The Study Of Shaping And Sharing Political Powers Politics Essay

23 Mar 2015

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Modern Political thinkers like Lasswell, Robert Dahl have defined politics in terms different relations of power, influence, and authority. According to the view of these thinkers Power is the central idea in Politics - who gets what when and how. The entire neo-liberal political activity is directed towards capturing and maintaining power. Power has acquired prominent position in political thought. Hence Power is central to our understanding of politics.

Machiavelli's The prince: During the 16th century according to Machiavelli's The prince, Politics was associated with symbolically associated with sovereign power and the prince. The prince was the central hero in understanding the whole concept of politics. The politics was restricted and defined within boundaries and territories. The politics was described through prince and his principality, according to which the prince is seen as the Lord or master. It says Prince inherits the power and uses his sovereign power to influence his subjects. The prince says the objective of prince's power as the sovereign power is used to reinforce, influence, strengthen and protect his principality within his subjects. According to The prince the target of a prince's power is based on two things on the one hand its territory and the other its inhabitants. The institutions of sovereignty were the basic political institutions and the exercise of power was exercised by the sovereignty which was obeyed by the subjects. To summarise it Machiavelli sees power in the strategized, organised and decentralized form. He sees power as a means, not as a resource and seeks strategic advantages as military ones between the prince and his subjects.

After Machiavelli's The Prince, politics with central importance to power was defined in many ways. Hobbes makes power more transparent. Therefore, power, in the Hobbesian paradigm, was gathered in the Commonwealth and was explained through a "social contract." For Hobbes, 'civil philosophy' deals with the rights and duties of sovereigns and subjects. While the form in which this power appears was immaterial the purpose of authoritarian sovereign politics was justified with its purpose was solely to quell disorder, it was still centralized society. Moreover, this power continued to be embodied in an image of a sovereign body-this times an "artificial" one. This authoritarian sovereign politics followed the idea of organizing power relations around sovereign institutions and laws which in-turn intended to avoid "state of war".

Hobbes believed that people are driven by selfishness and greed. To avoid chaos, people should give up their freedom to a government that will ensure order. Such government should be strong and able to suppress rebellion. Hobbes asserts that without a presiding government to legislate codes of conduct, no morality or justice can exist:

"Where there is no common Power, there is no Law: where no Law, no Injustice¼ if there be no Power erected, or not great enough for our security; every man will and may lawfully rely on his own strength and art, for caution against all other men." [1] 

After the 18th century the dynamics of politics changed. The demographic expansion of the 18th century connected with industrialization, expansion of agricultural production and abundance of Money. Thus setting up an economy at the level of entire state, taking care of the welfare of the state became essential. Politics was looked as the art of excersing power in utlising,distibuting and montoring the state's monetary resources for the welfare of its people.

Marx and Weber was interested in looking politics as a factor of domination,based on economic or authoritarian interests.

Robert Dahl (1961) definition of power in his theory of community power,

"Power as the ability to make somebody do something that otherwise he or she would not have done" [2] 

Can be related to modern day politics in the world. For e.g.: India because of the power and influence of word bank it changes its internal policies which otherwise it wouldn't have done.

Thus the way politics was looked at, kept changing with different dimensions of power. Michael Foucault's theory of power through the concept of "Governmentality" helps in altering one's way of understanding conventional politics. Foucault elaborates a lot about how his understanding of power differs from its treatment in mainstream political theories. Foucault suggests, then, that the only way to avoid centralization of politics is precisely to reject explanations that confine "political" power to a central place. Marxist and anarchist conceptions of power is centralized within a symbolic place of authority, be this the king, the state, the bourgeoisie, and so on. For Foucault, this is an outdated notion that no longer has any relevance to political theory.

"What we need," as Foucault said famously, "is a political philosophy that isn't erected around the problem of sovereignty.... We need to cut off the King's head" [3] 

Politics is centrally about power. It is about the sort of society we want to build and it must be {Bibliography}a better one than we have now. For e.g.: Man has political power when he exercises a vote. A party has political power whether in government or opposition in so far as it influences and changes policy. Minority parties have political power when they influence policy or public opinion or successfully stand up against injustices or change the climate of politics. While the word government today possesses solely a political meaning, Foucault is able to show that up until well into the 18th century the problem of government was placed in a more general context. Government was a term discussed not only in political tracts, but also in philosophical, religious, medical and pedagogic texts. In addition to the management by the state or the administration, "government" also signified problems of self-control, guidance forthe family and for children, management of the household, directing the soul, etc. For this reason, Foucault defines government as conduct, or, more precisely, as "the conduct of conduct" and thus as a term which ranges from "governing the self" to "governing others [4] ".

All in all, in his history of Governmentality Foucault endeavors to show various the notion of government in a comprehensive sense geared strongly to the older meaning of the term and adumbrating the close link between forms of power and processes of subjectification. He establishes the idea that Politics and Power are everywhere, if one is able to influence one's or resist one's idea the different dimensions of the politics involved could be understood by looking the dynamics of power involved. Rather, power is exercised throughout the social body. He quotes examples to prove that power operates at the most micro levels of social relations. Power is omnipresent at every level of the social body. He says the exercise of power is strategic and war-like.

