Political Concepts of
Power and Authority
Steven Lukes on Power: An
Alternative Look at Power
Steven Lukes provides a different viewpoint of
power and authority to Max Weber’s three types
Luke identifies three face of power
Non Decision Making
Luke claims that Weber was only addressing the
first face of power- decision making
The power to make and implement
Non Decision Making
The power to set agendas and therefore
limit what is being discussed – certain
issues are stopped by the powerful never
reaching the point where decisions are
How does non Decision Making
The powerful can ignore the demands of
the weak by delay, avoidance, or mass
bureaucracy, or inconclusive inquiries.
Issues are avoided that the powerful
anticipate will cause opposition.
Shaping Desired (Ideological
The power to manipulate what people think they
want- powerful groups can make people think
they want or consent to something which is
actually harmful to their interests.
E.g.. Nuclear proliferation based on the idea that if
we have more they (our perceived enemies) will not
Ideological power is exerted through ideological
institutions such as political parties and religion.
Other Competing Models of Power
Functionalist writers use a consensus model of
The norms and values of society are generally
Value consensus ensures shared values and collective
goals; consequently, the more a society is able to
meet collective goals, the more power it has.
Thus, a variable-sum model of power is proposed. In
the functionalist model, power is held by society as a
whole. It is a social resource.
Marxists believe that particular groups for their own
benefit, and at the expense of others - hold power in
society a zero-sum model of power.
The dominant group uses power to further its own
interests, which conflict with the rest of society.
In the Marxist model, power lies in the economic
infrastructure, which is owned and controlled by a
minority for its own interests. This minority constitutes a
The acceptance of ruling class dominance is an aspect of
false consciousness and ideological hegemony.
The inequalities that stem from the relation to the
means of production extend into other areas of social life
- this unequal relationship is reflected in the legal
system, the medical system and education, for example.