Dialectic and duality of the organizational power ethos

Changing role of women in education: Dialectic and duality of the organizational power ethos

Ruth McKay


This paper presents an organizational framework of power depicting the relationship between structure and agency within a continuum of the three dimensions of power. The three dimensions of power are integrated into a model through an example of gender and education. The model links power with innovation.


Cet article presente un cadre organisationnel du pouvoir decrivant la relation entre structure et organisme ii l’interieur d’un continuum de trois dimensions de pouvoir. Les trois dimensions de pouvoir sont integrees dans un module par l’intermediaire d’un exemple de relation sexe-education. Le module met en liaison pouvoir et innovation.

Education is likely the single most important factor in improving a woman’s life; the more schooling she has, the brighter her future (Neft & Levine, 1997). Educating women is also advantageous to society. There is a positive correlation between education enrolment rates of girls and GNP per capita (Karl, 1995). Education for women in Europe and North America has never been as accessible as it is today. For almost two centuries American education, following European traditions, barred girls from academic higher learning. In the past, education was the path to professions and careers open only to men. During American colonial times women, viewed as mentally and morally inferior, were relegated to learning only domestic skills (Sadker & Sadker, 1995). The roots of these beliefs can be found in the writings of the educator Jean-Jacques Rousseau who believed that women were created for the purpose of entertaining and caring for men, and that their education should equip them for the task (Spender, 1992). Women were not allowed to learn Latin or Greek, the sign of an educated person, on the scientific grounds that their brains would burst or that they would become unfit for child-bearing (Spender, 1992). While developed countries have seen an increase in the number of women receiving education, some developing countries are still notably biased towards educating males over females. Some countries maintain policies that limit or forbid girls and women from education. The most notable example is Afghanistan where the education of girls and women has been banned (Marsden, 1998). Inherent in women’s struggle for educational opportunities are issues of power and institutionalized perceptions of women’s role in society.

Power at the most basic metaphysical level embraces the well-established debate between determinism (structure) and voluntarism (agency) (Clegg, 1989). Agency refers to actors’ individual power to control and alter their environment, such as a girl’s or woman’s pursuit of education when cultural and social pressures discourage or prevent it. Agency stresses responsibility and the exercising of reason, choice, and will. Since actors express their will through power, the term agency is sometimes used interchangeably with the term power. In an organization, human agency (individual intent) can be limited by structure-the system of relationships built up over time which makes sense of the social structures and interactions of actors. Examples of structure in issues of gender and education include society’s expectations of women in families and careers. Structural constraints limit the agent’s freedom or power to act otherwise by precluding such possibilities. They may take the form either of limits upon ability (internal) or upon opportunity (external), they may be positives or negative and they may preclude the pursuit of ends or means (Lukes, 1977).

The objective of this paper is to address, through a model applied to the example of gender and education, how agency and structure interact and evolve during innovation. It is proposed in this paper that agency and structure do not interact as strictly a dialectic or a duality, but rather can be both, shifting under certain circumstances from one to the other. As well, instead of rejecting the second and third dimensions of power (Bachrach & Baratz, 1962; Lukes, 1974), as Clegg (1989) recommends, this paper incorporates all three dimensions within the evolution of change. In this paper the three dimensions of power will be identified. Secondly, Clegg’s (1989) view of these dimensions will be reviewed. Thirdly, the duality-dialectic debate of agency and structure will be examined presenting a merging of institutional theory and power theory through a model. The model portrays the progression from the third dimension to the first dimension of power, the shift from a duality to a dialectic and the relationship between agency and structure. The model will be applied to examples of gender and education. Finally, areas for future research will be proposed.

Power Theory–The Three Dimensions

Power theorists Dahl (1957), Bachrach and Baratz (1962), and Lukes (1974) have identified three levels of interaction between people or organizations, referred to as dimensions of power. These dimensions range from the observable to the subtle and hidden. In the first dimension of power, the strength of the political players can be determined by who prevails in the organizational negotiation process (Pfeffer, 1981). Dahl (1957) describes power as follows: A has power over B to the extent that A can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do. The emphasis is on conflict between preferences that are assumed to be consciously made, exhibited in actions, and thus to be discovered by observing people’s behaviour (Lukes, 1974).

The second dimension is less obvious than the first, dealing with the exclusion of some participants and their positions on an issue of debate. The second dimension includes the “mobilization of bias” where some issues are organized into politics and others are organized out (Schattschneider, 1960). This dimension results in suppression or thwarting of a challenge to the values of the decision maker (Bachrach & Baratz, 1962). Those in powerful positions maintain the “means by which demands for change in the existing allocation of benefits … can be suffocated before they are even voiced; or kept covert; or killed before they gain access to the relevant decision-making arena” (p. 44). As with the first dimension, this mechanism of power stresses observable conflict, be it overt or covert.

