Oh dear, what can the matter be? A commentary on Pratto's ‘On power and empowerment’

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Abstract

In this response, I welcome Pratto's wide ranging and innovative contribution on the social psychology of power. It fulfils an important role in opening up debate around an issue of key importance for our discipline. At the same time (and to further that debate), I take issue with both of her core arguments: First, that power should not be seen as relational but rather about one's ability to reach one's desired ends and, second, that these ends are ultimately about survival. More fundamentally, though, I argue that Pratto's analysis is limited by the fact that she takes the subject of power for granted. This ignores a wealth of research which shows, on the one hand, how power constitutes the nature of subjects and, on the other, how subjects (especially collective subjects – groups) constitute power. It is through exploring these dynamics that we can understand power and its relevance to social life.

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