POLS/ECON 426 International Political Economy Lecture Three: Understanding Power April 3, 2008 • Prof. Timothy Lim
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Let’s begin some questions … What is power? Who has power? Where does power come from? How do relations of power change? Is power absolute? The traditional conception of power: Power is dominance where dominance is achieved through coercion or force
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: Basic Points Power is everywhere and ever-present; even in the “freest” of market societies, power plays a dominant, if not always obvious role An efficient and productive market system cannot exist where private property rights are not respected, where contracts cannot be enforced, or where domestic security is weak or non-existent; yet doing all of his requires the use of some type of power, which—it is important to understand—must usually be exercised by a non-market actor, such as the state Consider how the exercise of power is required to create and maintain market economies
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: Basic Points Power is often hidden: even in situations where power seems to be non-existent, it may play an essential role Examples “Free Agency” in professional sports “Free” labor markets in developing economies Consider how some ostensibly “free” markets require the exercise of immense and often coercive power Note:“Capitalists” always are advocates of a free labor market when it serves their interests, but dead set against free markets when it doesn’t; nothing surprising about this, of course, but points to a basic truth in GPE: interests matter
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: Basic Points Traditional or everyday conceptions of power do well in highlighting the concrete and obvious manifestations of power, but often miss other important dimensions of power But, if the traditional conception of power is inadequate, how should we conceive of power? Is there a better way?
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: A Better Conception Starting point: We must understand that power is multi-dimensional and complex Susan Strange tells us that, at a minimum, there are two basic types of power … ____________________ ____________________ relational 1. structural 2. Two guys fighting it out is an example of relational power
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: Examples When someone holds a gun to your head and demands you give him all your money, this is relational/coercive power When the US and allies undertook a massive military campaign to destroy Saddam Hussein’s regime, this too is an example of relational power Can you think of other examples?
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: Other Examples The U.S. government decision to underwrite, for $30 billion, JP Morgan’s takeover of Bear Stearns The reliance of some countries on international financial institutions, such as the IMF and World Bank The willingness of the United States to support the Saudi Arabian regime despite its poor human rights record and lack of democracy What type of power do these examples represent?
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: Structural Power Structural power as Strange defines it, “confers the power to decide how things shall be done, the power to shape frameworks within which states relate to one another, relate to people, or relate to corporate enterprises” So, what differentiates structural from relational power? • No direct application of force; in a sense, one party “chooses” to abide by certain rules or practices • This highlights a key aspect of structural power, which the ability to “write the rules” or to define the frameworks within which certain activities take place
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: Structural Power Key Point: Structural power is not just a broader, more generalized version of coercive power Three reasons Frameworks of power subject all actors to the same system of constraints and opportunities Structural power is context dependent Structural power is reciprocal 1. 2. 3. Consider the “power” of teachers over students Consider the current system of international finance Consider the relationship between owners and workers
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: Structural Power Structural power and change. The structural nature of power allows us to understand change Without an understanding of the structural nature of power, one could not adequately explain how changes ever occur in the political economy After all, those who lack (coercive) power also lack the capacity to challenge those with power; thus, how can unequal relations of power change once established?
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Power: Structural Power The dimensions of structural power. Strange tells us that structural power, as with “power” itself, is multidimensional. She focuses on four main dimensions of structural power … ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ ___________________________ security 1. production 2. finance 3. knowledge 4.
Understanding Powerin the global political economy Structural Power: Four Structures Security: The power to provide protection from external or internal threats Production: The power to decide what shall be produced, by whom, by what means, and with what combination of land, labor, capital, and technology Finance:The power to create credit Knowledge:The ability to develop or acquire and to deny the access of others to a kind of knowledge respected and sought by others NOTE: No additional slides for lecture on structural power