The third dimension of power can occur in the absence of actual, observable conflict. The difference between the second and third dimension of power is that the powerless in the second dimension of power are aware of their circumstance and are seeking mediums in which to press for change while, in the third dimension, the powerless are virtually unaware of their circumstance. Therefore, the conflict is latent. To examine power within the third dimension involves identifying the mechanisms of latent conflict, “contradictions between the interests of those exercising power and the real interests of those they exclude” (Lukes, 1974, p. 23). Lukes claims that the third dimensional view deals with the bias of the system in terms of the “socially structured and culturally patterned behaviour of groups, and practices of institutions, which may indeed be manifested by individuals’ inaction” (p. 23). This view recognizes the “potential issues” that are kept out of politics through the “operation of social forces and institutional practices or through individuals’ decisions.” Those excluded “may not express or even be conscious of their own interests” (p. 24) becoming a silent society. To understand the latent conflict between people or groups, one may need to study social myths, language, and symbols and consider how they are shaped or manipulated in power processes. This may involve the study of communication of information-what is communicated and how it is done (Gaventa, 1980). The culture of silence may preclude the development of consciousness amongst the powerless, thus lending the dominant order an air of legitimacy (Gaventa, 1980). The domination by the powerful can be so strong the powerless act in support of their own domination. Underlying the dynamics of the three dimensions of power are issues of agency versus structure.

Agency and Structure

Central to the debate about the concept of power has been the concern of providing an analytical specification of the relation between agency and structure. Lukes (1977) and Giddens (1984) are united on what would be an appropriate resolution: agency and structure have to be grasped within a coherent framework. Lukes conceptualizes this framework as a dialectic of power (agency) and structure; Giddens, as a duality in which power and structure are interpenetrated (Clegg, 1989). A dialectic is the practice of weighing and reconciling juxtaposed or contradictory arguments for the purpose of arriving at truth through discussion and debate. This systemic reasoning seeks to resolve their conflict. Dualism is a theory that considers reality to consist of two irreducible elements or modes (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1983), in this case, agency and structure. Yet, according to Clegg (1989), neither Lukes nor Giddens satisfactorily resolves the agency/structure nexus in the study of power. For each of them the agency perspective is favoured, remaining predominant over structure.

Clegg (1989) counters this favouritism for agency with a model, called the “circuits of power”, based on the theory of population ecology that strengthens the influence of structure in the agency-structure relationship. The theory of population ecology assumes that change is a process of environmental selection where “[o]rganizations fitting environmental criteria are positively selected and survive, while others either fail or change to match environmental requirements (Aldrich, 1979, p. 29). According to Clegg (1989),

Competitive pressure for resources is hypothesized to be the major mechanism generating change and stability, through practices of innovation and isomorphism … Environments consist of resources for which agencies compete. Selection will occur through relative superiority in controlling and deploying resources, where control will usually be achieved through some extension of inter- and intra-agency power. Retention is favoured by reproduction of the selective variation. (p. 234)

Structure is the environmental requirement that selects some organizations or innovations and rejects others. Agency is the ability to control the resources that drive the environment. Agency-based theories of how people interact, termed the first, second, and third dimensions of power (Bachrach & Baratz, 1962; Dahl, 1957; Lukes, 1974) are rejected by Clegg because of the apparent absences of structure in these theories. Clegg (1989) criticizes these theories for being impractical in addressing important modern political phenomena as they reduce the organization to the status of an instrument manipulated by other interests. Instead, Clegg argues for a framework that fits together competitive ecology and institutionally isomorphic sources of change such as is found in Ingram and Inman’s (1996) study of hotels in the Niagara Falls area. In this study organizational competition operates in conjunction with institutional evolution for survival of the organization, the hotel, and population of organizations, hotels in the Niagara Falls area on both the American and Canadian side. The drawback to Clegg’s power model, the circuits of power, is that it is built on the episodic agency or the first dimension of power and excludes the second and third dimension of power. Clegg (1989) opposes the idea of covert or latent power struggles. “[T]he rise and fall and management of states in the past appears to have been contingent on more or less blind organization ecology and adaptation. In the past, the state may have developed less as conscious design and more as expedient, adaptive organization” (p. 272).

Despite these differing perspectives on power held by Lukes, Giddens, and Clegg, power theorists accept that power is a struggle between agency and structure. The question is what is the relationship between the agency and structure. Is it a dialect, a duality or something entirely different as Clegg proposes?

Power: A Dialectic or a Duality

Lukes (1977) observed that the “problem of where structural determinism ends and power began is a real and important problem, about which disputes are endemic” (p. 18). Lukes concluded: “social life can only properly be understood as a dialectic of power and structure” (p. 18). A dialectic is a Hegelian process of change in which a concept or its realization passes over, into, and is preserved and fulfilled by its opposite (Webster’s Third New International Dictionary, 1983). Consequently, one set of arrangements gives way to another. Dialectical analysis is composed of four principles: social construction, totality, contradiction, and praxis (Benson, 1977).

