What Is Pluralism In Politics And Political Science

Pluralism is defined as extensive participation in the political process through competing and autonomous groups and hence competing viewpoints. In order to understand interest groups and their environment, we must review the concept of pluralism in politics. We believe some form of pluralism is necessary, if a political system is to facilitate the optimum level of human progress and freedom.

8 Features of Pluralism In Political Science

Pluralism recognizes that many, though not all, important political decisions are influenced most effectively by organized groups (interest groups) concerned with the political question at hand. Pluralism requires that there be various competing groups that are not government sponsored or manipulated. Most of all, the right to organize means freedom to oppose both individuals and policies and to support individuals seeking to re-place incumbent office holders. The greatest proliferation of groups and the great-est freedom they possess are found in pluralistic societies.

Pluralism presumes that the largest possible number of people will participate in the political input process through universal adult suffrage and interest-group activity. It also assumes that the widest range of alternative proposals will compete. Competition is subject to restriction only for those who call for deliberate violence, propose to drastically reduce participation, or substantially restrict the types of alternatives that can be proposed legally. One such example was the Nazi Party of Germany. The Nazis participated extensively and effectively in the competitive electoral system of Weimar Germany before forming the government in 1933. Yet the Nazis were dedicated to eliminating all political freedoms and all opposition parties and interest groups once they seized power. There is no absolute answer, but a realistic approach suggests that a pluralistic system must by some means restrict those who would participate in order to destroy the system.

Pluralism encourages individual action, such as voting, and collective action through group membership. These two types of participation are not necessarily contradictory or mutually exclusive. Classical democratic theory of the eigh-teenth and nineteenth centuries stressed individual responsibility and individual choice based on rational evaluation of all factors involved. This type of individual participation is still common in a pluralist system, as manifested in the private act of voting, writing a letter to a government department or a public official, or meeting with an elected official.

The individual also may participate collectively through membership in and support of one or more interest groups. Commonly, this act of association with a group is a matter of individual choice: nevertheless, in a pluralist system, groups with an organized membership, monetary resources, administrative skills and contacts, and offices in the state, provincial, or national capitals are often the most successful in influencing policy. We live in a specialized, complex, and interdependent world. The most effective means by which an individual gains access to and influences decisions in the political system is frequently through the groups with which he is affiliated.

Pluralism encourages individual action, such as voting, and collective action through group membership. These two types of participation are not necessarily contradictory or mutually exclusive. Classical democratic theory of the eigh-teenth and nineteenth centuries stressed individual responsibility and individual choice based on rational evaluation of all factors involved. This type of individual participation is still common in a pluralist system, as manifested in the private act of voting, writing a letter to a government department or a public official, or meeting with an elected official.

The individual also may participate collectively through membership in and support of one or more interest groups. Commonly, this act of association with a group is a matter of individual choice: nevertheless, in a pluralist system, groups with an organized membership, monetary resources, administrative skills and contacts, and offices in the state, provincial, or national capitals are often the most successful in influencing policy. We live in a specialized, complex, and interdependent world. The most effective means by which an individual gains access to and influences decisions in the political system is frequently through the groups with which he is affiliated.

Pluralism means negotiaticn and compromise. Decisions are reached more slowly and may not always be as logically consistent because of the need to accommodate diverse inputs. Multiple centers of power mean various groups may have the power to dilute, delay, or veto. Pluralistic politics is often consensual politics. Ideally, no affected group should be ignored in the solution, even if no group entirely realizes its objectives. Coalition building around specific issues and bargaining, negotiating, and accommodating diverse viewpoints are key aspects of plural-ism.

Critics of pluralism

It is also argued that interest-group competition dominates the political system and thereby restricts the input of individual citizens. Moreover. since many groups are dominated by the leaders. the average association member has little influence on the organization’s policies. Robert Michels was the first modern scholar to conclude that the iron law of oligarchy was an inherent trait of oganizations.

Although Michels’ analysis was of the German Social Democratic Party during the period before 1915. what he said subsequently has been used even more to criticize interest groups. alleging that whoever “says organization says oligarchy.” Michels claimed that monopoly of organizations by the full-time professional staff was inevitable. Consequently, leaders’ perspectives are no longer those of the members.

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