Consenting to domination? Theorising power, agency and embodiment with reference to caste

Irene Rafanell, Hugo Gorringe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Conventional analyses of domination ultimately conceive of individuals internalizing aspects of their contextual social environments (desires or norms) which determine their future behaviour in a pre-conscious fashion. We suggest that this conception of domination is mistaken and stems from a commitment to theoretical models which view individuals' actions as the result rather than a cause, of durable social structures. We offer a critical analysis of Lukes and Bourdieu as paradigmatic theorists of power who hold such a view, and contrast their work to that of Barnes and Foucault. Drawing on the latter we develop an intrinsic model of power which views interaction as central to social phenomena and understands social processes as arising from the continuous interaction of heterogeneous and calculative but mutually susceptible individuals.

This approach re-conceptualises three central dichotomies in studies of power: consensus versus conflict, agency versus compliance and mind versus embodiment. We argue, contrary to extrinsic views of power, that calculative agency is essential to both compliance and consensus and view both domination and resistance as integral to power dynamics. Contrary to theories of false consciousness we understand bodies, rather than minds, as central to the routinization of power dynamics. Whilst the paper primarily develops theoretical debates on power we briefly illustrate our position by reference to empirical data on untouchables in India.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)604-622
JournalThe Sociological Review
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2010


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