State of the Art: Divided by a Common Language: Political Theory and the Concept of Power



Power is probably the most universal and fundamental concept of political analysis. It has been, and continues to be, the subject of extended and heated debate. In this article I critically review the contributions of Bachrach and Baratz, and Lukes to our understanding of the multiple faces of power. I suggest that although the former's two-dimensional approach to power is ultimately compromised by the residues of behaviouralism that it inherits from classic pluralism, the latter's three-dimensional view suggests a potential route out of this pluralist impasse. To seize the opportunity he provides, however, requires that we rethink the concept of power. In the second half of the paper I advance a definition of power as context-shaping and demonstrate how this helps us to disentangle the notions of power, responsibility and culpability that Lukes conflates. In so doing I suggest the we differentiate clearly between analytical questions concerning the identification of power within social and political contexts, and normative questions concerning the critique of the distribution and exercise of power thus identified.