Caroline Cerand; Reaction 1; Section 1

Critical Synthesis with the continual use of the three dimensions of power.

For the first part of our class, we discussed the distribution of power and who actually holds power in a community. To understand power and where power comes from, we had to understand three dimensions of power, as discussed in Sadan’s “Empowerment Spreads/Theories of Community,” and how each of these dimensions influence how decisions are made by the people who hold power. These dimensions of power create relationships between those in power and those who do not have power. After understanding this relationship, we learned how power is divided among the elite and how they divid power among themselves, from Kweit & Kweit “Political Machines: 176-186;” and afterwards, how minorities react to these people in power compared to when a minority gets power, which is presented in Marschall & Shah’s “Attitudinal Effects of Minority Incorporation.” As time passes on, even in today’s day and age, the relationship between those in power and those out of power has been strained.

In order to understand the transitions of power and how power is shifted, we must first know the three dimensions of power Sadan proposes in “Theories of Power.” The first dimension of power is overt power, which is when someone has the power to tell the powerless what to do. The second dimension of power is covert power, which is when the powerful sets the agenda for discussions to only talk about what they want to have said and avoids conflict, so they can ultimately keep their power. The third dimension of power is used by the person with power to manipulate others with a basic belief understanding to have similar views as them. Sadan focuses on how each of these dimensions of power creates a relationship between those in power and those who do not have power. Sadan also talks about how the powerful group can be overpowered by those without power, only if there is conflict and full participation in the overturn of power. These dimensions of power show the constant straining relationship between those in power and those without power.

Political machines are those in power, who are also able to keep their power. They make executive decisions so they can keep their power and focus on their own needs, by keeping their voters happy because they give them what they want and need in return for votes. These political machines used the three dimensions of power by actually having the power and controlling what the powerless do by keeping their votes (overt power). They also set the agenda for what is talked about in community meetings (covert power) by marketing themselves to their audience: the powerless (shaping beliefs). Kweit & Kweit discuss in “Political Machines: 176-186;” how the political machines were able to gain and keep their power because they had the money to do so, and the powerless kept giving these machines their votes because the power group knew how to appeal to the powerless. Eventually, the political machines lost their power because the government stepped in to help the underprivileged and/or powerless get their voices and votes back from the machines, but this lead to another form of power from the government.

After the government took over the political machines, they gave those without power the power to vote and create more districts for voices within the communities which are still in effect today. However, not all of the districts and communities are the same— some have more resources and money than others. The district politicians have taken over as the powerful group and use the dimensions of power to hold their power over the powerless by seeming more appealing than the political machines. Also, there is a new minority group that formed from the decline of the political machines and the rise of these electoral reforms. Throughout most of our history, it has been that privileged, white males held power; and, only in recent history, has it been that minorities have gained some of the power. The minority class, however, still feels as if they have little power or control in the government and still have a distrust of their local government, according to “Attitudinal Effects of Minority Incorporation.” The results go on to show that there is only a psychological or symbolic benefit for minorities (powerless) since their environment does not change too much over time, even when there is a minority with power. The dimensions of power are in the hands of the minority leader, but the powerless still do not have a voice in decision making because the privileged/powerful group influences the leaders with decisions since they also hold some power from their money and network.

The transition from political machines to electoral reforms give the minority class a little more voting power, but the political power still stays within an elite group, which changes over time. Each of the groups with power uses the three dimensions of power to maintain their power and it will be a continual cycle of who holds the actual power and how they maintain it. Those in power will be able to tell the powerless what to do (dimension 1) by setting their own agenda (dimension 2) and making their views more appealing to the powerless (dimension 3). Each of the articles show how the dimensions of power are used by the powerful to maintain their power over the powerless, but the powerful group can change.

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