The power of occlusion

David Jenkins, Steven Lukes

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


    The ability to control the terms of debate has powerful consequences for what is and is not considered a valid argument, and what does and does not get taken seriously as a description of the world. In this paper, we focus on the ways in which power is at work to pre-emptively exclude certain ideas and descriptions of relevant phenomena before questions about what should be done about that phenomena can even be asked. We describe this as the power of occlusion. Beginning with Gilbert Ryle’s notion of the category mistake, we go on to consider the various ways that have been employed to understand the market, focusing primarily on the (mutually exclusive) descriptions employed by Friedrich Hayek and Karl Polanyi. The essay ends with a survey of the ways in which unconditional basic income has been occluded from debates surrounding welfare reform, arguing that in order to confront the power of occlusion it is necessary to challenge many of our assumptions surrounding work and reciprocity.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)6-24
    Number of pages19
    JournalJournal of Political Power
    Issue number1
    StatePublished - Jan 2 2017


    • Occlusion
    • basic income
    • category mistakes
    • controversy
    • credibility

    ASJC Scopus subject areas

    • Sociology and Political Science


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