Influence, Disinformation, and Power in Europe and the Americas
International conference organized by the University of Caen, the University of Poitiers, the University of Le Mans, the University of Paris-Nanterre, and the University of Montpellier
January 17th, 18th, 19th, 2019
University of Caen-Normandy France
In his book Power: A New Social Analysis (1938), the British philosopher Bertrand Russell wrote: “The fundamental concept in social science is Power, in the same sense in which Energy is the fundamental concept in physics.”
In accordance with Russell, the Power Studies Network will be maintaining its focus on the concept of power in its 5th international conference, but has chosen to widen the scope to deal with its corollaries, namely influence, disinformation, and manipulation.
If power can be defined with regard to an action, a potential or a capacity to “get others to do what we want them to do” (Dahl), the effective use of this potential can be considered as a form of influence. However, exercising an authentic influence on a person or group entails creating an environment in which that influence will be the least questioned or contested. As Weber remarked: “Every such system attempts to establish and to cultivate the belief in its legitimacy.” Authorities exercising power, subject to being called into question at all times, must therefore make use of methods of manipulation that blur the message (whether intentionally or not) in order to attain their objective, namely to reinforce their own legitimacy and maintain their hold on power. As such the exercise of power can have two facets, one seen as acceptable (influence) the other as repugnant (manipulation). And yet, the famous American sociologist Talcott Parsons affirmed that “embedded power is always legitimized,” even by those who do not agree with it. In other words, the very exercise of power (imposed or not) would necessarily confer a sense of political and social legitimacy.
This conference, in continuity with previous activities of the Power Studies Network, will adopt a multidisciplinary approach. This call for papers thus reaches out to research specialists working on the Americas or on Europe from a variety of disciplinary approaches within the social sciences.
Possibilities for papers include:
- Theoretical approaches on the links between power, domination, influence and manipulation, for example in the field of political sociology, the Gramscian concept of hegemony would offer an interesting perspective.
- In political science, the study of competing factions in a country’s internal politics, the question of the role, and relative power of lobbies, analyses of foreign policy, studies of regional geopolitics, etc.
- In sociology, the study of powers and countervailing powers can be seen in an exchange relationship; power becomes a central element in social organization
- Media studies, political marketing, analyses of disinformation and “fake news” are also fundamental themes of interest with regard to influence and power.
- Artistic production (painting, music, film, literature) can be analyzed under the lens of power, domination and influence. This production can also be seen from another angle as the means for ensuring power structures and maintaining a regime’s legitimacy.
This conference is open to any proposal offering a new perspective or a new approach to the study of power, influence and manipulation.
Deadline for proposals: September 30th, 2018
To be sent to:
Taoufik Djebali (firstname.lastname@example.org); Eliane Elmaleh (email@example.com); Salah Oueslati (firstname.lastname@example.org); Pierre Guerlain (email@example.com); Raphël Ricaud (firstname.lastname@example.org)