The theories of power in the modern day society help to understand the relationship between the institutions of power and the individuals of the society. The interaction between the institutions and the common public determines how they are affected by them. Moreover, the position of power and authority also plays a very important role in determining how these institutions socially affect the life of the common people. Ireland is a country of that has been carved out of struggle and from the will to be free. However, it is important to understand whether the modern day public institutions are having an effective communication with the common people. The purpose of this research is to analyse the theories of power in relation to modern Irish institutions. For this analysis the chosen institutions of power are the health service and the justice system of the country, the police or the Garda Siochana, to be more specific. These institutions are directly involved in public interactions with the common people of the country. Hence it will be better to understand how they affect the public or what problems it poses to the lives of the disadvantaged living in Ireland. To support the power theories, the analysis is to be compared with the theories of academicians such as Foucault and Weber. This can help in the better reflection of the ideas that are to be analysed. The chosen institutions are also the reflections of the government in power and display the position of power and authority that the government imposes on the common people. It is important to understand whether the power institutions are just the reflection of the government or they themselves have the authority to be an autonomous powerhouse. In the Irish society, the chosen two institutions are the part of the daily life of the people and hence the study of the power theories in relation to the structure and nature of the institutions contributes to the knowledge of the power theories predominant in Ireland and how it affects the life of the disadvantaged living in Ireland.
The Theories of Power: Power according to Foucault
The study of power theories and Michel Foucault is synonymous. Michel Foucault explicitly explains what power is and how it is important in the understanding of relations. According to Foucault, it is evident that all relations are bound by the theories of power, from the family ties to the government hierarchies and each and every social institution. It is very important to understand the relation of power to have the correlative knowledge about a public institution of its relation to the public. It is very important to understand the view from which Michel Foucault discourses his theories. Foucault’s theory of powers is based on the inner acceptance of the theory and its origin. It is based on the scientific assumption of the objective that it discusses. A similar emphasis was given to this objective based study by philosophers like Althusser and Gramsi when they discuss ideology or hegemony. This type of understanding helps in the better understanding of the theories.
Foucault believed in that the power is not to be viewed as something which is negative or repressive, which can force individuals of the society to do thighs against their wishes. Power can also be seen as a development of the society which can be a necessary development for the positive enhancement of the society. The individual development and the understanding of the social needs according to scientific knowledge development belong to Foucault’s idea of power (Lynch 2014). The middle aged Europe was a traditional example of power. The power originated from a single source and the society developed on the basis of that power. The individual power of an institution or an authority was dismissed by Foucault as the true power. However, he believed that in the modern system the people no longer needed the guidance of an institution or a person but a development of self-choice and freedom which could develop the power of the society. Earlier this was not possible due to the existence of surveillance and rigid laws. Foucault found this type of authoritative power not only in the government but also in public institutions such as schools, health care institutions, prisons and others (Lynch 2014). The development of mechanised individuals due to the authoritative characteristics of these institutions is not beneficial for the society. Rather an individualistic development of the persona makes the society more disciplined as the development of power is an internal development and brings a natural enhancement to the society. The key focus of Foucault’s power theory is that it ascends above the political persona which revolves around the theories of power. In discussing Foucault it is difficult to take a concrete standpoint about power as it takes an elusive form as it moves away from the institutions and seats of power and focuses on the individual development.
Power according to Weber:
Max Weber’s theory of power is more of a general description of the power in the societies and how it is categorised in the society. His theories explain the different sources of power and the differences between them. According to Weber, the power and authority of the society can be divided into three categories. They are namely, Charismatic power, Traditional power and the Legal-rational power. These power divisions is categorised on the different forms of society and the type of leadership that it experiences.
The Charismatic power system is defined on the basis of the personality of the leader. It is the ability of the leader to win the trust of the society with the charismatic ability and rally a massive support from the society which can do anything for the leader (Weber 2015). This type of power is an example of an autocratic power where the decisions of a single individual is the ultimate for the society and eventually leads to an unjust system. However, the contrary can also happen as the charismatic leader emerges to overthrow a corrupt system with the support of the people.
