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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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This work has presented, elaborated, and illustrated what is arguably the most im- portant concept in the social sciences: power.1 It has focused on a major class of power phenomena, meta-power, that is, power over power, transformative and structuring power. It encompasses powers to establish, reform, and transform social systems (institutions, power hierarchies, cultural formations, and socio-technical and infrastructural systems) – considerations that, in our view, are essential to effective analysis of the formation of societal structures, their dynamics and evolution. This collection has presented numerous illustrations and case studies at local, meso, and macro levels, showing how meta-powering is mobilized and operates in different contexts. We want to emphasize once again several of the advantages of the conceptuali- zations and analyses presented here: Many human power and control systems are made more comparable. Through such comparability, researchers are able to more systematically in- vestigate and analyze multiple modalities of power and the underlying mech- anisms of “causality”. Causal mechanisms of control differ substantially in the operation of agen- tial, social structural, technical and natural systems. The actual powering mechanisms, as we have argued, need to be identified and specified in ac- tion/or operational terms, that is, the concrete mechanisms, whether agential control activi- ties, social structural constraining and/or enabling operations, or material/ecological con- straints and forces. A major distinction has been made here between transformative and struc- turing types of power and their impacts, on the one hand, and powering, for instance regulation and social control, conducted within established structural...

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