Community Power and Participatory Decision-Making

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Critical theory appears unpopular probably because of its ideological bias as claimed by Pease, Form and Rytina (1970). Liebert and Imershein (1977) similarly assert that a common theoretical tendency in community research is a distinctly “political theme that tends to find the greatest efficacy and power, and indeed the most universal structure of power, to lie in a certain organized diversity, a pluralist state of subsystems within an integrated system of elites” (pp. 191-192).

The primary aim of critical theory, as James Bohman (2005) notes, is to thwart oppression. This theory was not only used by incorporating the best tools but more importantly, to critique what is happening within the research context. Since the community studied is Bautista, a resettlement area and which has an existing power structure, a critical analysis and decisional approach were adapted using the case study design to examine the locale.

Critical theory questions the structures and it assumes that science is objective and “value-free”. Its goal is the emancipation of people from domination (Quebral, 1992 as cited in Drilon, 1998).

Critical theorists such as Karl Marx and Jürgen Habermas are critics of unequal social conditions specifically groups that are excluded from power or from free access to information. Thus, critical theorists do more than observe, interpret or describe; they criticize. Looking through the power structure research lens, this theory helped the researcher by asking who benefits from the unequal distribution of power and who are they taking advantage of by focusing on the community issue.

In communication, critical scholars have focused on the role of communication in society and on the control of communication...

... middle of paper ... dimension” of his work (Dreyfus & Rabinow, 1982, p. 114). He claims that power and knowledge are not external to each other, but that they operate in a mutually generative fashion, as “nothing can exist as an element of knowledge if [...] it does not possess the effects of coercion” and as “nothing can function as a mechanism of power if it is not deployed according to procedures, instruments, means, and objectives which can be validated in more or less coherent systems of knowledge” (Foucault, 1997, p. 52). Thus, rather than to study knowledge and power separately, is “the nexus of knowledge power” that needs to be described in order to grasp the acceptability of the knowledge power system (p. 53). One needs to analyze the connections between power and knowledge to find out why a certain “regime of truth” has become acceptable at a given historical moment.
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