Can anyone recommend philosophers that are concerned with what structures power relationships in society, particularly in workplaces?

I know that Foucault's work was concerned with this in Discipline and Punish and the idea of the 'panoptic society'. I would like to read about how this concept has progressed with digital networks, and how 'old school' power structures, for example in the typical corporate business office environment, are in conflict, if at all? What are the vested interests in these social power relationships, what maintains them? Are they natural in the sense that power structures emerge automatically or do they emerge from the roles that are given within these realities?

2 Answers 2


The sociologist Wright Mills wrote The Power Elite where he examines the interwoven interests of the military, corporate & political elements of American society. Chomsky has a number of books on the Manufacture of consent via the medium of the media. You might find Galbraiths books on the Great Crash useful where he examines the behaviour of the economic/business elite in relation to the great crash of 1929. Shock doctrine by Naomi Klien can be seen as a useful update of that thesis.

You may also find Propaganda by Bernays (a nephew of Freud) also useful - he wrote:

The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country [USA].

A philosophical discussion of various forms by which the social body can be governed is in Plato. He discusses Aristocracy, Timocracy, Oligarchy, Democracy and Tyranny in descending order of goodness. Of course one should understand the nature of the governing body for what it is. Its easy enough, one supposes that an oligarchy or a Tyranny can masquerade as a democracy. This conflates two regimes in Platos hierarchy. By advancing Democracy as a mask, an Oligarchy or Tyranny gains a popular mandate and masks its true nature which could be disturbing, in fact should be particularly disturbing to the Just Man according to Plato.

Of course one can argue with Platos hierarchy and what exactly it means.

Although George Orwell isn't a philosopher in the academic sense he is a thinker and a writer, and his fable Animal Farm illustrates his thinking on the nature of Power, as does 1984.


Structuralism is a theory that emphasis on functional relations between elements of a system, with abstractions that drop the content of the system and its evolution.

The structuralism school counts, amongst others :

While the latters may seems to treat subjects out of topic, remember that language is an important part of thought process, mind representations, social communications, and so on.

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