Social construction is the process by which people make sense of the patterns and interactions of the world about them and relationships we form with those around us. These relationships create the foundation of institutionalized structures. As long as the interactions between people and groups of people continue, there are gradual modifications made to the agreed upon arrangements. Each social construction is then part of a larger whole– a totality. This totality “includes newly emerging social arrangements as well as those already in place” (Benson, 1977, p. 4). “The social order produced in the process of social construction contains contradictions, ruptures, inconsistencies, and incompatibilities” which make a radical break from the totality possible. “The final principle is praxis or the free and creative reconstruction of social arrangements on the basis of a reasoned analysis of both the limits and potentials of present social forms” (p. 5). Praxis assumes that people are “active agents reconstructing their own social relations and ultimately themselves on the basis of rational analysis” (p. 5). At the praxis stage the conflict between opposite perspectives gives way to greater understanding through negotiated compromise.

In contrast to Lukes’ view of life as a dialectic, Giddens (1976) assesses Lukes’ third dimension of power as depicting a dualism of structure and agency. Clegg’s criticism of Lukes’ work goes even further, accusing Lukes of not providing a coherent structure-agency framework. It is proposed here by way of a model that Lukes provided both a coherent framework and a dialectic relationship when Lukes’ third dimension of power is viewed in connection with the first two dimensions of power. A duality as Giddens suggested between structure and agency is part of this framework, but only represents a preliminary stage to the more representative dialectic evolution.

In criticizing Lukes for presenting a duality not a dialectic, Giddens argues that “the conception of power qua structure and power qua agency remain analytically separate, such that structure is inadequately ‘implicated’ in power relations while power relations are equally inadequately ‘implicated’ in structure” (Clegg, 1989, p. 38). By this Giddens means that structure and agency remain separate in Lukes’ third dimension of power such that a thesis-antithesis of the two, essential in a dialectic, cannot transpire. According to Giddens (1984), “all social interaction involves the use of power, as a necessary implication of the logical connection between human action and transformative capacity” (p. 28). Giddens has argued that Lukes describes a duality not a dialectic since Lukes suggests that people are powerless in the third dimension of power and that both powerful and powerless actors are dominated by the existing structure, therefore separate from the ability to alter structure. Unable to partake in the thesis and antithesis of debate, Giddens then argues for a “duality in which power and structure are interpenetrated” (Clegg, 1989, p. 147). Giddens (1984) draws on an assumption that to be an agent means to have the power to change one’s situation: “An agent ceases to be such if he or she loses the capability to `make a difference’, that is to exercise some sort of power” (p. 14).

Giddens’ point is well founded because it is difficult to initiate a dialectic if the agents do not have the awareness or power to initiate a transformation of the dominating structure. Giddens’ argument falls short by suggesting that the powerless are not agents, because as Lukes (1977) would argue, structure can become so dominant that even the powerful are controlled by the structure they created. The dominant are agents that are often blind to their own domination. As well, challenge or rebellion may develop if there is a shift in power relationships owing either to the loss of power in the powerful or gain of power in the powerless. The two shifts in power (the loss by the powerful and the gain by the powerless) need not be the same owing to the possibility of intervention by other actors, technological changes, or external structural factors (Gaventa, 1980).

These two opposing views of the relationship between agency and structure merge with time. Over time, the powerful may realize the dominance of the structure by seeing how it constrains them as well as the powerless, and take steps to overcome the dominance of the structure they created. The powerless may begin to see the dominance and initiate a process of change due to their enhanced awareness. The unaware agents may thereby set out to recapture their lost power and/or external pressures (technological or structural) or actors may precipitate change. This dormant stage, where agency and structure remain separate, is a duality. When the dominance of the structure on both the powerful and powerless begins to be challenged, by way of acknowledgement of the harmful constraints of the structure, the dialectic begins.

Shifting From a Dualism to a Dialectic

Both the duality and the dialectic exist within the third dimension of power. Lukes (1977) identifies the different realities of the powerful and the powerless. The state of power is attainable for the powerless in two ways, through changes in the external environment or through resistance. However, for the powerful it is more easily attainable since for them it is mainly a question of awareness. The dominance of structure begins as a relationship of the powerful over the powerless. The possession and exercise of power by some can be a structural factor of the situation of others-so that “what is structural with respect to the recipients) may not be so with respect to the exerciser(s)” (Lukes, p. 9). For the powerful, agency is strong and structure weak, while for the powerless the opposite is true. However, the relationship of domination by the powerful of the powerless through structuralism can, over time, shift to both the powerful and the powerless being controlled by structure.

An example from outside the power theory literature of this structural authority of first the powerless and then the powerful is found in Naomi Wolf’s (1991) book The Beauty Myth. In this book the author deals with the focus of society and women concerning beauty.

