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“Power serves to create power. Powerlessness serves to re-enforce powerlessness”(Gaventa,1980:256). Such is the essence of the on going relationship between the Powerful and the Powerless of the Appalachian Valley where acquiescence of the repressed has become not only common practice but a way of life and a means of survival. In his novel Power and Powerlessness, John Gaventa examines the oppressive and desperate situation of the Appalachian coal miners under the autocratic power of absentee land-owners, local elites, and corrupt union leaders. His analyses is based on Lukes three-dimensional understanding of power from his book Power: A Radical View. Gaventa applies the three notions of power to the politics of inequalities in the Appalachian Valley and, while demonstrating the inadequacies of thefirst or ‘pluralist’ approach and the merits of the second and particularly the third dimensions, asserts that the interrelationship and reinforcing affect of all three dimensions !
is necessary for an in depth understanding of the “total impact of power upon the actions [or inactions] and conceptions of the powerless”(Gaventa:256)
This essay will examine Luke’s three power dimensions and their applicability to Gaventa’s account of the inequities found in the valleys of the Cumberland Mountains. Reasons for the mountain people’s submission and non-participation will be recognized and their nexus with the power relationship established. In this way, Gaventa’s dissatisfaction with the pluralist approach will be justified and the emphatic ability of the other two dimensions to withhold issues and shape behaviour will be verified as principal agents of Power and Powerlessness.
The one dimensional view of power is often called the ‘pluralist’ approach and emphasizes the exercise of power through decision making and observable behaviour. Robert Dahl, a major proponent of this view, defines power as occurring in a situation where “A has p…

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