known academics such as Dahl, Polsby and
Wolfinger classing themselves within this bracket (Lukes, 2005). It is labelled
as being pluralist due to the open ‘competition’ for power that it provides.
Being mostly common in democratic political systems, the populace is publically
able to witness groups competing for power and are also able to observe the
outcome and the following exercise of power by whichever group.
Lukes describes power
as being an ‘essentially contested concept’, a term first coined by W. B.
Gallie in his journal Proceedings of the
Aristotelian Society (Gallie, 1956). Without delving too much into Gallie’s
formulation of the concept, it explains how concepts “inevitably involve endless disputes about their proper uses on the
part of their users” (Gallie, 1956).
Additionally, an essentially contested concept is ratified by its ability to
meet four standards. The first requirement standard is that the concept is complex,
meaning that the concept, of power in our case, has a number of different
elements. Power can be seen as being individual or collective. Power can be
measured against another body or measured in line with another. Evaluative and openness are two other
requirements. The openness of a concept allows us to subject it to different
contexts and interpretations. The
last requirement, which relates back to the complexity of the concept, ensures
that the different elements present are able to take different values. For
example, when looking at Lukes’ interpretation of power, we notice that he
places much more of an emphasis on relative power, compared to absolute. He discloses
power, explained as “A exercises power over B when A affects B in a manner
contrary to B’s interests” (Lukes, 2005). Taking
from Gallie’s essentially contested concepts, Lukes draws his own conclusions
about power and how it is essentially a conflict of interests. Under these
conflicts of interests fall a few different types of interests. More specifically,
these types of interests are refined into what we now understand as being the
Dimensions of Power of which, according to Lukes, there are three – himself being
the mind behind the third.
The word ‘power’ in itself
has been under debate for centuries. Throughout the course of time, Philosophers
and politicians alike have provided the world with many descriptions and
different discourses. From classical works such as Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince (Machiavelli, 1532) and
Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan (Hobbes,
1651), which disclosed the broader importance of power, specifically powerful
leadership or sovereign government. The last century, however, has seen an
increase in the actual discourse of power. One of the theorists who would be
classed in this category is Steven Lukes, who defines power in three dimensions
(Lukes, 2005). He argues that these three dimensions, predominantly the third
dimension, implicitly establish the effectiveness of the power belonging to an
individual, a group or any form of institution in which power can be vested in.
The exploratory analysis of these dimensions allows us to study contemporary
bodies of power in order to come to critically significant conclusions. This is
what this essay will aim to do, by rigorously analysing each different
dimension with an emphasis on Lukes proposed third dimension of power.