Chapter 1: ‘Game-Playing’: Rethinking Power and Empowerment
For social scientists, the exercise of power has traditionally been an instrument of domination, involving coercion, struggle and force. This view of power – as ‘power over’ – prevailed in the social sciences in the twentieth century (Clegg, 1989; Lukes, 1974). More recent scholarship has advanced our understanding of how power is exercised in the modern world (see especially Foucault, 1977, 1979). In contrast to the traditional ‘power over’ perspective, contemporary social theory creates space for individual agency, but until recently this space has lacked theoretical development. An emergent research agenda now questions how disempowered groups exercise agency positively to achieve empowerment (see O’Malley, 1996; O’Malley et al., 1997; Townsend et al., 1999; Rowlands, 1995, 1997; Bevir and Rhodes, 2005; Eyben et al., 2006). Braithwaite’s (2009) conceptual framework of ‘deﬁance’ extends this incipient intellectual programme with a typology of individual psychologies and behaviours for defying institutional and structural constraints. Elaborating Braithwaite’s psychological framework to the level of collective action and transnational structure, the chapter focuses on one type of deﬁance, game-playing, and develops a conceptual scheme of empowerment through which game-playing can be understood to trigger global transformations. ‘POWER OVER’: A LEGACY AND ITS LIMITATIONS According to Steward Clegg (1989: 22), twentieth-century thought on power has been grounded in a notion of ‘human agency’ that is ‘expressed through causal relations measurable in terms of mechanistic indicators’. For Dahl (cited in Lukes, 1974: 16) for instance, ‘A has power over B to the extent that A can get B to do...
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