Article

Power

Stewart Clegg

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online July 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0068
Power

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The concept of power is absolutely central to any understanding of society. Despite its ubiquity, power is arguably one of the most difficult concepts to make sense of within the social sciences. Nonetheless, power has been a core concept for as long as there has been speculation about the nature of social order. The ancient Greek philosophers of Athens pondered about it, usually in constitutional terms; Christian philosophers such as St. Augustine moralized about it, as Wolin 2004 discusses (see Classic Works); however, it was not until the epochal ideation of the Florentine Machiavelli, in the 16th century, and the Englishman, Hobbes, in 1651, that the foundations for an empirical analysis were established. Machiavelli, the Florentine diplomat and author who lived from 1469 to 1527, writing in his book The Prince (composed around 1513), had little time for noble and normative theories and was strongly empirical and nonnormative, reflecting on how power was and should be deployed in statecraft. Hobbes was more concerned with laying foundations for causal analysis. The Hobbesian view proved to be the most influential in mainstream social science, especially as the mid-20th-century Community Power Debate developed. Machiavelli’s work took on renewed interest, however, as the influence of Foucault’s work played out and emphasis shifted from causality to strategy.

Article.  7779 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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