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Power and power analysis: beyond Foucault?

Wickham, G. (1983) Power and power analysis: beyond Foucault? Economy and Society, 12 (4). pp. 468-498.

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This paper is an attempt to develop a framework for non-essentialist power analysis. By ‘non-essentialist analysis’ I mean analysis which does not understand its object in terms of an all-important essence (like the economy, the state or the creative individual). As Barry Hindess describes it:

Essentialism…. refers to a mode of analysis in which social phenomena are analysed not in terms of their specific conditions of existence and their effects with regard to other social relations and practices but rather as the more or less adequate expression of an essence (Hindess. 1977, 95).

A non-essentialist analysis treats its objects in terms of its specificity, its particular conditions of existence, without reference to an eternal, external essence. In this way a non-essentialist analysis allows a far more thorough understanding of its object as it is not restricted to considerations in terms of an essence. An essentialist analysis, on the other hand, is bound by such restrictions — it must ignore or marginalize those aspects of the object being analysed which are not seen as important in terms of the essence being maintained, But an essentialist analysis is not only analytic ally debilitating, it is also politically debilitating. Essentialism means that strategies and tactics developed to achieve policy objectives must be limited to considerations only in terms of the essence maintained and not in terms of the specific conditions of existence of the policy concerned.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): School of Social Sciences
Publisher: Routledge
Copyright: © R.K.P.
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