Luke’s Three Dimensions of Power”Power serves to create power. Powerlessness serves to re-enforcepowerlessness”(Gaventa,1980:256).
Such is the essence of the on goingrelationship between the Powerful and the Powerless of the Appalachian Valleywhere acquiescence of the repressed has become not only common practice but away of life and a means of survival. In his novel Power and Powerlessness, JohnGaventa examines the oppressive and desperate situation of the Appalachian coalminers under the autocratic power of absentee land-owners, local elites, andcorrupt union leaders. His analyses is based on Lukes three-dimensionalunderstanding of power from his book Power: A Radical View. Gaventa applies thethree notions of power to the politics of inequalities in the Appalachian Valleyand, while demonstrating the inadequacies of the first or ‘pluralist’ approachand the merits of the second and particularly the third dimensions, asserts thatthe interrelationship and reinforcing affect of all three dimensions isnecessary for an in depth understanding of the “total impact of power upon theactions or inactions and conceptions of the powerless”(Gaventa:256)This essay will examine Luke’s three power dimensions and theirapplicability to Gaventa’s account of the inequities found in the valleys of theCumberland Mountains.
Reasons for the mountain people’s submission and non-participation will be recognized and their nexus with the power relationshipestablished. In this way, Gaventa’s dissatisfaction with the pluralist approachwill be justified and the emphatic ability of the other two dimensions towithhold issues and shape behaviour will be verified as principal agents ofPower and Powerlessness. The one dimensional view of power is often called the ‘pluralist’approach and emphasizes the exercise of power through decision making andobservable behaviour. Robert Dahl, a major proponent of this view, definespower as occurring in a situation where “A has power over B to the extent he canget B to do something that B would not otherwise do”(Dahl as cited in Lukes,1974:11).
A’s power therefore is defined in terms of B and the extent to whichA prevails is determined by its higher ratio of ‘successes’ and ‘defeats’ over B. Observable behaviour then becomes a key factor in the pluralist approachto power. Dahl’s Who Govern’s? expresses the pluralist belief that thepolitical arena is an open system where everyone may participate and expressgrievances which in turn lead to decision making. Those who proposealternatives and initiate issues which contribute to the decision making processare demonstrating observable influence and control over those who failed alltogether to express any interest in the political process.
The Pluralist approach assumes that in an open system, all people, notjust the elite, would participate in decision making if they felt stronglyenough about an issue and wanted their values to be expressed and represented. Non-participation therefore is thought to express a lack of grievances and aconsensus with the way the leaders are already handling the system. Politicalinaction is not a problem within the one-dimensional system, it merely reflectsapathy of ordinary citizens with little interest or knowledge for politicalmatters, and their acceptance of the existing system which they see as rewardingmutual benefits to society. While politics is primarily an elite concern to the pluralist, ordinarypeople can have a say if they become organized, and everyone has indirectinfluence through the right to the franchise in the electoral process. Pluralism recognizes a heterogeneous society composed of people belonging tovarious groups with differing and competing interests. Conflict is thereforealso recognized as not only an expected result but as a necessary instrumentwhich enables the determination of a ruling class in terms of who the winner is.
Dahl,(as cited in Lukes,1974:18) states:Who prevails in decision-making seems the best way to determine which individual and groups havemore power in social life because direct conflictbetween actors presents a situation most approximatingan experimental test of their capacities to affect outcome. Both Lukes and Gaventa put forward the notion that restricting youranalyses of a power situation to the one dimensional model can skew yourconclusions. If you limit yourself to this approach your study will be impairedby a pluralistic biased view of power. Where the first dimension sees power inits manifest functions of decision making over key issues raising observableconflict due to policies raised through political participation, it ignores theunobservable mechanisms of power that are sometimes just as or even moreimportant. Many times power is exercised to prevent an issue from being raised andto discourage participation in the political arena.
Potential issues andgrievances are therefore not voiced and to assume this means that they do notexist would be an outright deviation from fact. By restricting analyses to whatis expressed and to observable behaviour and overt conflict only, you miss anypreference not expressed because of fear of sanctions, manipulation, coercionand force. This critique of the behaviourial focus and the recognition ofunobservable factors of power is discussed in the two-dimensional view of powerdeveloped by Bachrach and Baratz by which “power is exercised not just uponparticipants within the decision making process but also towards the exclusionof certain participants and issues altogether”(Schattsneider, as cited inLukes,1974:16). This theory proposes that political organizations develop a”mobilization of bias. .
. in favour of the exploitation of certain kinds ofconflict and the suppression of others. . . some issues are organized in whileothers are organized out”(Ibid.