The Traditional power system is the authoritative power which has existed in the society from a long period of time. It has developed on the basis of hierarchy and focuses only on the benefits of the hierarchy rather than the society. The authority is based on the dominant power of the traditional powerhouse (Weber 2015). It hinders growth of a society as the society is bound by the individual law of the traditional institution. The individual wants may exploit the common people and develop a corrupt system.
The legal-rational system is the modern system that exists in the modern societies where the authority is run on the power of an institution which is governed by a fixed set of laws and a working bureaucracy (Weber 2015). There might be rigidity in the laws and might not address the requirements of every individuals of the society, it addresses the overall needs of the society and promotes an overall development.
The Relationship between Garda Siochana and the people:
The Garda Siochana plays a very important role in the lives of the people of Ireland. The responsibility to maintain a peaceful society falls on their shoulders. Their prime duty is to prevent crimes and detecting them, in order to protect the society, lives and properties of the nation as well as of the common people. These varieties of responsibilities and the authority of the government have decorated the Garda with unique powers of authority. These powers can be used for interception of criminal activities, prevention of offences and also arrests of suspected individuals for interrogation and prevention. These powers hence give the Garda the power to deprive the citizens of their personal liberty in case of suspicion and prevention. However, these are the exclusive powers which are given to the Garda on the basis of their discretion and it is assumed that they will exercise it for the right cause only when required. It is the basic nature of human beings to be stressed while exercising power to subdue another individual. The Garda are no exception to these. The Garda Siochana is considered to be one of the most peaceful police forces in the world and maintains the reputation of being an unarmed force (Charman and Corcoran 2015). The use of arms is only applicable in times of emergency. Nonetheless, the Garda holds a position of power as an institution as they are considered to be first individuals with whom the general people come in contact with when interpreting law.
In general, it is seen that the people of Ireland seems to be happy with the role of the Garda. The Garda plays an important role in making the people believe in the system of the land. There seems no power in that responsibility. It is just like another duty that a person holds towards the nation. However, it is the exclusive powers that are in question of the analysis. For example, the members of the Garda can believe that it is only their job and there are no personal emotions attached to the responsibility that they carry out. The power that is in question is only a momentary display of authority to reflect the land’s law in order to arrest someone if a crime has been committed. This is not display of power, but a responsibility carried out for the protection of the other people of the country (Noone 2015). The analysis thus highlights the factor as to for whom the power exists. It is for the people and the government which in a country like Ireland is an elected government. According to Weber, this kind of power display is a kind of authoritative power, which can be regarded a form of rational legal authority. This power discourse can be seen as the type of authoritative power which manifests itself from the social responsibilities and duties (Peters 2017). These powers give them an upper hand over the people whom they can control but only in times of need.
However, the Derridan philosophy, describes power on a more applicative value, which should not exercise only on the basis of the traditional authority but only on the basis of the societal uplift. It does not recognize absolute power without a proper democracy as something commendable. It the necessity of the situation the power to question its existence and its requirement that makes the position of power justified (Derrida 2017). However, on this account the people of Ireland, seems to be on a safer side as power seems to have a different meaning for different people there. The effects of power with reference to the Garda cannot be defined properly if the case is defined by the analysis of the people who doesn’t breach the law. It is impossible for them to understand the effects of power and how it can affect them socially or mentally. For example if a Garda, stops someone from over speeding or breaking a minor law, the effectiveness of the Garda can be put to question as to if they have stopped a similar person for similar crimes earlier. The questioning of power puts the authority of the institution to question and puts the life of the disadvantaged as to questioning the utility of such laws and its affectivity.
Foucault presents a very interesting theory in relation to this power discourse. It is interesting to understand that if power has only a one-sided approach. According to him, power if displayed from an individual structure or institution is not a justified example of power. It is only justified if the power is more of an evolution from the knowledge and scientific analysis of truth (Hardy and Thomas 2014). The theory therefore displays that the position of power can be held by one who is on the safer side of the truth, or on the right side of the scientific understanding of the law of the land. The power of the Garda is hence justified only in the case if they have the proper knowledge of the use of the power and the judgement of the severity of the crime.
