Pluralist Theory

Pluralists say citizens need help; the citizen has difficulty in affecting the system. But, parties are too simple a solution; there are too many diverse interests to be represented by the simple act of voting. By giving all power to the party you are excluding interests-- this is tyranny. Pluralists devalue elections because there are many more inclusive ways of representation in the interest groups system.

MADISON: Self-Interest ------> Conflict -------> Representation ------> Dispersed Powers

PARTY THEORISTS: Conflict ------------> Self Interest------------>Representation in Parties

PLURALISM Self-Interest ----//------> Representation ------------> Multiple Points of Access \------------------------------/> IGR


A. is conservative in that they defend Madison.

1. self-interest is not in elections; there are other forms of self interest;

2. they challenge the value of elections

B. Faction is an interest group.

1. How do groups form?

a. People have a common interest

2. Why join a group?

a. material gain-- economic;

b. social reasons-- non-political;

c. political-- purposive reasons.

C. Pluralists claim the interest group system is inclusive

1. ALL are in one group or another, be it political or non-political groups

2. groups people 'join' for non-political reasons

a. students are represented in the legislature

b. drivers are represented by AAA and Consumers Union

3. Even though people 'join' groups for non-political, non-representative reasons, the fact is that these people are represented.

D. Conclusions:

1. the groups system is inclusive:

a. very few are excluded;

2. many are represented by membership in a political group, e.g. NRA

3. All are in non-political groups,

a. thus, people are represented in their group interests and this is democracy.

II. Multiple Points of Access

A. not only are all represented but, because of dispersed power, they are better represented through multiple points of access

1. multiple points of access

a. the complexity of government permits different groups to find access at different centers of decision making.

B. A Pluralistic society needs a pluralistic government

1. attempts to consolidate power will not only fail, due to its not being able to accommodate our complex diversity, it will became dangerous, i.e., tyrannical.

2. thus, dispersed powers are an ideal way in which to accommodate diversity

a. larger, better organized groups, NOW, NEA gain influence in presidential campaigns

b. smaller less organized groups, environmentalists, Jehovah's witnesses, gain influence in Courts.

III. Resource Bias:

A. is the major flaw in the Pluralist heaven

1. members of volunteer groups are better educated and have higher incomes than non-members

2. another flaw is opposition groups tend not to form due to diffuse and specific benefits.

B. But, group resources are non-cumulative.

1. thus, the resource bias is not as bad as thought

2. cross-pressures: there is membership in counter-veiling groups.

3. Resource bias is not a problem for Pluralists because the resources are non-cumulative and there are cross pressures:

a. people's membership in many groups across the political spectrum thus moderating the influences of one side.

IV. Pluralism summarized:

A. citizens are not politically motivated or self interested

B. elections are not the only or the most important means of linking citizens to government

C. citizens participate widely in the interest group system by virtue of their economic , social, religious, and political interests

D. political action by interest groups is costly

E. despite the costs of participation, the group system is reasonably inclusive and balanced in the interests it represents before government

F. So, government power should be dispersed and fragmented.

V. Party Theorists have no problem with political groups but don't agree with non-political groups;

A. they don't believe these groups are representative, i.e., groups don't represent;

B. groups are not inclusive; they have an upper class bias.

C. Thus, party theory has more effective representation but it is less inclusive; pluralism is more inclusive but less effective.