Lesson 4, Topic 2
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2.2 Theories of the state: Pluralist

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Pluralism is a strong protest against the monistic sovereignty theory that imbues the state with supreme and limitless power. Exponents of Pluralism are Laski, Figgis, Barker, G. D.H. Cole, A. D. Lindsay, Duguit, MacIver, and others. Sovereignty, as per Pluralists, does not reside with the presidency but in several other bodies. There are many social, political, cultural, and economic institutions within society, many of which are prior to the State. Family and Church, for example, are prior to the State. The State is not simply the supreme institution, according to Pluralists.

On the contrary, the State, like other institutions, has become one of the societal institutions. Pluralists emphasize civil rights, such as freedom of expression and organization, and a structure of elections with at least two parties. Consequently, the pluralist state is “only a state in which there is no single source of authority.” Sovereignty is indeed not indivisible and exclusive, as per Pluralists. On the opposite, in its essence and manifestation, it is a multiplicity, it is separable in two sections and should be separated.

Pluralists see the state as a system that represents all the desires of each member of the state, in our case the UK state, because it exists as the political process can not explicitly reflect the values of any single individual of society because contemporary cultures are too complex. A plurality of pressure groups, therefore, acts as a representative voice for all people of the group.

Davey and O’Leary say the state has three pluralistic views-

1. The weathervane model-by representing popular sentiment, this shows the state as behaving as a weathervane. For instance, when enough members of the general public wanted to bring back hanging and Parliament decided to re-introduce due to public sentiment then the state behaved like a weathervane by responding to public opinion (via pressure groups). The problem is, is this Parliament viewed as constructive or reactive?

2. The neutral state model – this model dismisses the above as it says the state becomes more indulged as it acts as a referee among the competing groups. This achieves so by listening to all of the thoughts on a subject and then making a judgment. The current issue of whether to have nuclear power plants to generate our electricity is an example of that. The judgment of the State is made on a rational basis by considering all the conflicting points of view and finding a workable solution. Hence the state is far more involved compared with the ‘weathervane mode.’

3. The broker-state paradigm – recognizes the opposing societal groups each possessing their own goal that represents their particular problems. Thus, the state simply negotiates (brokers) among the vested interests of these groups and creates policies that satisfy these groups while reflecting the state officials’ concerns at the same time. The prime episodes of this occur in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, where strategic elites like business leaders, unions, and farm leaders meet regularly to decide on the economic actions of the state.

Gierke said, “The state will support the opinion that permanent associations have rights and duties as groups, whether or not they have been recognized as organizations by the law.” According to Laski, “State is just one of the separate types of associations and has no stronger claims of person loyalty as opposed to them.” “These alliances are no less independent than the state itself,” he also states. The authority must always be federal since society is federal. Krabbe argues that “the notion of sovereignty will go beyond the theory of politics.” Figgis also agreed that connections are significant. He states, “Human society is not a heap of connected entities across the state alone but an increasing group hierarchy.

Classical pluralism has been questioned because it does not appear to extend to democracies of the Westminster model or to the European sense. This led to Corporatist ideologies emerging. Corporatism is the notion that, to the detriment of the countless other ‘interest groups,’ a few select interest interests are only (often formally) participating in the policymaking process. Trade unions and large sectoral business associations, for example, are also contacted on particular strategies (if not the drivers).

Elite pluralism and Neo-pluralism:

Elite Pluralism: Elite pluralists accept that there is “plurality” of influence for classical pluralists; nevertheless, this plurality is not “absolute,” because certain people and groups have greater control than others. For instance, certain individuals have more resources than most, and they can afford more (i.e. more advertising) so the working class would bring their thoughts through. The disparity is because there are “elites” in society; individuals who have more influence than others, whether by money, heritage, or social practice.

Neo-pluralism: Although in America during the 1950s and 1960s pluralism as a political theory of the state and political formation achieved the greatest popularity, some academics protested that the idea was too abstract (see Connolly (1969) The Challenge to Pluralist Theory) – contributing to the creation of neo-pluralism. Values varied in a democratic society on the separation of power. While neo-pluralism sees various interest groups fighting for political leverage, it is skewed against corporate power in the political agenda.

Neo-pluralism no longer sees the state as an umpire that mediates and adjudicates between the demands of various interest groups, but as a fairly autonomous actor (with separate departments) who forges and provides for his own (sectional) interests.

