community power

community power

the distribution. The works of Floyd Hunter Community Power Structure (1963) and Robert Dahl Who Governs? (1961) are important examples of studies designed to test propositions about local political power. Controversy raged between the exponents of‘reputational’ studies of power (asking respondents who they believed held power), and those based on a direct analysis of actual ‘decisions’ made within local communities. The different approaches have led to markedly different conclusions about community power. While the ‘reputational’ method tended to discover ‘élites’, the ‘decisional’ approach has more often led to the conclusion that no élite of community power-holders exists. This suggests that the method of research employed has played a major part in determining the outcome of the research. Another possibility is that the choice of method of study is also related to the political predispositions of the researchers.

A further difficulty in studies of community power is the issue of how to include nondecisions, i.e. situations in which a mobilization of bias exists (Bachrach and Baratz, 1962), so that key issues never reach the political agenda. For example, in a steel town like Gary, Indiana, studied by Crenson (1971), potential issues such as pollution simply did not arise as actual issues. See also S. Lukes (1974).

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