The Individual versus the Institution : An Analysis of Power Relations in Irish Society

Jeannine Murphy

    Research output: Types of ThesisMaster's Thesis


    This thesis examines power relations in Irish society; specifically involving two key institutions; the Garda Síochána and the health service. The perspectives of both the representatives of the institutions and the public are examined. Sociological explorations of power and power relations are discussed with an outline of the development of the theoretical structure/agency debate. Issues ranging from class based society and capitalism, to categories of power and basic power relationships are included, creating a foundation for the investigation of the nature of power relations in a democratic capitalist state. The four main questions investigated concern the effects that power relations have on the individual, as both a member of the public and as a representative of an institution, the central issues of concern between individuals and institutions that affect power relations, whether the nature of power relations within Irish society have changed, and if so, how this may have affected both individuals and the relevant institutions. A focus group interview was conducted with a group of students, and subsequently thirteen semi-structured interviews were carried out with a sample set of participants from the public, the Garda Síochána, and the health service. Methods of convenience (purposive) and snowball sampling were used to source suitable interviewees. The key findings suggest that the concept of social class and interaction remains very important in the analysis of power relations in Irish society, from the perspectives of both the individual and the institution. Together with this, there has been a change in attitude in the area of power relations across all social classes for various reasons, with the effects of social mobility in a rapidly changing Irish society being of foremost importance. Finally, with a change in attitude among members of the public, has come a call for accountability within the remit of seemingly all institutions, particularly in this case, the Garda Síochána and the health service.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Culleton, Jonathan, Supervisor
    Publication statusUnpublished - 2007


    • Power (Social Sciences)


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