In conclusion, I will summarise the ways in which conventional understandings and inter-related material realities of power and risk are often hierarchical, uni-directional and oppressive; and on this basis, how they can be laid open to challenge. The reconceptualisation and remaking of power relations will be shown to have direct consequences for the ways in which risk is defined and addressed as a social work 'problem'.
Steven Lukes and Clarissa Hayward have been at the forefront of the debate surrounding the relationship between power, structure, and agency. Yet certain weaknesses beset their conceptualization of power and its relationship to structure and agency. Both Lukes’s and Hayward's conceptualization of structure is problematic, and neither theorist shows fully how power is instantiated in both structure and agency. Consequently, there are empirical instances that cannot be explained satisfactorily within one or the other framework. This article offers an in-depth critique of Lukes’s and Hayward's conceptualizations of power, especially their understandings of its relationship with structure and agency, and sets out an alternative realist conceptualization of power that offers a way to avoid or minimize the weaknesses and tensions identified in their work. This approach, I argue, can help inform radical strategies that aim at freedom by transforming and transcending, rather than merely ameliorating, existing power relations and states of affairs.
Trippers and askers surround me,
People I meet, the effect upon me of my early life or the ward and
city I live in, or the nation,
The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks or of myself, or ill-doing or loss
or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations,
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news,
the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself.