"Power serves to create power. Powerlessness serves to re-enforce
powerlessness"(Gaventa,1980:256). Such is the essence of the on going
relationship between the Powerful and the Powerless of the Appalachian Valley
where acquiescence of the repressed has become not only common practice but a
way of life and a means of survival. In his novel Power and Powerlessness, John
Gaventa examines the oppressive and desperate situation of the Appalachian coal
miners under the autocratic power of absentee land-owners, local elites, and
corrupt union leaders. His analyses is based on Lukes three-dimensional
understanding of power from his book Power: A Radical View. Gaventa applies the
three notions of power to the politics of inequalities in the Appalachian Valley
and, while demonstrating the inadequacies of the first or 'pluralist' approach
and the merits of the second and particularly the third dimensions, asserts that
the interrelationship and reinforcing affect of all three dimensions is
necessary for an in depth understanding of the "total impact of power upon the
actions [or inactions] and conceptions of the powerless"(Gaventa:256)
This essay will examine Luke's three power dimensions and their
applicability to Gaventa's account of the inequities found in the valleys of the
Cumberland Mountains. Reasons for the mountain people's submission and non-
participation will be recognized and their nexus with the power relationship
established. In this way, Gaventa's dissatisfaction with the pluralist approach
will be justified and the emphatic ability of the other two dimensions to
withhold issues and shape behaviour will be verified as principal agents of
Power and Powerlessness.
The one dimensional view of power is often called the 'pluralist'
approach and emphasizes the exercise of power through decision making and
observable behaviour. Robert Dahl, a major proponent of this view, defines
power as occurring in a situation where... [continues]
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