,16). The first dimension claims there is an open system and althoughadmitting that political resources are not distributed equally, they are alsonot centralized in one groups hands. Everyone has the opportunity to use otherresources and be heard. The second approach however, sees a monopolistic systemof inequalities created and maintained by the dominant power. The elite havethe means and the political resources to prevent political action that would notbenefit themselves and to push forward those that would. The Elite thereforedetermine the agenda of both decision making and non-decision making and in sodoing establish their dominance and the subordinance and compliance of those onthe bottom of the power hierarchy.
Although the two dimensional approach to power delves deeper than thefirst into the nature of power and powerlessness by involving analyses ofpotential issues, grievances, nondecision-making and non-participation, BothLukes and Gaventa find that it is on the same level as the first dimension inthat it also emphasizes observable conflict only. Of course it is true thatthe first does stress only overt while the second stresses both overt and/orcovert conflict. Nonetheless, an affinity between the two results in theirbelief that where there is conflict, there is an element of power in decisionmaking and, for the second dimension, in nondecision-making. Barach and Baratz(as cited in Lukes,1974:19) states that if “there is no conflict, overt orcovert, the presumption must be that there is consensus on the prevailingallocation of values, in which case nondecision-making is impossible. ” Here,there is obviously no consideration of latent conflict or attention as to howinterests not consciously articulated may fit into the power relationship. Lukes identifies manipulation and authority as two forms of power whichdo not necessarily involve evident conflict.
People abide by the power ofauthority because they either respect or accept its legitimacy. Compliance tothe power of manipulation often goes unrecognized by the conformer because focusis placed on irrelevant matters and the key aim is downplayed. In neither isthere observable (overt or covert) conflict, but latent conflict occurs becausethe individual may be agreeing to something contrary to their interests withouteven knowing. The three dimensional view of power then, criticizes the behaviourialfocus of the first two dimensions and adopts the consideration of hidden socialforces and conflict which exercise influence by shaping the consciousness of theindividual or organization. This view strays from the others in that it focusesnot only on decisions and nondecisions but on other ways to control thepolitical agenda which are not made deliberately by the choice of individuals orgroups. The third mechanism of power seeks to identify “the means through whichpower influences, shapes or determines conceptions of necessities, possibilities,and strategies of challenge in situation of conflict”(Gaventa,1980:15).
Inother words, it involves specifying how A gets B to believe and choose to act ina way that reinforces the bias of the system, advancing the cause of A andimpairing that of B, usually in the form of compliance. Such processes can take place in a direct and intended way through mediaand communication. ‘A’ takes control of the information channels and ‘B’ issocialized into accepting, believing and even supporting the political notionsinstilled by ‘A’. The shaping of individual’s conceptions can also take placeindirectly or even unintentionally through ones membership in a social structure. Patterns of behaviour, norms and accepted standards apparent in the action andinaction of the group are automatically adopted. “Social legitimations aredeveloped around the dominant, and instilled as beliefs or roles in thedominated” (Gaventa,1980:15).
Passive acceptance of situations or circumstances that are in conflictwith one’s interests occur even when the subordinated realise they are beingrepressed. They submit quietly because of fear of sanctions but also becausethey have gone through a “psychological adaptation to the state of being withoutpower” (Gaventa:16). They recognize their powerlessness and see no possibilityto reverse it and therefore submit to their hopeless situation with lethargicacceptance. After continual defeat, the conceptions of the powerlessness may bealtered as a learned response. “Over time, the calculated withdrawal by ‘B’ maylead to an unconscious pattern of withdrawal, maintained not by fear of power of’A’ but by a sense of powerlessness within ‘B’, regardless of ‘A’s condition”(Gaventa, 1980:16).
Although ‘B’ was originally aware of their state ofoppression, time has quelled the initial fear and has desensitized their driveto remain unconstrained and autonomous. Without even realizing, B continues tosubmit, more as a form of habit then as a response to a particular situation. As a further adaptive response “the sense of powerlessness may also leadto a greater susceptibility to the internalisation of the values, beliefs orrules of the game of the powerful”(Gaventa, 1980:17). What may have once beenstrong convictions to a people are systematically lost and the beliefs of theruling class are accepted in silence, not only because of a sense ofpowerlessness but because they have been indoctrinated to condone whatever thepowerful put forward. Gaventa applies Luke’s three dimensional theory of power to the case ofthe Central Appalachian valley in the United States.
