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The Meta-Power Paradigm

Impacts and Transformations of Agents, Institutions, and Social Systems-- Capitalism, State, and Democracy in a Global Context

Edited By Tom R. Burns and Peter M. Hall

This work presents, elaborates, and illustrates what is arguably the most important concept in the social sciences: power. It focuses particularly on a major class of power phenomena, meta-power, that is, power over power, transformative and structuring power. This encompasses powers to establish, reform, and transform social systems (institutions, power hierarchies, cultural formations, and socio-technical and infrastructural systems). Understanding meta-power is essential to the effective analysis of the formation of societal structures, their dynamics and evolution. This collection presents numerous illustrations and case studies at local, meso, and macro levels, showing how meta-powering is mobilized and operates in different contexts. The book should be of particular interest to business and management researchers, anthropologists, historians, legal scholars, political scientists, and, of course, sociologists.


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C H A P T E R 7: Peter M. Hall: Meta-Power, Social Organization, and the Shaping of Social Action


237 C H A P T E R 7 Meta-Power, Social Organization, and the Shaping of Social Action Peter M. Hall Interactionist analyses of social organization stimulate examination of how social situations and collective activity are shaped. Meta-power, the creation and control of distal situations, and organization as a structuration of meta-power are used as tools for exploring the shaping of situations. Five meta-power processes are presented: strategic agency, rules and conventions, structuring situations, culture construction, and empowering delegates. These processes illustrate how situations are created or altered. This paper offers a view of social organization that emphasizes relations among situations, linkages between consequences and conditions, and networks of collective activity across space and time. The conclusion calls for additional research to make more explicit the nature of social organization and its social conditions. Introduction Interactionists have a strong tradition of examining the dialectical relationship be- tween social action and social organization. We have demonstrated vividly how ac- tors respond to social conditions. We have theorized insightfully about social activi- ty and shown how actors construct their situations. Additionally, while perhaps not as frequently, we have examined how social organization emerges from that activity, and we have conceptualized social organization as recurrent networks of collective activity. In this paper, I want to strengthen our attention to that view of social or- ganization and focus upon an important and often neglected topic: the consequence of social organization for social action. I emphasize the directing, conditioning, and shaping influences of social organization....

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