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Rational Choice and Political Power$
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Keith Dowding

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781529206333

Published to Policy Press Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.1332/policypress/9781529206333.001.0001

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Political Power and Bargaining Theory

Political Power and Bargaining Theory

(p.47) 4 Political Power and Bargaining Theory
Rational Choice and Political Power

Keith Dowding

Policy Press

The chapter opens with some distinctions made in the study of power and semi-formally defines ‘outcome’ and ‘social’ or ‘power to’ and ‘power over’ showing the latter is a subset of the former. It argues both are legitimate ways of examining power. It argues that whilst ‘social power’ is often our concern, especially when discussing issues of freedom, domination and inequality we need to start by considering outcome power. Understanding why people can fail in their aims even when others are not acting against them – failure in their outcome power – is necessary for to understand the scope of social power. The chapter then examines the relationship between outcome power and freedom and discussesMorriss’s distinction between ability and ableness. Power is a dispositional concept and the ability that people have need to be distinguished from their exercise of their powers. It argues that if we only look at abilities we could eliminate the term power from our language since all we would need to is to look at their capacities or resources, but we also need to examine the way that agents change others incentives to act. The chapter introduces the formal aspects of the power index approach and through that discussion distinguishes power and luck. It then introduces bargaining power, formally distinguishes threats and offers and explains Harsanyi’s bargaining model of power and the extra element of reputation. It then discusses the relationship of luck and group power introducing the notion of systematic luck. It then concludes by discussing how we can study power in society.

Keywords:   ability, ableness, Harsanyi model of power, power indices, luck

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