"….Power is everywhere not because it embraces everything, but because it comes from everywhere. And "Power," insofar as it is permanent, repetitious, inert, and self-reproducing, is simply the over-all effect that emerges from all these motilities, the concatenation that rests on each of them and seeks in turn to arrest their movement …power is not an institution, and not a structure; neither is it a certain strength we are endowed with; it is the name that one attributes to a complex strategical situation in a particular society." lastly, as the strategies in which they take effect, whose general design or institutional crystallization is embodied in the state apparatus, in the formulation of the law, in the various social hegemonies."

Using these methods, It could be understood the state operates not through a simple, top-down power structure, but rather widens our understanding of power to also include the forms of social control in disciplinary institutions (schools, hospitals, psychiatric institutions, etc.), as well as the forms of knowledge. Power can manifest itself positively by producing knowledge and certain discourses that get internalised by individuals and guide the behaviour of populations. This leads to more efficient forms of social control, as knowledge enables individuals to govern themselves through a multiplicity of institutions that attempts to use each and every individual as a part of state politics. The population becomes the central power of state politics. For instance, In Indian the marginalization and exploitation of Dalits is not just a result of neglect and subjugation by the modern Indian state, but a product of a complex network of political relations under a history of oppression through the caste system and various institutions of religion, commerce and social interaction that dates back to centuries. In other instance in some states like U.P, various political poll games are centralized around Dalits. They enjoy an upper-hand (power) in deciding the entire politics of the state.

To understand further the concept of politics in the context power as a social body and a form of social hegemonies Foucault also compares modern society with Jeremy Bentham's "Panopticon"in his work discipline and punishment. He outlines the panoptic society and how disciplines are enforced via the act of not seeing. The Panopticon was grounded in the Bentham's prison where the inmates were subject to being watched at all times by a tower in the middle of a courtyard. The inmates could never tell if the guard was watching them and therefore had to assume they were constantly under surveillance. This mode of enforcing social norms exists outside the prison as well, thus power and politics of the place gradually modifies our way of life, mode of living and our habits.

Hence Power and politics is not to be read, therefore, in terms of one individual's domination over another or others; or even as that of one class over another or others; for the subject which power has constituted becomes a part of the mechanisms of politics. It becomes the vehicle of that politics. Power is both reflexive, then, and impersonal. It acts in a relatively autonomous way and produces Politics. The point is not to ignore the subject or to deny its existence but rather to examine it. Politics can be seen as as a collection of techniques or flows of power which run through the whole society.

 Foucault's redefinition of how we think about power in contemporary societies contains important insights for feminism, looking power as a social body and localized concept; it has encouraged the feminists to look the gender politics at micro-level.

Usually the politics in a state is analysed by the state's government. The concept of "Governmentality" develops a new understanding of government. "Governmentality" applies to a variety of historical periods and to different specific power regimes. However, it is often used (by other scholars and by Foucault himself) in reference to "neoliberal politics", i.e. to a type of politics that characterizes advanced liberal democracies. In this case, the notion of Governmentality refers to societies where power is de-centred and its members play an active role in their own self-government.

Through "Governmentality" he explains politics as the collection of power formed by institutions, procedures, analyses and reflections, calculations, and tactics that allow the exercise very complex power, having the population as its target, political economy as its major form of knowledge, and apparatuses of security as its essential technical instrument.

Second, by "Governmentality" I understand the tendency, the line of force, that for a long time, and throughout the West, has constantly led towards the pre-eminence over all other types of power - sovereignty, discipline, and "government" and which has led to the development of a series of specific governmental structures on the one hand and, on the other to the development of a series of knowledge.

Finally, by "governmentality" he explains the process of how governance becomes "governmentalized".

Whenever we talk about a state's politics it is looked as political power being used in restricting and controlling the citizens. According to him the nature of power involved in politics is not simply repressive or negative but it is productive he feels power is not simply a property of the State. The most significant nature of Foucault's thesis is his stress on the state politics productive nature of power's modern exercise. His main aim was to turn a negative conception upside down and attribute the production of concepts, ideas and structures of institutions to the circulation and exercise of power in its modern forms. He forcefully expresses this point in 

"We must cease once and for all to describe the effects of power in negative terms, it 'excludes', it 'represses'………… in fact power produces, it produces reality, it produces domains of objects and rituals of truth."

Politics is not something that is exclusively localized in government and the State. For e.g: politics take a different shape if one looks at the various instances where resistance by common people is exercised against the state's use of power in cases like POSCO, Vedentta, Maoist problem, Politics is in involved even Foucault claims that although many of the political forms and practices of sovereign power remained in place, they were gradually taken over and ultimately sustained on the basis of power relations that functioned at a different location and scale.

The political structure in a state is instrumental to the production or enhancement of various "goods," such as knowledge, health, wealth, or social cohesion. Foucault thus sees this "new economy of power" as productive, which produces discourse operating through and leading to the production of various episteme and systems of knowledge: "Power traverses and produces things; it induces pleasure, forms knowledge, and produces discourse."

Thus, to conclude, in Foucault's conceptualization of the dynamics of power - The politics is dispersed across complicated and heterogeneous social networks marked by ongoing struggle. Politics is not something present at specific locations within those networks, but is instead always at contention in on-going attempts to (re)produce effective social alignments.



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