Date of Award

8-1995

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Sociology

Major Professor

Sherry Cable, Donald Clelland

Committee Members

John Gaventa, Robert Gorman, John Nolt

Abstract

This research is a study of power in contemporary American society which calls into question the assumptions of openness and permeability so cherished by the pluralists. Within a power framework, we explore the functional realities of government that illuminate why some powerful interests manage to prevail with some consistency, while the broad public is assigned to a lesser task. The context for the study is the U.S. Army's $ 11 billion dollar Chemical Stockpile Disposal Program (CSDP). The Army's decision to use on-site incineration for the destruction of the stockpile ignited a social movement in opposition. Employing participant observation and in-depth interviews, we analyze the citizen-led opposition movement that began at the Lexingtron-Bluegrass Army Depot (LBAD) in Kentucky, and the ambiguous role of the NEPA (National Environmental Policy Act) regulatory process. Using the 'three dimensions of power' framework formulated by Steven Lukes (1974) and extended by Gaventa (1980), and Bachrach and Baratz (1974), we uncovered patterns of power (i.e., "hidden faces of power") that allowed the Army to exploit some issues and suppress others while all the time urging that citizens abide by "the process." This was accomplished chiefly through the 'mobilization of bias', and propped up by a heavily-financed public relations campaign which emanates from the Pentagon. We conclude with some recommendations for what can be done to revitalize our moribund democracy.

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