This section provides detailed commentaries and references that relate to the main theories of power that are debated in the social sciences. Although the commentaries on each of the theories were written several years ago, they are as relevant to debates in the 2020s. That is, social scientists are still working within the same theoretical frameworks as they did in the past. Put another way, social scientists may have developed new methods and new findings, and often work on new topics, but they still interpret their findings through traditional lenses. In particular, Marxism remains frozen in time.
(You may also be interested in the Studying Power section of this site, which covers methodological issues.)
The Four Networks Theory of Power
Power is based in ideological, economic, military and political networks -- Michael Mann's "IEMP model." It's my preferred approach, leading to a class-domination theory when applied to the United States.
The main rivals to the Four Network theory: pluralism, state autonomy theory, elite theory, and Marxism.
I contrast the untenable psychological assumptions of conspiracy theories, which lead them to be wrong on the key issues, with the more solidly grounded sociological assumptions that are used by social scientists who study power.
C. Wright Mills, Floyd Hunter, and a Half-Century of Power Structure Research
Some historical background on power structure research; a detailed critique of pluralism; and a critique of structural Marxists.
Mills's The Power Elite, 50 Years Later
This is my take on how Mills's classic book, The Power Elite, looked 50 years after its publication in 2006. It reads better than ever with respect to the higher levels of the social ladder, but not very well concerning the rest of the society and how events would unfold. Mills' theory was too narrow to allow for the possibility of the Civil Rights Movement and the other social movements of the 1960s.
C. Wright Mills, Power Structure Research, and the Failures of Mainstream