If the Beauty Myth is not based on evolution, sex, gender, aesthetics, or God, on what is it based? It claims to be about intimacy and sex and life, a celebration of women. It is actually composed of emotional distance, politics, finance, and sexual repression. The Beauty Myth is not about women at all. It is about men’s institutions and institutional power. (p. 13)

Wolf claims that the institutions that bind women to beauty imagery are “men’s institutions,” suggesting that men are agents working through institutions that serve their needs. “Institutional power” inhibits women by reinforcing the values that define men’s institutions and limiting women’s opportunity to challenge the values that underlie the institutions. Wolf claims that men, not women, have the control to change this power imbalance since men originally founded these institutional beliefs. However, the longer the institutional values prevail unchallenged, the more deeply they become entrenched in societal values, shifting the control away from men as agents towards structuralism-the power of the institutional beliefs. Therefore, men, on an individual basis, become powerless in relation to the institutional force. This is the extreme of structuralism-domination. As long as men remain unaware of how the institutional power of the beauty myth harms them, they remain passive within the dominating structure and a duality exists.

The negative impact on men of a patriarchal power structure is well explained in Sumiko Iwao’s (1993) book The Japanese Woman: Traditional Images and Changing Reality:

Today it is, in a sense, the husbands who are being controlled and the ones to be pitied. The typical Japanese man depends heavily on his wife to look after his daily needs and nurture his psychological well-being. The Confucian ethics of the three obediences formally binding women could be rewritten today as the three obediences for men: obedience to mothers when young, companies when adults, and wives when retired… The vast majority of men, however, remain largely unaware of their own vulnerability as they cling to the illusion that they are the respected superiors of society. (p. 7)

As Lukes (1977) explains, men become exploited by the very structure they created.

[B]oth (men and women) will tend to be seen as victims of the system, rather than one being held to exercise power over the other; it will not, for instance, be so much a question of, say, men choosing to exercise power over women, through voluntary actions on the basis of modifiable attitudes, as of a system of domination in which both men and women are caught up, albeit one serving the interests of the former at the expense of the latter. (p. 10)

Without a totality of awareness of both men and women, the contradiction of the system will not be recognized. The social construction inhibits awareness through a lack of totality-men remain unaware of the issue such that contradictions of the structure remain illusive. It is not until the powerful actors become aware of the limitations of the social construction that change through a dialectic can begin. This awareness may be encouraged or enforced by the powerless if they are conscious of the advantages of change. This is when the use of resistance or minor actions can prove advantageous to the powerless.

Resistance by the powerless is well documented in Gaventa’s (1980) research into the Appalachian farmers when the Anglo-American Mining Corporation took over their valley, turning them into cheap mining labour. The study follows the road from powerlessness to power as the miners gradually become conscious of their position and respond by developing trade unions. The position of dependency within the union relative to the powerlessness outside the union allowed and encouraged the response of loyalty to the regime. The challenge to this authority began by the community taking actions to deal with local poverty. This action, not seen as threatening to the powerful, instilled confidence in the powerless that they were capable of bringing about change. From this step the Appalachian valley people took on the mining company. Research into the powerlessness of women from Northern Ireland, Iran, and Cyprus identified the same phenomenon. According to Callaway (1987), women who are observed as powerless and think of themselves in this way enter into the “negotiations of power” as soon as they take part in the most minor action to aid their group. Minor actions may include home educating daughters banned from going to school or remaining silent about the activities of other women that challenge societal expectations or boundaries.

How subordinate groups evolve to the point of challenging their subordinators is termed “conscientization” by Freire (1973). It begins with acts of self determination by the oppressed which Freire calls “limit acts”, such as the powerless dealing with extensive local poverty in the Appalachian valley community. The limited act may not confront the major issue of oppression but they present examples to the powerless of their ability for self-determination. Once the limit act is complete, having seen their ability for success, the powerless then turn their attention to other limiting situations. This is the point when the potential issue (the need to challenge their oppression) becomes the acknowledged issue. Once the powerless start to drive change in their environment, the powerful realize that an exclusionary duality is no longer feasible. At this point the dialectic can begin.

The dialectic revolves around the then evident contradictions in the structure. Praxis is reached when almost all hidden power dynamics have surfaced, and when changes to the prior harmful structure are implemented, institutionalized, and legitimated.

It is possible that the powerful, while aware of the limits of the structural environment, may discover the disadvantage of change. For example, men were initially attracted to feminist thought by concerns that patriarchy harmed them as well. However, building masculinity into feminist thought was found to disagree with feminist aims and create conflict. Such conflict resulted in a backlash by men to feminism (Messner, 1998) and a slowing down of the change efforts initiated by feminism. The reluctance by the powerful to support change does not necessarily result in a total halt to the process of change. Change, as mentioned above, can also be driven by the powerless or by external structural forces, other actors, or technological changes (Gaventa, 1980).