He argues that thedimensions of power can be used to better understand the pattern of quiescencethat has been occurring in this region of indisputable inequities for over ageneration. The pluralist approach is established as inadequate in its attemptto interpret power relationships alone and the implementation of the other twodimensions is found to be essential to explain the situation in the Appalachianmountains. The History of Central Appalachia has developed much like that of aprimitive country under the influence of colonization by a dominant world power. It is one in which an isolated, agrarian society has sparked the interest of theindustrialized world as having economic potential, and has consequently beenestablished as a dependant and thrust into a rapid series of transformation tobring it up to modern standards. Productivity and economic pursuits are theprinciple concern while the people and their culture are more of a hindrancethan a priority.
They are expected to shift right along with the rest of thechanges. Their traditional way of life is subsequently threatened, altered, andeventually irretrievably lost. By the late nineteenth century, the economic potential emanating fromthe vast wealth of natural coal resources of the Appalachian Mountains were wellrecognized and Middlesborough, a once quiet rural community, had experienced aneconomic boom and grown into the industrial mining centre labelled the ‘MagicCity of the South’. The entire enterprise had been established under thesingular leadership of the American Association Ltd.
, of London. Millions ofdollars were pumped into the area but because of the ownership monopoly andprimarily foreign investors, the mountain people themselves reaped little ornone of the benefits. Their agrarian based mainstay was threatened and destroyed as the’Anglo-American enterprise’ expropriated acres and acres of mineral-rich land. “The acquisition of land is the first step in the process of economicdevelopment and the establishment of power.
” (Gaventa,1980:53). It was also thefirst step in the subordination of the mountaineers. Losing their land meant achange in lifestyle from a largely independent group of farmers to a group ofcoal miners dependent upon the Company for a salary. Mountaineers were most often ‘voluntarily’ bought out. Few cases ofactual conflict occurred and the people’s land was taken virtually withoutchallenge or opposition to a new order. Often the land was sold to the Companyfor a price far below its worth.
The inherent value of the mountaineer’s landwent unknowing to them while the Association who knew full well of the highlyvalued mineral-rich soil, took advantage of the situation and bought it for verylittle. If this ‘acquisition’ of land were studied using only the firstdimension of power, the Company would be comparable to A who’s power is definedby its higher ratio of ‘successes’ over B’s ‘defeats'”. One would recognizethat the Company demonstrated observable control and influence over theAppalachian people but would be justified in their actions. The lack of challenge on the mountaineer’s (or B’s) part would be seenas an expression of consensus to the take-over of their land.
Since fewgrievances were expressed it would be assumed that the issue was not of enoughimportance to the people who therefore did not organize to put forward anyalternatives. The Association had the initiative to propose issues andcontribute to decision making while the Middlesborough citizens were apatheticto what was going on. The Company’s ‘successes’ in decision making enhancedtheir power, legitimizing them as more fit to rule. Limiting yourself to this analyses would dismiss many factors that ledto the quiescence of the mountain people, and would prevent a deeperunderstanding of this case. Using Luke’s second dimension of power, the non-challenge to the land-takeover would not be viewed as apathy on the part of theordinary people but as the result of unobservable forces and covert conflictworking to prevent their expression of scepticism and dispute.
This would support the view that within the political organizations ofMiddlesborough there was a “mobilization of bias”. When distribution of theland was decided by the court, it most often went to the highest bidder. TheCompany held obvious power in its economic advantage leaving no doubt to anyone,including the courts, who would win out. By basing ownership rights on economiccapabilities, challenge on behalf of the mountaineers was made scarce andconsidered a futile effort.
In this way the issue of Company ownership was’organized in’ and the people’s land claims were ‘organized out’. The second dimension therefore recognizes elite accommodation occurringin a system which pluralists claim to be ‘open’. It is viewed as a system whereinequalities are created and maintained by allowing the dominant class todetermine the decision-making agenda, therefore establishing the quiescence ofthe subordinated. The first dimension assumes that lack of overt conflict means theconsensus of the mountaineers to their land loss, and the second would haveassumed consensus if there were no observable overt or covert conflict, butstill another dimension is essential to get to the actual root of consensus. The third dimension considers the possibility of latent conflict where thepeople’s wants and beliefs are unkowingly shaped to establish a consensus tothat which is contrary to their interests, but not recognized as such.
The Middlesborough workers developed no consciousness that sawthemselves as being exploited. The authority presented to them by the multi-million dollar enterprise of the American Association Ltd. , of London wasaccepted as an overwhelming but legitimate power structure not to be questioned. In the case of authority, “B complies because he recognizes that A’s command isreasonable in terms of his own values and because it has been arrived at througha legitimate and reasonable procedure”(Lukes,1974:18).
