Power: Toward a Unifying Analytical Framework

82 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2013

See all articles by Shiping Tang

Shiping Tang

Fudan University - School of International Relations and Public Affairs (SIRPA)

Date Written: January 11, 2013


A major cause behind our difficulties in understanding social power has been that there are four approaches in two dichotomies toward power. Each of the four approaches offers a one-sided understanding about power: the four approaches even define power differently. After dissecting the four major approaches and underscoring their inadequacies, I propose an organic synthesis of the foundational paradigms of social sciences as a starting point for understanding power. This new definition avoids key ontological and epistemological fallacies and methodological difficulties that have saddled existing definitions of power, thus facilitating a better understanding about power. I then advance a new framework for understanding (and sometimes measuring) power that centers on three dimensions: institutionalization, penetration, and time. The new framework not only subsumes the useful but ultimately misleading “four faces of power” but also allow us to better understand the relationship between power, institutions, and history. It also advances our understanding of “structural power.”

Suggested Citation

Tang, Shiping, Power: Toward a Unifying Analytical Framework (January 11, 2013). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2199712 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2199712

Shiping Tang (Contact Author)

Fudan University - School of International Relations and Public Affairs (SIRPA) ( email )

220 Handan Road
Shanghai, 200433

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