Both the duality and the dialectic exist within the third dimension of power. The duality exists when an innovation is a “potential issue” prior to it becoming an “acknowledged issue.” Once an issue, such as patriarchal structure, is acknowledged, the dialectic begins. Acknowledgement may not begin as a broad awareness of the contradictions but as some doubt within the system. Eventually that doubt builds to more widespread acknowledgement and pressure for change.

Four concepts related to power have now been introduced: the three dimensions of power; agency and structure; duality and dialectic; and innovation. To enhance the reader’s understanding of how these four concepts operate together, a model is proposed. The model shows how an innovation, beginning as doubt by the powerless in the status quo within the pre-initiation stage, can progress through the three dimensions of power to reach open conflict between the powerless and the powerful in the initiation and implementation stages, and result in change. Critical concepts of the power dialogue, internal and external influences, agency and structure, and a dialectic or a duality, will also be related to the model. How these four concepts are linked in the model will be explained with examples from gender and education.

The Model

The progress of an innovation along the path of awareness from the pre-initiation stage through initiation and implementation spans the three dimensions of power. At the low end of awareness, within the third dimension of power, the potential issues are either so submerged within the structural construction of reality as to be unacknowledged (the duality), or are just acknowledged within the totality-the beginning of the dialectic (i.e. doubt). The transition between the duality and the dialectic is influenced by external environmental factors, internal organizational factors, and the pressures of institutionalized social factors working through the potential issue and the acknowledged issue within the three dimensions of power.

Third Dimensions of Power

The evolution of a potential issue into institutionalized change passes through the three dimensions of power. The model originates change in the third dimension of power. Potential issues exist within the third dimension of power where bias in the system is found in the socially-structured and culturally-patterned behaviour of groups and practices of institutions, for example, the subtle social exclusion of women at work that keeps women from learning the informal norms of the organization and profession that are necessary to move up (Konrad & Pfeffer, 1991). Women are often unaware of these missed opportunities. Another example of the bias in the system can be found in the lack of acceptance and audience for the action and writings of women. Women have played an equal part in history, but men have written the history books and have focused on the problems of men. It is not that women have not generated religious thoughts, formulated political philosophies, explained society, written poetry, or been artists, but that men have controlled the records for religion, philosophy, politics, poetry, and art and they have concentrated on the contributions of men (Spender, 1992). In a 1970s analysis of best-selling history books the U.S. was depicted as having only founding fathers. The typical history text gave few sentences to the women’s suffrage movement and to the contributions of half the population to history (Sadker & Sadker, 1995).

In order to raise to consciousness the needs, possibilities, and strategies of innovation, the powerless must go through a process of issue and action formulation. That is, the powerless must counter both the direct and indirect effects of power’s third dimension (Gaventa, 1980).

Clegg (1989) rejects the second and third dimension of power, arguing that circuits of power are built on episodic agency such as is found in the first dimension of power. The problem with looking at power as simply episodic (divided into separate or loosely connected parts) is that the impact of time and experience is ignored. In the example of women and education, it is the process of breaking out of established perspectives that is so critical to move a prospective issue into an acknowledged issue. Women who were trying to raise to consciousness the biases in the education system benefited from the insights of those who had gone before, instead of a small episode which materializes and then disappears (Spender, 1992). Population ecology, the basis of Clegg’s perspective of power, is based on evolution and natural selection. It explains why certain forms or types of organizations survive, while others fail. Through the process of variation, selection, and retention, some organizational forms are selected for, and some against (Elangovan & Mighty, 1993). This ignores the ongoing dialogue between the conflicting positions that drives organizational selection. The building of women’s colleges in the U.S. was an example of selection (Vassar College, 1865, and Smith College, 1875) which, from Clegg’s perspective, would be signs of enhanced power for women of the first dimension. However, despite these statements of increased commitment to women’s education, the limitations were apparent. Some feared the dangerous ideas that might result from so many women confined in a large building. The concern was that the isolated structures would encourage rejection of social norms and roles for women (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). The colleges might awaken thoughts not even conscious in women about the distribution of power in society. As a result, the building of a women’s college did not dramatically open the doors to education for most women. It is this subtle discrimination that constitutes the third dimension of power. This is beyond the first dimension of power which asks, can the organization be built or can women obtain an education? Women may be allowed into schools but are they provided with equal recognition and opportunity? Women writers, such as Shelley, who wrote Frankenstein, and Bronte, who wrote Wuthering Heights, were so constrained by the patriarchal system that they wrote under male names believing that, if they did not, their books would not be accepted for publication or read.

A third example of power dynamics in the third dimension of power has to do with scholarships. During the 1960s women were passed over for scholarships in favour of men, despite higher grades, and women accepted this as “making perfectly good sense” (Sadker & Sadker, 1994, p. 35). Women were blind to the bias within the system. However, over time, with internal and external pressures for change raising consciousness, the potential issue becomes an acknowledged issue at which point the third dimension of power gives way to the second dimension.