The people compliedbecause the Association was put forward as an enterprise which valued harmony,as they did, and would compensate them financially for the land. Manipulation, however, was the key in convincing the mountaineers of theAssociation’s legitimacy. The people were payed far too little for what theland was worth. They were deprived of reaping future benefits because theCompany neglected to inform them of its true value and their aim to gainmillions in profits. Instead they focused only on the irrelevant matter of whatinsignificant sum of money would satisfy the people into giving up their landwhich was, at the time, of no real apparent value.
With manipulation, “compliance is forthcoming in the absence ofrecognition on the complier’s part either of the source or the exact nature ofthe demand upon him”(Lukes,1974:18). I highly doubt that the people would haveso quietly handed over their land if they had realised that, at the same time,they were handing over their traditional way of life, and in so doing, hasteningits extinction. How were they to know that this was only the first step tobecoming dependants of the Company and that to make a living they would beforced to work under the oppressive conditions of a higher power on land thathad once been their own. After the acquisition of land and the initial economic boom, conditionsworsened for the mountain people and a set of stable controls was necessary inorder to maintain the system the Association had created and in turn, theirposition of dominance.
As Middlesborough developed into a Company Town,the absentee and unitary control exercised by the British owners grew to ensurethe dependence of all upon it. They owned not only most of the land butcontrolled the town’s key factors of production, requiring even independentcompanies to function under their terms. As was mentioned earlier, the peoplewho had once been independent in earning a living for themselves were nowrequired to work as miners and labourers under the autocracy of a hugeenterprise. Even small entrepreneurs now found themselves answering to thehigher power of the Association. Although the Company had created many jobs for the people, inequalitiesdeveloped as the absentee owners ,or upper class, extracted wealth from theregion leaving few of the profits to be distributed among the workers themselves.
Within the Appalachian area itself there developed a local elite who rankednext in the class hierarchy. “They were the men of wealth, and fine backgrounds,and politics was not new for them”(Gaventa,1980:59). They were usually those inpositions of political leadership where they could benefit the company andpromote its best interests. Next were a class of small entrepreneurs andprofessionals who were attracted to the booming city by its promising commercialfuture.
The bottom of the hierarchy consisted of labourers, miners and othermanual labour workers. This class was composed mainly of those who wereoriginally from the region and had come from a rural background, while the’upper classes’ had been derived primarily of those attracted to the areabecause of its economic potential. “Mobility was of a horizontal nature, thecoming together in one area of various representatives of pre-existing stratafrom other areas”(Gaventa,1980:57). The workers were therefore destined to poverty and inequality, but alsohad to endure such things as poor and even dangerous working conditions with fewhealth benefits and little compensation.
And one cannot forget the ongoingdemise of their valley as entire mountain sides were stripped away and the airand water were blackened with millions of tiny coal particles. Why then, in this state of economic, social and even environmentaldepravation did the people not cry out with enough strength to be heard? Whilenearby mining communities experiencing similar conditions responded withmilitant, collective organizations, Middlesborough expressed grievances butnever took the form of organized action or went as far as creating aconsciousness of the situation. The first, second and third dimensions of powerwould give different reasons for this in answering how the Association was ableto maintain the new order they had created and the quiescence of a peopleamongst their condition of poverty and inequality. The pluralist approach would recommend using the democratic politicalprocess of the electoral system in determining the legitimacy of those in powerand of their policies and practices. If the leaders who have been elected bythe people and for the people do not voice concerns about the existing system orthe desire for change, it must be assumed that there were no concerns butinstead an overall approval of the status quo. The people of Middlesborough hada choice between local and ‘Company’ candidates and with few exceptionscontinued to place their support in the latter.
Even within their own unionswhere leadership had become increasingly dictatorial and Company biased, theworkers remained loyal to the existing leaders and opposed the reform movement. By considering only the face value of voting practices, one would haveto agree that the Appalachian miners appear to be in accordance with themanagement of the existing system and their place within it. The seconddimension of power would disagree, however, and would explain the maintenance ofthe system and the compliance of the people as a result of the Company’s controlover the political apparatus. The longstanding political science maxim that low socio-economic status,poor education and lack of information, translate into low politicalparticipation would be admissible in the second dimensional view.
The elitemade up a closely-knit group of political leaders in Appalachia who madedecisions to advance their causes more than those of the Mountaineers. “Therewas little regard for what law there was and money ruled theday”(Gaventa,1980:59). This could help explain why Acts were passed to protectthe rights of the Company while demands for miners rights rarely even made it tothe courthouse. This supports the view that non-participation was not theresult of apathy but of a caste system, and that non-issues did not mean lack ofgrievances but lack of opportunity to voice them. This does not, however, support the documented cases where workersthemselves did participate, although minimally, and wilfully voted forcandidates who were backers of the Company.
