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Beyond the Three Faces of Power: A Realist Critique

This article critiques the debate in political science among Robert Dahl, Peter Bachrach/Morton Baratz, and Steven Lukes over the meaning of power and the proper method for its study. The author argues that, their differences aside, these three views of power share a common problem, grounded in a misconception of the nature of social science, that leads them all to view power in terms of empirical causation. Drawing on recent arguments in the philosophy of science and social science, he challenges this "empiricist" perspective and offers instead a "realist" theory of power as socially structured and enduring capacities for action.