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Abstract

Sociological theory has provided two models that attempt to explain social power and decision making in America, the elite model (Mills) and the pluralist model. Mills saw power in America like particles dispersed in a triangle--with more and more power at the top, but more people at the base of the triangle. For Mills there was a powerful elite that ruled almost like a monarchy and decision making on all fronts was vested in them. Rebellion as utilized in Merton's paradigm would turn this triangle upside down in setting up new goals and new means, as well as distributing power throughout the system. The only problem has been that when rebellion takes place the new goals and new means may be established, but the power triangle has remained essentially the same with power vested in a few people. Dahl, Truman and others have proposed a pluralist model, where social power is dispersed throughout the social structure, and power and interest groups rise and fall with each new issue. That is, contrary to Mills, there is no power-elite, but rather several power groups that arise as each new issue arises.

Sociological theory has thus provided two models which assesses social power and (decision making) on a macro level. However on a micro level and in terms of what goes on in making a policy decision, sociology has been terribly remiss, leaving the task to political scientists.

The central theme of this paper is to present as a case study one issue and how decisions were made regarding it. No attempt to generalize beyond this case is made in terms of sociological theory and decision making. However, it is the author's contention that the instances described herein are not atypical and that decision making regarding human needs in social welfare basically follow the pattern described.

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