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Adam Przeworski on Power - Dictionary of Arguments

Gaus I 163
Power/democracy/Przeworski/Bohman: large advantages in the agency freedom of one
group over all others may be due to the possession of vastly greater resources or other forms of social power, the achievement of their goals may not depend upon the consensual resolution of a conflict with groups with less social power.
If Przeworski and Wallerstein (1988)(1) are right, for example, powerful economic groups have historically been able to attain their agency goals not by explicitly excluding topics from democratic discussion but rather by implied threats and other non-deliberative means (Bohman, 1996)(2). We can see the differences between such strategic forms of interaction to the extent that they reflect differences in bargaining power, regardless of the democratic means used to reach this equilibrium. Threats of declining investments block redistributive schemes, such as those
that would burden well-off groups with higher tax rates; these credible threats circumvent the need to convince others of the reasons for such policies or to put some issue under democratic control. Bohman: Similar discursive effects occur when institutions operate with implicit discursive frames, as did the Nuclear Regulatory Agency when it considered the 1966 partial meltdown of the Detroit Edison reactor to be a mere 'engineering mishap' (Gamson, 1992)(3). The excessive agency freedom of some and the lack of social power of others means that some dissenting reasons will not become topics to be recognized or respected. However, it is possible to shift the frame-
Discourse/democratic practice/Bohman: However, it is possible to shift the framework of justification (...) where the meanings of policies are changed and new agendas formed. In these cases, strategic actions by social movements are used to open up communication where it is blocked, to move discourse and deliberation beyond a bargaining equilibrium asymmetrical
negotiating power.


1. Przeworski, Adam and Michael Wallerstein (1988) 'The structural dependence of the state on capital'. American Political Science Review, 82: 11-29.
2. Bohman, James (1996) Public Deliberation. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
3. Gamson, William (1992) Talking Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bohman, James 2004. „Discourse Theory“. In: Gaus, Gerald F. & Kukathas, Chandran 2004. Handbook of Political Theory. SAGE Publications


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Explanation of symbols: Roman numerals indicate the source, arabic numerals indicate the page number. The corresponding books are indicated on the right hand side. ((s)…): Comment by the sender of the contribution. Translations: Dictionary of Arguments
The note [Author1]Vs[Author2] or [Author]Vs[term] is an addition from the Dictionary of Arguments. If a German edition is specified, the page numbers refer to this edition.
Przeworski, Adam
Gaus I
Gerald F. Gaus
Chandran Kukathas
Handbook of Political Theory London 2004


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