Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Howard's powergame as seen by a first-year uni student

One useful aspect of starting to study humanities at university is that it exposes me to far more thorough and far more rigorous investigations of concepts that I've been previously been mulling here. Take a little concept by a person named Steven Lukes about "the three faces of power", for instance. He described power as having three faces:
1. Decision-making. The most obvious face, where an entity makes a decision and enforces it.
2. Non-decision-making, or agenda-setting. A more subtle exercise of power where the actual decisions that can be made get constrained somehow.
3. Shaping desires. An even subtler face, in which power is exercised not to coercively over-ride someone else's decision, but to actually change what they want, so that they come to the "correct" decision.

I'm pretty sure that the Howard government has actively focused on exercising the second and third face of power: convincing people that the most important issues on the agenda (agenda-setting) is the economy and anti-terror, and that economic rationalism and a militant attitude to tackling jihadism will give people what they want out of life (shaping desires?). I note that Labor under Rudd has apparently made some inroads on Howard by some agenda-setting of their own, specifically Rudd's repeated references to "compassion" as being something which should shape government policy.

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