This discrepancy can, nevertheless,be explained with Bachrach and Baratz’s use of the term ‘power’ in its sense as”the securing of compliance through the threat of sanctions”(Lukes,1974:17). Fear is thus presented as reason enough for the mountaineers to express supportin the form of a vote, even though it is not an accurate portrayal of theirposition. Traditional political dominance in the Clearfork Valley belonged to agroup of local landowners called ‘The Family’ who maintained their powerposition by serving as “mediators between the Company and community gainingfurther power as brokers of favours concerning jobs or hometenure”(Gaventa,1980:143). The Family was associated with Company housing,welfare and employment, and in order to receive any benefits, one had to be intheir good graces. “Even now, people say those who live in company housing orwork in mines on company land are expected to vote in the Family’sfavour”(Gaventa,1982:143). As brokers of benefits, they were also capable of taking them away andimposing sanctions.
Many, for example, would not spend their food stampsanywhere but the Company store where prices were higher, with the fear that theywould lose their welfare or even be evicted as a consequence. The people weretherefore quite aware that by accommodating the Company leaders with theirsupport, they stood a chance at being granted certain benefits. Conversely, ifone were to advance the cause of the reform movement and upset the system, lifecould be made very difficult for them. “While the benefits of the status quoare high for the powerful, the costs of challenge are potentially higher for thepowerless” (Gaventa, 1980: 145). Lukes second dimension of power explains how the Association was able tomaintain its dominance and the quiescence of the people in terms of creating apolitical apparatus to organize certain issues and participants in, and othersout, as well as impose recognizable sanctions.
Further analyses, however, wouldrequire a look at the less obvious controls which stemmed from the shaping andinstilling of an ideological apparatus in support of the Company among theordinary citizens. This would describe Luke’s third dimension where power is executed in amore subtle way. “It is one which shapes the outcome of ‘choice’ while allowingthe chooser to believe that, in fact, a choice has been made”(Gaventa,1980:63). The Mountaineers non-challenge then, although appearing to be a freely chosenstate of quiescence was actually more of an imposed choice. By both deliberateand unintentional means, the consciousness of the people was slanted to adoptthe newly created Industrial ideology. Gaventa identifies four observable waysthat the Association was able to maintain their hegemony.
Conditioning the people’s wants involved first a perversion ofinformation which exaggerated benefits of the industrial order and downplayedits oppressive effects upon them. The mountain valley had drawn in millions ofdollars, attracted all kinds of investors, and created hundreds of jobs. Inaddition to this it also became “a vacation ground for thewealthy”(Gaventa,1980:63) where luxurious hotels were built and a new leisureclass developed. This lifestyle contrasted drastically with that of the labourers livingin dilapidated shacks, yet a working class consciousness failed to develop. This is because an equal opportunity ethic was emphasized, stressing the beliefthat by hard work these benefits were attainable by all.
Social stratificationwas therefore accepted by most workers and instead of participating equally,they chose to splurge what little money they had on alcohol which was the onlyway they knew to “replicate the pattern (of enjoyment of luxuries) in a lesserstyle”(Gaventa,1980:65). The appeal of the new industrial orderand its economic benefits was enhanced by the debasement of the mountaineer’straditional way of life and culture. The two were in direct contrast so theglorification of the first meant the degradation of the other. The old culturewas criticized as a dirty, primitive and meagre way of life while the new orderwas proclaimed for its virtues of civilization and progress. Miners weretherefore socialized to strive for membership under the new order and to beashamed of the old.
Imposing values took on a third form in the process of changing names oftowns, schools and other cultural establishments. Names that had been familiarto the old system were changed to those derived from the new. Only Companyworkplaces and mines kept their local names. In this way, ties to the past weresevered and a clear path for a new society was created.
Symbols play animportant part in the way people interpret their society. By manipulatinglinguistic symbols the Association was shaping the societal consciousness. “Bythe imposition of one identity over another in the cultural arena, and byallowing names to lend the appearance of local possession in the workplace arena(where there was none at all) the development of a counter-hegemony was madeless likely”(Gaventa,1980:67). The creation of a set of controls in the form of political andideological constructs resulted “in a shaping and influencing away from (themountaineer’s) ‘stock’ to participation in the ways and values of the neworder”(Gaventa,1980:68). Conformity to the extent where contradictions ofconscience go unnoticed because workers are no longer certain of theirorientation occurred repeatedly and was the main reason challenge was rare.It must be noted, however, that the workers of Middlesborough were notcompletely inact