This once again puts the Garda’s power in question. The effect on the disadvantaged has to be measured on the application of power. The Garda Siochana as an institution if challenges someone on the basis of mere suspicion, then it rejects Foucault’s theory of power distribution. Suspicion cannot be regarded as the proper evolution of knowledge of the crime. It does not let the Garda understand whether the accused is at fault actually, and the use of the power in that case is a negative move in analysing the position of power and its effect on the disadvantaged. However, this does not apply on the other common population as the Garda is aware of their innocence and does not exercise power on them. The suspicion of the Garda, in the above discussed situation has to go through a battle of truth according to Foucault’s theory. It is not a battle of the good or the bad, but a battle of ideas which can help in the development of the ability to separate the good from the bad (McHoul, McHoul and Grace 2015). It is the ability to develop the rationale that is required for the better understanding of the proper display of power and the utility of its relative capacities. Foucault is not against the use of power, and does not consider it to be a negative idea either. He believed that the proper use of power in the institutions such as the Garda Siochana can actually develop a better relation with the people. It can eliminate the class of people who are considered to be the disadvantaged class and create a hegemony and trust between the institution and the people.
This is the general idea of policing that the institution of Garda Siochana displays. There is basically a general feeling of gratitude and sense of trust from the people of Ireland (Gavin 2015). However, when the discussion focuses on the identification of the disadvantaged, it focuses on the particular individuals who have directly interacted with the Garda. The question interrogates that why only those who interact are considered to be the disadvantaged. It is because they are the ones who have a direct interaction with the power and authority of the institution. It is not about the negative or the positive power, but power as a whole. When an institution holds significant power such as the Garda, it is quite natural for them to subdue the other individuals. The position of power and the Irish background of the institution which has developed since 1923 has developed itself through the ages of time and moulded it accordingly. The different situations and the different types of crimes that it has experienced have made the institution to be use power when required for the prevention.
The working class of Ireland, who are the predominant population of the country, might be considered the disadvantaged because they are the ones over whom the Garda can exercise their power upon. However, the nature of the Garda which has always been appreciated as to being a non-violent force seems to follow the theory of Foucault which believes in the use of power only after the scientific realisation of the truth. The theory of power by Weber seems to be on the contrary side as it speaks of a traditional power. However, Weber’s third theory of power is a similar to Foucault’s which focuses on the rational use of power but the only difference that Foucault demonstrated is the abolition of the authoritative power. He believed that power is the combination of rational belief of every individual. It is considered to be the true power. The other forms which are identified as power are mere displays of authoritative pride.
Hence, analysing with the theories and the present condition of the police system of Ireland, in the form of Garda Sochiana, it can be seen that the Garda plays a very important life in the lives of the people of Ireland. One of the most peaceful police forces of the world, the Garda uses its power on the basis of rationality and not as a mere tool of authoritative force. The Garda uniform is a symbol of hope and trust for the people of Ireland (Gavin 2015). It utilizes the power and authority as a positive symbol for the people. This allows the Garda to access itself and identify the people it should address. This puts the disadvantaged class in a better position where they are less exploited on the basis of power and politics.
The Relationship between the Health Service and the people:
The health service is one of the most important institutions in society. Similarly, in Ireland, the health service plays a very important part in the lives of the common people. It is essential to understand the relationship between the health service institution and the common people to analyse the theories of power that exist in the society. The analysis is important as it helps in the study of the position of the disadvantaged with regards to the utility of the health service. It is essential to see whether the people receive proper health services or the institutions being in the position of power exploits the disadvantaged.
The most important factor of analysis is to evaluate the interaction between the doctors and the patients. It is essential for the doctor to exercise proper communication skills for the better understanding of the requirements of the patients. These puts the doctors or the health service institutions in the position of power as they have to utilize their experiences fort the better understanding of the symptoms of the patients and their complications. The patients remain on the receiving end of the treatment and it gives the health service institution and the doctors the power to decide the needs of the patients according to the judgements of the symptoms of the patients and on the basis of the constantly evolving medical science.
