Two faces of power

This article discusses two conceptions of power, through the examination and critique of two research traditions. The sociological tradition, in which elitist current originates, postulates the existence of power within communities; the politological tradition, which generates the pluralist current, questions the existence of elites who direct communities and institutions. We argue that the postulates of the elite tradition must be proven; the pluralist current, on the other hand, is correct in inquiring into whether there are in fact ruling groups within society, yet the approach is restrictive and neglects an essential aspect of the issue. Thus, the authors argue that it is even more important for researchers - before going on to look at the visible face of power in the individuals and groups that make decisions (or impose vetoes) - to pay attention to its invisible face. This other face refers to individual or group ability to control or manipulate social and political values (that is, to "mobilize biases"), keeping topics that are a potential threat to their interests and perspectives from becoming the object of public discussion and deliberation.

power; pluralism; elitism; non-decisions; mobilization of bias; ruling elites


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