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Structure

  • Geoffrey Debnam

Abstract

The central problem in the study of power is the identification of relevant core elements, and, of these, ‘outcome’ is the critical focusing device. The previous chapter has shown how this, and the associated problem of counterfactual statement, present problems that are of immediate and specific consequence for the structuring of any power analysis. In a very obvious sense, how we organise data collection and presentation of evidence can be of major importance in shaping the conclusions reached. As a result of analysing research methods and findings in eighty-three community power studies ‘from a sociology of knowledge perspective’ James Curtis and John Petras point out the apparently close relationship between methodology and conclusions. Decision-making analysis is justified by pluralist structural premises and leads to pluralist conclusions; reputational analysis is justified by elitist structural premises and leads to elitist conclusions.1 Structure is so much part of the way in which power is identified and discussed that no power study ignoring its requirements can be taken seriously. The question arises then: what are these requirements?

Keywords

Community Power Counterfactual Statement Structural Premise Opposed Principle Organise Data Collection 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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End-notes

  1. 1.
    James E. Curtis and John W. Petras, ‘Community power, power studies and the sociology of knowledge’, Human Organization, 29 (1970) pp. 204–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Floyd Hunter, Community Power Structure: A Study of Decision Makers (New York: Anchor, 1963) p. 89.Google Scholar
  3. 6.
    Nelson W. Polsby, Communiy Power and Political Theory (New Haven, Conn. and London: Yale University Press, 1963) p. 6g.Google Scholar
  4. 7.
    Robert A. Dahl, Who Governs? Democracy and Power in an American City (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1961) p. 332.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    Steven Lukes, Essays in Social Theory (New York: Columbia University Press, 1977) pp. 13–18.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 11.
    Stewart Clegg, The Theory of Power and Organization (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979) p. 74.Google Scholar
  7. 21.
    Anthony Giddens, Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure and Contradiction in Social Analysis (London: Macmillan, 1979) p. 55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 22.
    Anthony Giddens, Studies in Social and Political Theory (London: Hutchinson, 1977) p. 130.Google Scholar
  9. 23.
    Stewart Ranson, Bob Hinings and Royston Greenwood, ‘The structuring of organizational structures’, Administrative Science Quarterly, 25 (1980) pp. 1–17, at p. 2.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. 30.
    Lukes sets out to reject the behavioural emphasis of previous contributors to the community power debate, but, as Alan Bradshaw points out, he returns to ‘the individualistic conception that he earlier rejected’. In support of this argument, Bradshaw cites Lukes’ claim that to ‘see the vocabulary of power in the context of social relationships is to speak of human agents, separately or together, in groups or organizations’. Alan Bradshaw, ‘A critique of Steven Lukes’ “Power: A Radical View”’, Sociology, 10 (1976) pp. 121–7, at p. 125. See also Clegg, Power and Organization, pp. 57–64; and Graham Cox, ‘Intentions, structures and the dissolution of “power”?’, paper presented to the EGOS Symposium on Power, University of Bradford, 6–7 May 1976, p. 5.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 35.
    Raymond Boudon, The Uses of Structuralism (London: Heinemann, 1971) p. 7.Google Scholar
  12. 37.
    Boudon, Structuralism, p. 21. The contrast between these two interpretations is pithily described by George Homans as being between ‘what we at least intend to explain… [and]… what we are prepared simply to take for granted’. George C. Homans, ‘What do we mean by social “structure”?’, in Peter M. Blau (ed.), Approaches to the Study of Social Structure (London: Open Books, 1976) pp. 53–65, at p. 63.Google Scholar
  13. 38.
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  14. 39.
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  15. 42.
    Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology (New York: Anchor, 1967) p. 271.Google Scholar
  16. 43.
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  17. 45.
    Karl R. Popper, The Logic of Scientific Discovey (London: Hutchinson, 1972) p. 45.Google Scholar
  18. 49.
    This distinction between the observer’s and the subject’s levels of meaning is implicit in Weber’s functional and action frames of reference. See Max Weber, The Theory of Social and Economic Organization (New York: The Free Press, 1964) p. 103.Google Scholar
  19. I recognise that the question of whether, and how, an observer can have ‘internal understanding’ of another’s actions is open to dispute. On this see Peter Winch, The Idea of a Social Science (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1958) esp. pp. 83–91;Google Scholar
  20. and Ernest Gellner, Cause and Meaning in the Social Sciences (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1973) Chapter 4CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. The new idealism — cause and meaning in the social sciences’; and I. C. Jarvie, Concepts and Society (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1972) Chapter 2, ‘Understanding and explaining in the social sciences’. As the brief discussion of ‘Intention as essentially problematic’ in Chapter 3 above indicates, the view taken here is that even were ‘full internal meaning’ available to the social scientist, he would not know what to do with it.Google Scholar
  22. 50.
    Robert Merton defines manifest function as ‘those objective consequences for a specified unit (person, subgroup, social or cultural system) which contribute to its adjustment or adaptation and were so intended’. Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure (New York: The Free Press, and London: Collier-Macmillan, 1968) p. 117.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Geoffrey Debnam 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Geoffrey Debnam
    • 1
  1. 1.Victoria University of WellingtonNew Zealand

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