Making decisions thus requires the proper responsibility of utilizing power. It requires the proper understanding of the patient, and taking decisions according to the resources available. The health service as institution must utilize power to develop the infrastructure and the agency to give proper healthcare to the disadvantaged. However, it is arguable whether the health service institutions in Ireland utilize power in the proper sense of terms or exploit the disadvantaged.
According to the World Health Organization, health is defined as the well-being of the physical, mental and social state of mind (World Health Organization, 2014). Hence, while discussing the power situation of the health service institutions it is important to understand whether they address all the aspects of the individual well-being or just make the institution a generalized power source. The Health Service Executive is the executive power that looks after the running of the health care institutions in Ireland. Over the recent years health care in Ireland has improved with reduce in the mortality rates from the past years.
However, it is essential to see how the system works and how it addresses the problems of the people. The health service institution in Ireland can be divided into two tiers (Timmons, Gooberman-Hill and Sharp 2013). The public health care system is the government run system which provides health care to the people in accordance to the government infrastructure and the laws. These health care system aims at providing health services on the personal and social basis to everyone in Ireland. The position of power is displayed as the people have to depend on the system of the law. However, in the last few years the advanced medical facilities and investments in different sectors such as cancers and other critical diseases show that the use of power has been a positive one. The public health care system has studied the factors that are the requirements of the common people and successfully identified them for the better development of infrastructure of the health care service.
According to Foucault’s theory of power which focuses on the evolution of power not as a political development but as a social enhancement can understand the state of the Irish health service system. Foucault believed power developed on an everyday phenomenon, understanding the needs of everyone in the society and the socialised events (Miller and Rose 2017). The power that Foucault discusses about is not just the display of power but an elusive development of a social status which automatically develops the society into a disciplined system and a development of the coercion of power.
A similar idea can be seen in the development of power in the health service sector. Doctors in Ireland are expected to not only have the medical expertise to understand the patient’s needs, but also have the judgemental and management ability to control the amenities that are to be provided to the patients (Murphy 2007). This ability of the Irish health care system puts them in a power position as the patients in Ireland are rarely seen to ask questions about their diagnostics or about the health care that they are about to receive. This type of trust can lead to the development of two types of power theories. The first one can be described with Foucault’s idea of an overall coercive development where the disadvantaged might not be exploited in the long run. However, a the shifting to decision making abilities only to a specific section, in this case the health sector can lead to the development of the legal authoritative power as has been discussed by Weber. Weber’s legal power policy discusses that the power of an institution can lead to the evolution of a set of laws and regulations which can become rigid with time (Bacon and Borthwick 2013). The people or the disadvantaged class who remain on the opposite side of the power position are slowly subdued to the laws which sometimes become too rigid to be of disadvantage to the people. These sets of laws or the institution of power might be guiding the welfare of the people, but the negligence of individual importance might at times lead to the failure of addressing different problems according to the different requirements of the people. The lack of flexibility and the dominance of the power institutions are reflected in the modern government systems of the world.
The argument can be put forward that without the proper set of rules the society might become chaotic and the shifting of power from different people may lead to anarchy. However, it also has the probability of developing a coercive force which leads to the distribution of power and helps in the better understanding of the society. Returning to the Irish healthcare system, a large portion of the government expenditure is focused on the health care system which has a flexible set of laws. The Irish health institutions focus on providing every individual good quality service (Briggs 2013). The expenditures of the services are set according to the capability of the different people. These flexibility is kept keeping in mind the different sets of patients that seek medical services from these institutions. This puts the Irish health care service in a favourable position and addresses the requirements of the disadvantaged section of the society.
The discussion focuses on the different power theories of eminent philosophers like Foucault and Weber and with the understanding of their different theories it can be seen that the two Irish institutions, namely Garda Sochiana and the health care service play a very important role in determining the lifestyle of the common people. The Garda hols a very favourable position among the people of Ireland as it uses the power and authority selectively on the basis of rationality and specific requirements. Similarly, the health care service also focuses on the development of the infrastructure of the health care facilities and aims at providing services to every individual people in Ireland. The analysis of the two institutions when compared to the studies of Foucault and Weber concludes that the power position in the Irish institutions puts them in a favourable position and helps them address the disadvantaged class in a beneficial manner.
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