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Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Pluralism and Elitism
Is pressure group politics in th...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Lesson Objectives
• To define key terms: pluralism and...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Pressure groups and power
• Power is dispersed among m...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
What is pluralism?
• Pluralism is a theory that politi...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Power Structures and Pluralist
Democracy
• Robert A Da...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Pluralists and Democracy
• Pluralists accept that indi...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Pluralists and the state
• Pluralists say that the gov...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Evidence for the pluralist view
• Studies have shown t...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Problems with pluralism
• Power is concentrated in the...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Criticism of pluralist position
• Critics argue that t...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
What is elitism?
• Elitism is the theory that power is...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Distinction between pluralism and
elitism
• Pluralism ...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
EXAM QUESTION
What is meant by pluralism? (5 marks)
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Indicative Content
• Pluralism relates to the diversif...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
EXAM QUESTION
Distinguish between pluralism and elitis...
Copyright © 2015 Active Education
peped.org/politicalinvestigations
Indicative Content
• Pluralism and elitism are terms w...
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Pluralism and Elitism

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What do we mean by Pluralism and Elitism? Which of these best describes UK pressure group politics?

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Pluralism and Elitism

  1. 1. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Pluralism and Elitism Is pressure group politics in the UK better described as pluralist or elitist?
  2. 2. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Lesson Objectives • To define key terms: pluralism and elitism. • To outline evidence for both sides of the argument. • To prepare to respond to exam style question about power of UK pressure groups.
  3. 3. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Pressure groups and power • Power is dispersed among many competing groups. • Wealth is a factor, but so a prestige, organisational clout ad personal charisma. • Some power is available to almost everyone. • The state is a neutral party that represents the groups of every group within society.
  4. 4. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations What is pluralism? • Pluralism is a theory that political power is widely distributed in society. • Pressure groups thus act as agents to assist this distribution and government is responsive to a wide range of causes and interests. • All citizens have open access to membership of pressure groups.
  5. 5. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Power Structures and Pluralist Democracy • Robert A Dahl’s work: “Robert Dahl, in his book, Who Governs? (1961) reported that while the number of people involved in any important decision was rather small, community power was nonetheless diffuse. Few political actors exercised decision-making power on all issues. Several other studies of local politics further document that monolithic power structures do not operate on the level of local government.” • Key decisions are made by a range of different groups. • Over time power becomes increasingly diffuse. • In modern representative democracies there a few direct opportunities for the mass of people to become directly involved in making decisions, but they can vote or join pressure groups.
  6. 6. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Pluralists and Democracy • Pluralists accept that individuals in democracies have little say over political decisions but claim that this doesn’t make them undemocratic. • Instead the democratic element is provided by pressure group activity. • Pluralist view of society: (i) Society as made up of competing interest groups; (ii) No one interest group dominates (iii)Interest groups compete with each other for influence over decision makers (iv)Power is shared between the interest groups in society (v) Protective groups defend the interests of particular groups: e.g. trade unions (e.g. NUT and RMT) and professional organisations (BMA and the Law Society).
  7. 7. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Pluralists and the state • Pluralists say that the government is the neutral arbiter between pressure groups. • Pluralists see wide ranging pressure group activity as essential for a modern democracy.
  8. 8. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Evidence for the pluralist view • Studies have shown that one group does not dominate society, e.g. “Who Governs” by R.A. Dahl in 1961. • Power is said to be dispersed and fluid and in the UK this is supported by studies. • All groups in the UK can influence decision making. • Whatever their faults, liberal democracies offer the best opportunities for all groups to get their voices heard. • New Labour was seen as trying to balance the needs and wishes of business interests and union interests in that they allowed private finance in public service and also introduced a minimum wage.
  9. 9. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Problems with pluralism • Power is concentrated in the hands of a relatively small number of people or groups. • Not all pressure groups are equal – some have more influence over government than others, the CBI is a good example. Others have very little influence or no group represent them at all, an example is the unemployed. • Agenda setting – pluralists ignore the second face of power, for example discussions about wealth ownership never reach the point of discussion. • Very few pressure groups are democratic in their structure and tend to be dominated by an elite.
  10. 10. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Criticism of pluralist position • Critics argue that the classical pluralist position is overly optimistic and recognise that some groups have no representation and therefore no access to decision makers. • Not all groups are equal and some such as Richardson and Jordan say that decision making in democracies is based on a competition between competing elites – it is un unequal competition as business and middle class interest groups are listened to more than others. • Only concentrates on decision making power • Some issues are deliberately kept of the political agenda • Makes no allowance for the third face of power, by which voters a persuaded to accept what is not in their best interests. • Some studies show that specific groups have greater influence than others. • Different groups have very different resources. • The right to vote conceals huge inequalities in society.
  11. 11. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations What is elitism? • Elitism is the theory that power is concentrated and not evenly distributed. • Some pressure groups have more power and influence than others. • Economic groups are commonly seen as more powerful than other groups, especially business groups. • In most democratic countries the distribution of power is unequal. • However there are opportunities for every group to get their voice heard, as those in power have to recognise that they are voted into power. • Governments are not neutral arbiters who listen to all
  12. 12. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Distinction between pluralism and elitism • Pluralism and elitism are terms which make reference to the distribution of political power. • Pluralism is a theory which believes that power is to an extent evenly distributed and that it is not concentrated. • Pluralism has a positive view of pressure groups and considers a multiplicity of them to be good for the body politic. • Elitism by contrast implies that there is a concentration of power in a narrow and exclusive grouping. • Elitism implies that this alleged unequal and unfair distribution of political power in the system may posit problems for the body politic.
  13. 13. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations EXAM QUESTION What is meant by pluralism? (5 marks)
  14. 14. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Indicative Content • Pluralism relates to the diversification and distribution of power within the political system. It can be said to have the following features: • It supposes a wide dispersal of power along various avenues and channels. • There is no concentration of power in narrow sectional elites. Pluralism can be seen as the opposite of elitism. • Pluralism in a political sense encourages and welcomes open debate between competing groups in society. • Citizens can be represented not via a single representative but through group membership, this can be multiple membership of differing groups. • Many pressure groups will have opposing and competing groups. • All the above groups have power and equal access to the political process. • Pluralism allows minorities to have political power and this can
  15. 15. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations EXAM QUESTION Distinguish between pluralism and elitism. (5 marks)
  16. 16. Copyright © 2015 Active Education peped.org/politicalinvestigations Indicative Content • Pluralism and elitism are terms which make reference to the distribution of political power. • Pluralism is a theory which believes that power is to an extent evenly distributed and that it is not concentrated. • Pluralism has a positive view of pressure groups and considers a multiplicity of then to be good for the body politic. • Elitism by contrast implies that there is a concentration of power in a narrow and exclusive grouping. • Elitism implies that this alleged unequal and unfair distribution of political power in the system may posit problems for the body politic

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