Pluralism is a strong protest against the monistic sovereignty theory that imbues the state with supreme and limitless power. Exponents of Pluralism are Laski, Figgis, Barker, G. D.H. Cole, A. D. Lindsay, Duguit, MacIver, and others. Sovereignty, as per Pluralists, does not reside with the presidency but in several other bodies. There are many social, political, cultural, and economic institutions within society, many of which are prior to the State. Family and Church, for example, are prior to the State. The State is not simply the supreme institution, according to Pluralists.

On the contrary, the State, like other institutions, has become one of the societal institutions. Pluralists emphasize civil rights, such as freedom of expression and organization, and a structure of elections with at least two parties. Consequently, the pluralist state is “only a state in which there is no single source of authority.” Sovereignty is indeed not indivisible and exclusive, as per Pluralists. On the opposite, in its essence and manifestation, it is a multiplicity, it is separable in two sections and should be separated.

Pluralists see the state as a system that represents all the desires of each member of the state, in our case the UK state, because it exists as the political process can not explicitly reflect the values of any single individual of society because contemporary cultures are too complex. A plurality of pressure groups, therefore, acts as a representative voice for all people of the group.

Davey and O’Leary say the state has three pluralistic views-

1. The weathervane model-by representing popular sentiment, this shows the state as behaving as a weathervane. For instance, when enough members of the general public wanted to bring back hanging and Parliament decided to re-introduce due to public sentiment then the state behaved like a weathervane by responding to public opinion (via pressure groups). The problem is, is this Parliament viewed as constructive or reactive?

2. The neutral state model – this model dismisses the above as it says the state becomes more indulged as it acts as a referee among the competing groups. This achieves so by listening to all of the thoughts on a subject and then making a judgment. The current issue of whether to have nuclear power plants to generate our electricity is an example of that. The judgment of the State is made on a rational basis by considering all the conflicting points of view and finding a workable solution. Hence the state is far more involved compared with the ‘weathervane mode.’

3. The broker-state paradigm – recognizes the opposing societal groups each possessing their own goal that represents their particular problems. Thus, the state simply negotiates (brokers) among the vested interests of these groups and creates policies that satisfy these groups while reflecting the state officials’ concerns at the same time. The prime episodes of this occur in Denmark, Norway, and Sweden, where strategic elites like business leaders, unions, and farm leaders meet regularly to decide on the economic actions of the state.

Gierke said, “The state will support the opinion that permanent associations have rights and duties as groups, whether or not they have been recognized as organizations by the law.” According to Laski, “State is just one of the separate types of associations and has no stronger claims of person loyalty as opposed to them.” “These alliances are no less independent than the state itself,” he also states. The authority must always be federal since society is federal. Krabbe argues that “the notion of sovereignty will go beyond the theory of politics.” Figgis also agreed that connections are significant. He states, “Human society is not a heap of connected entities across the state alone but an increasing group hierarchy.

Classical pluralism has been questioned because it does not appear to extend to democracies of the Westminster model or to the European sense. This led to Corporatist ideologies emerging. Corporatism is the notion that, to the detriment of the countless other ‘interest groups,’ a few select interest interests are only (often formally) participating in the policymaking process. Trade unions and large sectoral business associations, for example, are also contacted on particular strategies (if not the drivers).

Elite pluralism and Neo-pluralism:

Elite Pluralism: Elite pluralists accept that there is “plurality” of influence for classical pluralists; nevertheless, this plurality is not “absolute,” because certain people and groups have greater control than others. For instance, certain individuals have more resources than most, and they can afford more (i.e. more advertising) so the working class would bring their thoughts through. The disparity is because there are “elites” in society; individuals who have more influence than others, whether by money, heritage, or social practice.

Neo-pluralism: Although in America during the 1950s and 1960s pluralism as a political theory of the state and political formation achieved the greatest popularity, some academics protested that the idea was too abstract (see Connolly (1969) The Challenge to Pluralist Theory) – contributing to the creation of neo-pluralism. Values varied in a democratic society on the separation of power. While neo-pluralism sees various interest groups fighting for political leverage, it is skewed against corporate power in the political agenda.

Neo-pluralism no longer sees the state as an umpire that mediates and adjudicates between the demands of various interest groups, but as a fairly autonomous actor (with separate departments) who forges and provides for his own (sectional) interests.

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