Path Of Least Resistance Impli Essay

This essay has a total of 1123 words and 5 pages.

Path Of Least Resistance Impli


Path of Least Resistance: Implicit Power

In his book, Power and Choice, W. Phillips Shively introduces to students of political
science the importance of power within the framework of politics. According to him,
"Politics consists of the making of a common decision for a group of people through the
use of power"(Shively 9). And that "power" is, "the ability of one person or group to
cause another person or group to do what the first wishes, by whatever means"(5). Power,
therefore, is of extreme importance within the arena of politics for any group who wishes
to institute reform or maintain order. And yet, the question of analyzing power, and
understanding how it is used, is not as clear as one might imagine. There is a split among
political scientists as to who has the power, and how those in positions of power keep it.
The debate seems to be centralized over the difference between observable power (manifest)
and indirect power (implicit). When deciding the question of who has the power, it seems
that the arguments of Hunter and Dahl are mainly concerned with the observable power
exercised by those in positions of authority. The other, and more sound, theory of Baratz,
Bachrach, and Lukes, maintains that actual power lies within the manipulation of issues
from behind the scenes. In answering the question of power, the arguments of Baratz,
Bachrach, and Lukes, go beyond the those of Hunter and Dahl, and show that the most
effective uses of power are those which are the hardest to see, (implicit power).

Manifest power is, "based on an observable action by A that leads B to do what A
wants"(7), and it is this power that both Hunter and Dahl, describe in their studies.
These men, although they disagree on specific details, believe that those people with
political power take an active and visible part in their community's important issues.
When Hunter did his inquiry into

the political currents of Atlanta, he asked his advisors who the most influential men in
the city were. He found that there existed a group of powerful individuals who greatly
influenced the policies of the downtown area. He concluded that the wealthy elite were in
control and had the greatest influence on the politics in the Atlanta area. However,
a political scientist named Dahl did not agree. Dahl argued that the flaw with Hunter's
research was that it was based on reputation only. Everyone thought that the small "elite"
had the power, no one knew for certain. Dahl decided to approach the subject using the
scientific methods of research and observation. He believed that by finding out the
important issues of the community, seeing who had the most to gain in the situations, and
observing the outcome of the issues, the group with the most power would be the clear
winner. From his research he concluded that the power in a community lay within many
smaller groups. He believed that each group exercised power over the issues that were
closest to their best interests. While the wealthy had power over economic aspects, the
families had power over such things as education.1 Therefore, power was not centralized,
and was more dispersed throughout a community.

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