The acknowledgment of the issue raised through resistance, external structural forces, external actors, or technology loosens the hold of structuralism, thus moving towards greater agency power on the part of the powerless. At this point, the issue can be seen as an organizational innovation as it is introducing to the organization an alternative to the status quo. An innovation is an introduction into an applied situation of means or ends that are new to that situation, for example, challenging of institutional beliefs by alternative beliefs (DiMaggio, 1988).

Second Dimension of Power

In the second dimension of power, the powerless have raised consciousness; however, there is still the mobilization of bias to confront. This second dimension assumes that those who are discriminated against are aware of the imbalances but have difficulty finding the avenues to mobilize change. For example, there is awareness of how women are disadvantaged in pay and facilities in academia but the situation has not changed from the 1800s to the year 2000. Women academics in British and American universities have been rewarded for academic achievement but to a lesser degree than men of comparable education and work experience (Barbezat, 1990; Bernard, 1974; Blackstone & Fulton, 1975; Ferber & Kordick, 1978; Langton & Konrad, 1998; Toutkoushian, 1998). An average female academic in a United Kingdom university will earn between four and five years’ less salary between starting and retiring than a man working the same number of years (Whaley, 2000). As well, female academics in American universities are likely to receive smaller merit increases than men as a result of limited work opportunities such as fewer summer research grants or more unattractive teaching assignments. These findings suggest that women have less power in universities then men (Gomez-Mejia & Balkin, 1992). Women have also been held back in terms of rank and tenure (Austin & Snyder, 1982). Women in both British and American universities are also more likely to be employed on fixed term, part time, or casual contracts (Whaley, 2000; Fox & Faver, 1985). A study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the United States compared the resources provided to male and female scientists, including salaries, research funds, and laboratory space, and found that the women were discriminated against. It revealed that senior female scientists felt marginalized and out of the loop of academic decision-making (Wilson, 1999). To show how long this mobilization of bias can last, one can find similar examples of discrimination in the 19`h century at women’s colleges, as described by Sadkar and Sadkar (1994):

Female faculty at women’s colleges were systematically paid less than males, were housed in more modest living quarters, and sometimes were even barred from participating in faculty meetings. At Smith [College] women faculty members of all ranks were called teachers; men were called professors. (p. 28)

It is evident that the second dimension of power is also not episodic (limited to an appearance and then gone). The second dimension involves the powerless working to change biases in the system by building on the efforts of those who have gone before. The difficulty for the powerless is maintaining momentum when the powerful resist a redefinition of who should hold power and how. The powerful will act to thwart challenges by the powerless. Once the patterns are broken, however, the likelihood of further action by the powerless increases and the options for control wielding by the powerful decreases (Gaventa, 1980). In the event that acknowledgement is blocked and change is not initiated, the innovation reverts back to a potential issue, reinforcing institutionalized social factors along the way, or is postponed or modified. Otherwise, the power dynamic moves on to the first dimension of power.

First Dimension of Power

In the MIT example, awareness of discrimination increased and raised consciousness. There was a critical mass of women who objected to the work environment. In this example, the objection was not only voiced, but heard. Gender discrimination was documented and then acted upon (implementing change). This conflict was overt, indicative of the first dimension of power, rather than covert, such as is found in the second and third dimension of power. The party that prevailed was evident. Salaries have been adjusted upward for women, additional lab space has been granted to women, six women have been granted tenure, and women are being asked to lead search committees and important academic panels at MIT (Wilson, 1999).

In the first dimension of power the emphasis is on conflict between preferences that are assumed to be consciously made and exhibited in actions. Once the bias of the second dimension of power is raised to consciousness through the mobilization of action, the conflict moves into the first dimension of power. These actions clearly state the players and the positions of the players (for or against change). The conflict between the players is overt. For example, in the MIT gender issue, there were members on the gender committee at MIT who did not agree that there was evidence of discrimination. The conflict was stated and the positions were clear. Despite the objection of some members on the gender committee, changes were made (Whaley, 2000).

Internal and External Issues

Driving change throughout the three dimensions of power are the external and internal issues. Internal attributes are organization-specific characteristics which facilitate or hinder the introduction of an innovation such as resources, capital, or level of job satisfaction (Zaltman, Duncan, & Holbek, 1973). External attributes are environmental influences by government (Rowan, 1982), technology, global forces, competition, suppliers, or non-governmental organizations. If an external pressure is legislated into place and closely monitored (i.e. affirmative action), the diffusion of the innovation is typically rapid and inclusive (Rowan, 1982). Alternatively, if external forces are not at the government level, the diffusion is often slower and more impacted by internal attributes, industry structure, and past experiences (Pennings & Harianto, 1992). If internal or external attributes are pressing enough, they can override institutional social forces. For example, during World War II many women left the home (and lower paying jobs) to work in critical industries, driven to change their role and educational level by both internal and external forces.

