Abstract

In applying rational choice theory to the debates about power, it has been proposed that distinguishing power from luck yields new insights. Specifically, it has been suggested that, where social and institutional structures favour some and disfavour others, the former have the good luck to get what they want without trying and the latter the bad luck to be faced with collective action problems that prevent them from furthering their interests. Against such proposals, it is argued that luck, thus understood, is non-explanatory and, moreover, de-politicizing. It is further argued that they exemplify a narrow conception of power that defines it as intentional, as involving positive interventions in the world, as furthering the wants of the powerful and as altering the incentive structures of others. Such a conception closes off questions about the operations of power where these are more or less indirect, ongoing and often inaccessible to direct observation, and only very partially and superficially captured by the "snapshot" accounts of structured interaction among strategic actors characteristic of rational choice theory. A broader and more dynamic view, revealing the complexities of power, allows that the powerful can hold and exert their power without intending to, without positively intervening in the world and irrespective of their actual "brute" wants; and that their power consists in being capable and responsible for affecting (negatively or positively) the subjective and/ or objective interests of others.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalArchives Europeennes de Sociologie
Volume46
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2005

Fingerprint

rational choice theory
collective behavior
incentive
interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Sociology and Political Science

Cite this

Power and luck. / Lukes, Steven; Haglund, LaDawn.

In: Archives Europeennes de Sociologie, Vol. 46, No. 1, 2005.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Lukes, Steven ; Haglund, LaDawn. / Power and luck. In: Archives Europeennes de Sociologie. 2005 ; Vol. 46, No. 1.
@article{a8c645c7025b44c6b69e78c89ab5abeb,
title = "Power and luck",
abstract = "In applying rational choice theory to the debates about power, it has been proposed that distinguishing power from luck yields new insights. Specifically, it has been suggested that, where social and institutional structures favour some and disfavour others, the former have the good luck to get what they want without trying and the latter the bad luck to be faced with collective action problems that prevent them from furthering their interests. Against such proposals, it is argued that luck, thus understood, is non-explanatory and, moreover, de-politicizing. It is further argued that they exemplify a narrow conception of power that defines it as intentional, as involving positive interventions in the world, as furthering the wants of the powerful and as altering the incentive structures of others. Such a conception closes off questions about the operations of power where these are more or less indirect, ongoing and often inaccessible to direct observation, and only very partially and superficially captured by the {"}snapshot{"} accounts of structured interaction among strategic actors characteristic of rational choice theory. A broader and more dynamic view, revealing the complexities of power, allows that the powerful can hold and exert their power without intending to, without positively intervening in the world and irrespective of their actual {"}brute{"} wants; and that their power consists in being capable and responsible for affecting (negatively or positively) the subjective and/ or objective interests of others.",
author = "Steven Lukes and LaDawn Haglund",
year = "2005",
doi = "10.1017/S0003975605000020",
language = "English (US)",
volume = "46",
journal = "Archives Europeennes de Sociologie",
issn = "0003-9756",
publisher = "Cambridge University Press",
number = "1",

}

TY - JOUR

T1 - Power and luck

AU - Lukes, Steven

AU - Haglund, LaDawn

PY - 2005

Y1 - 2005

N2 - In applying rational choice theory to the debates about power, it has been proposed that distinguishing power from luck yields new insights. Specifically, it has been suggested that, where social and institutional structures favour some and disfavour others, the former have the good luck to get what they want without trying and the latter the bad luck to be faced with collective action problems that prevent them from furthering their interests. Against such proposals, it is argued that luck, thus understood, is non-explanatory and, moreover, de-politicizing. It is further argued that they exemplify a narrow conception of power that defines it as intentional, as involving positive interventions in the world, as furthering the wants of the powerful and as altering the incentive structures of others. Such a conception closes off questions about the operations of power where these are more or less indirect, ongoing and often inaccessible to direct observation, and only very partially and superficially captured by the "snapshot" accounts of structured interaction among strategic actors characteristic of rational choice theory. A broader and more dynamic view, revealing the complexities of power, allows that the powerful can hold and exert their power without intending to, without positively intervening in the world and irrespective of their actual "brute" wants; and that their power consists in being capable and responsible for affecting (negatively or positively) the subjective and/ or objective interests of others.

AB - In applying rational choice theory to the debates about power, it has been proposed that distinguishing power from luck yields new insights. Specifically, it has been suggested that, where social and institutional structures favour some and disfavour others, the former have the good luck to get what they want without trying and the latter the bad luck to be faced with collective action problems that prevent them from furthering their interests. Against such proposals, it is argued that luck, thus understood, is non-explanatory and, moreover, de-politicizing. It is further argued that they exemplify a narrow conception of power that defines it as intentional, as involving positive interventions in the world, as furthering the wants of the powerful and as altering the incentive structures of others. Such a conception closes off questions about the operations of power where these are more or less indirect, ongoing and often inaccessible to direct observation, and only very partially and superficially captured by the "snapshot" accounts of structured interaction among strategic actors characteristic of rational choice theory. A broader and more dynamic view, revealing the complexities of power, allows that the powerful can hold and exert their power without intending to, without positively intervening in the world and irrespective of their actual "brute" wants; and that their power consists in being capable and responsible for affecting (negatively or positively) the subjective and/ or objective interests of others.

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/record.url?scp=23944480395&partnerID=8YFLogxK

UR - http://www.scopus.com/inward/citedby.url?scp=23944480395&partnerID=8YFLogxK

U2 - 10.1017/S0003975605000020

DO - 10.1017/S0003975605000020

M3 - Article

VL - 46

JO - Archives Europeennes de Sociologie

JF - Archives Europeennes de Sociologie

SN - 0003-9756

IS - 1

ER -