The strongest internal force was a need for income for the family. For most families, with the men gone to war, the major income producer was gone. Women had to support themselves and their family through work outside the home or in higher paying jobs. Externally, women were encouraged to take jobs in industry to help support the war effort. American and German governments even considered conscripting women to work for the war economies but found such action unnecessary (Rupp, 1978). By 1943, women formed significant proportions of the workforce in industries where relatively few women had been employed before the war (e.g. 52% of the workers in chemicals, 46% in metals, and 34% in engineering, compared to 27%, 32%, and 10% respectively in 1939; Summerfield, 1984). Another external influence was the establishment of child-care facilities. Federally funded child-care centres were opened near defence-related factories to facilitate women working outside the home (Glass & Estes, 1997). A further example of external force was the education women were given to undertake a change in vocation for the war effort. Companies and schools provided education programs and onthe-job training that previously had been closed to women (Wise, 1994).

The external force of the war on women’s employment opportunities outside the home was dramatic. It was almost as dramatic after the war when women were encouraged to return to the home to make way for the men returning from war (Frank, Ziebarth, & Field, 1982). Another external force that halted the progression of women in the work force was the economy. Reconstructing the family structure in which women were responsible for producing working class families ruled out the permanent employment of women in the wellpaid manufacturing jobs they had during the war (Milkman, 1987). Despite the apparent temporary nature of the introduction of women into higher paying jobs, industry, unions, and society became aware of the underutilized workforce women represented. Women also changed the view they held of themselves and their capabilities, having gained in new experiences and education from which they were formerly excluded (Frank, Ziebarth, & Field, 1982).

Another internal issue related to educational organizations is segregation. Early education involved segregation of female and male students. Sometimes they went to different floors, or boys went to one side of the building and girls to the other. Frequently, the girls were taught by women and the boys by men (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). This required the education of women to be able to teach the girls. Some universities strongly objected to the entry of women arguing that the qualifications of women were less than men. For example, at Cambridge University a great battle was waged over women’s entry to university. The battle continued until 1948 when women were permitted to become full members of the university (Spender, 1992).

Other external issues related to education and gender include socialization and investment in women. Historically, women were socialized to place emphasis on parenting over careers (Hamovitch & Morgenstern, 1977). Women have also been held back in their careers by work overload and time problems; by guilt and by the demands of a husband’s career. Some women in academia overcome these challenges by not marrying and not having children (Acker, 1993). A second external limitation has been the failure of society to invest sufficiently in women. In the 1950s and 1960s a frequently encountered argument against the education of women was based on the wasting of an education. It was believed that individuals benefit from investment in education and so does the country. With women there was too much wastage in education, especially higher education, as women moved out of the labour force while having children. The time and money of education was believed by some to be lost on women (Acker, 1993).

Initiation and Implementation

The third dimension of power constitutes the preinitiation stage while the second dimension of power, with some overlap by the first dimension of power, the initiation stage. Based on the information established in the initiation stages and the influence of the institutionalized decision-making of previous efforts at change, implementation either occurs or does not occur. If implementation does not occur, three possibilities arise: the innovation is discontinued, postponed, or modified. With the postponement route, it is still possible for the implementation to occur. It is just that the conditions in the initial situation are not right. However, even when the innovation is turned down, the challenge to the status quo may prepare the way for future challenges by creating doubt in the minds of some who have become informed through the process. In the case of modification, the innovation is changed to address concerns raised by stakeholders. If discontinued, the ideas and source of ideas are stopped.

The decision to implement change, if not postponed or submerged by non-decision making or mobilization of bias, is a decision played out in open conflict-first dimensional power. At this point there is a high level of awareness of the issue. If the implementation goes through, it will alter the pattern of organizational activities, establishing new routines that over time are institutionalized and legitimated and become knowledge that stays within the organization. The innovation is fully diffused when the institutionalized innovation starts to gain legitimacy. Once an innovation is legitimated it impacts the potential for diffusion of future innovations by influencing the institutionalized decision-making process. Agents feel empowered to consider further changes. If the innovation is possible and feeds further positive innovations and learning for the organization, the organization could develop into what Senge (1990) calls a learning organization. Learning organizations are “organizations where people continually expand their capacity to create the results they desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free and where people are continually learning how to learn together” (Senge, 1990, p. 3). Legitimation in the MIT example can be seen in the extensive interest in the MIT study that other academics have expressed. Over two dozen women have called MIT about doing a similar study on their campus. In addition, the woman who completed the research identifying favouritism to male academics within MIT has given lectures about the study on 18 campuses with more scheduled (Wilson, 1999). These additional studies are likely to moderate other gender-related changes outside the field of science or academia or both.

Agency and Stucture and the Path of Awareness

At the point of the potential issue there is a low level of awareness of the conflict. This is when structure tends to drive the process. For example, in the 19h century women were not permitted entry to certain university buildings, access to certain teachers or the opportunity to use certain resources such as the library (Spender, 1992; Sadker & Sadker, 1994). Structure also impacts the nature of the material provided. When girls do not see themselves in the pages of textbooks, when teachers do not point out or confront the omissions, our daughters learn that to be female is to be an absent partner in the development of the country (Sadker & Sadker, 1994). These are examples of structural limitations where institutionalized beliefs structure communication. Agency is also present at this point when players act to maintain or change the system existing in duality with structure. Agency becomes more pronounced as awareness of the issue grows. The more people and organizations become involved in initiating change to modify structure, the more agency plays a role in the change process. At the stage of high awareness, agency becomes more pronounced than structure because those influenced by structuralism understand they have the power to change the structure.

The process of change is slow and built on events and dialogue. Change is a product of many external environmental and internal organizational factors that evolve over time to facilitate change. The evolution of power is played out in the interplay between structure and agency through the three dimensions of power.

In the proposed model the three dimensions of power sit along a continuum of structure and agency with the third dimension being highly structural-where institutionalized beliefs prevail-and the first dimension being focused predominately on human agency-where human action can produce change. Those who conceptualize power from the first dimension are “opposed to any suggestion that interests might be unarticulated or unobservable” (Lukes, 1974, p. 14). A may have power over B but neither A nor B is immobilized by organizational structure in this first dimension. The second dimension of power exhibits some structuralism with the influence of structure used at times by the powerful to control the powerless. Issues being organized out of politics by the mobilization of bias represent the influence of institutionalized views, or structure. For example, female students are in general likely to be less verbally assertive, they are likely to be called on less often than male students, and those who do participate may find that their comments are disproportionately interrupted by teachers and male classmates. As well, teachers are less likely to develop their points than those made by male students (Houston, 1996, p. 52). In the third dimension of power, structure becomes more dominant than agency. Social forces and, to a lesser extent, institutional decision-making processes constrain both powerful and powerless organizational actors.

Duality and Dialectic

A further aspect of the model is the move from a duality of agency and structure, where reality consists of two irreducible elements, to a dialectic where systemic reasoning seeks to resolve the conflict between these two influences. The dialectic is initiated when a potential issue becomes an acknowledged issue-the social construction advances to a totality. Within this totality, newly emerging social arrangements mix with those already in place. The totality confronts contradictions from the third dimension through the second dimension. Praxis emerges at the first dimension of power when “active agents reconstruct their social relations” (Benson, 1977, p. 5) by altering the previously established institutional arrangement.

Women did not challenge agency or structure in their desire to obtain an education because they accepted the limited world they live in. They did not know that a different world could exist. At the point when the potential issue of education becomes an acknowledged issue the dialectic begins. Women start to question the limits and discrimination they are bound by. This dialectic continues until the conflict between the two perspectives, women being educated versus women not being educated, is reconciled. Discrimination is identified and challenged.

Summary and Further Research

Lukes’ third dimension of power, when placed in succession from the third to the first dimension of power, presents a conceptual framework of power and structure which is predominately a dialectic. It also presents a duality, as Giddens points out. The duality between agency and structure persists as long as a potential issue remains submerged in the structural constraints of institutional social forces. Once a potential issue is acknowledged, triggered by doubt, the dialectic begins advancing along a path of awareness. The more the acknowledged issue diffuses within the organization, the more awareness there is of the issue. An acknowledged issue is moderated by institutionalized decision-making processes both before initiation and implementation. It is within these two steps that the second dimension of power operates. Nondecision-making happens when an organization’s decision process halts the progression of the innovation temporarily or permanently. Beyond the nondecision of implementation is open conflict-the first dimension of power. If the implementation goes ahead, then the new routine it brings about in the organization will eventually be institutionalized, enhancing its legitimacy and altering the actions of the institutionalized decision-making process.

The proposed model, in terms of change management, identifies the need for management to focus on the third dimension of power in bringing about organizational evolution and challenging institutional beliefs. Raising to awareness the limitations for the powerful and powerless of an institutional approach precedes efforts to deal with change within the second and first dimension of power. The awareness begins as doubt initiated in the minds of agents towards the structure they have created and evolves into recognition and possibly open discussion between affected parties.

This model needs to be applied to a change effort that has been fully implemented as an innovation. Through this application, further research is needed in understanding how the duality of power and structure is transformed into a dialectic and how the powerful come to realize they are subsumed by their own structural design and share their awareness. Another area for further research could be the difference in the decisionmaking process between the organizations that are early adopters and those that are late adopters of an innovation. The reason for the differing environments and influence of external and internal factors upon the agents needs to be explored. It would also be relevant to consider what causes an innovation to be promoted, postponed, or turned down.


1 For example, in a utilitarian society, constraining citizens from killing one another, while limiting to the individual’s or agent’s power, is beneficial or positive to the society as a whole.


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Ruth McKay*

Niagara University

*College of Business, Perboyre Hall, Niagara University, NY 14109, U.S.A. E-mail: rbm@niagara.edu

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