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American Pluralism



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What is pluralism? - DEFINE

Politicians frequently win office with only a "plurality" of the votes--that is, they receive more votes than their opponents--but not with a majority of the total eligible electorate. President Reagan, for example, received approximately 51 percent of the ballots cast in , but his total constituted only about a quarter of the votes of all potential voters, since only 55 percent of those eligible to participate actually went to the polls. Furthermore, a first choice among candidates is not necessarily the same as a first choice among policies.

The people who elected President Clinton, for example, did not all agree with his positions on health care, taxes, national defense, Bosnia, and the environment. Many of them, in fact, were probably voting against his opponent, George Bush, rather than for Clinton himself. If Americans do not decide major controversies themselves or indirectly through elections, how are such matters resolved? Pluralists are convinced that public policy emerges from competition among groups. Since relatively few people participate actively in this process, power, it might seem, would be concentrated in few hands.

Before drawing any dire conclusions about the possible undemocratic nature of this form of government, however, it is necessary to look at political power as pluralists see it. Everyone recognizes political power when they see it: Congress raises taxes; the president sends troops to Bosnia; the Supreme Court declares the death penalty constitutional; a police officer tells a motorist to pull off the road.

In each instance a group or person makes others do something they would not otherwise do. Seen from this perspective, the definition of power seems simple enough. Yet the term is loaded with implications that must be fully grasped if one is to understand pluralism. In the first place, power is not an identifiable property that humans possess in fixed amounts. Rather, people are powerful because they control various resources. Resources are assets that can be used to force others to do what one wants. Politicians become powerful because they y command resources that people want or fear or respect.

The list of possibilities is virtually endless: legal authority, money, prestige, skill, knowledge, charisma, legitimacy, free time, experience, celebrity, and public support. Civil rights activists in the s relied mainly on their numbers and the legitimacy of their cause to get their way whereas corporations frequently depend on their access to officeholders, control of information, and campaign contributions.

Whatever the case, pluralists emphasize that power is not a physical entity that individuals either have or do not have, but flows from a variety of different sources. Pluralists also stress the differences between potential and actual power. Actual power means the ability to compel someone to do something; potential power refers to the possibility of turning resources into actual power. Cash, one of many resources, is only a stack of bills until it is put to work.

A millionaire may or may not be politically influential; it all depends on what the wealth is spent for--trips to the Bahamas or trips to Washington. Martin Luther King Jr. But by using resources such as his forceful personality, organizational skills, and especially the legitimacy of his cause, he had a greater impact on American politics than most wealthy people. A particular resource like money cannot automatically be equated with power because the resource can be used skillfully or clumsily, fully or partially, or not at all.

Three of the major tenets of the pluralist school are 1 resources and hence potential power are widely scattered throughout society; 2 at least some resources are available to nearly everyone; and 3 at any time the amount of potential power exceeds the amount of actual power. Finally, and perhaps most important, no one is all-powerful. An individual or group that is influential in one realm may be weak in another.

Large military contractors certainly throw their weight around on defense matters, but how much sway do they have on agricultural or health policies? A measure of power, therefore, is its scope, or the range of areas where it is successfully applied. Pluralists believe that with few exceptions power holders in America usually have a relatively limited scope of influence. For all these reasons power cannot be taken for granted. One has observe it empirically in order to know who really governs. The best way to do this, pluralists believe, is to examine a wide range of specific decisions, noting who took which side and who ultimately won and lost. Only by keeping score on a variety of controversies can one begin to identify actual power holders.

The pluralists' view of power underlies their interpretation of how the American political system operates, a topic to which we now turn. Perhaps the key characteristic of American government, according to pluralists, is that it is dominated not by a single elite but rather by a multiplicity of relatively small groups, some of which are well organized and funded, some of which are not. Although a few are larger and more influential than the others, the scope of their power, far from being universal, is restricted to relatively narrow areas such as defense, agriculture, or banking.

A second characteristic is that the groups are politically autonomous, or independent. They have the right and freedom to do business in the political marketplace. How well they fare depends not on the indulgence of a higher authority but on their own skill in rallying political resources. Because a diverse society like ours contains so many potential factions, political autonomy guarantees constant, widespread, and spirited competition among these organizations. Third, inter group competition leads to countervailing influence: The power of one group tends to cancel that of another so that a rough equilibrium results. Group memberships overlap as well. Members of one association, in other words, might belong to another, even competing, group.

Overlapping memberships reduce the intensity of conflicts because loyalties are often spread among many organizations. A fourth characteristic is the openness of the system. It is open in two senses. It emphasizes the functionalists' concepts of equilibrium and stability with gradual change. In the comparison of interest and pressure groups it is apparent that although they created resentment in the inner layers of government, they were necessary to the development and progress of the political system. According to David B.

Truman in the excerpt from The Governmental Process he demonstrates the need, influence and the importance of containment of lobby groups. Although lobby groups are separated into organized groups and unofficial groups, he considers them both equally important and dangerous interest groups. Through his writings he also demonstrates his opinion that political parties are only a large form of an interest group.

It is a way that nations come to together and create allies. However, it is also a way for nations to create enemies. There are a variety of concerns that require attention around the world including state security, human security, and economic security. Political and economic relations impact each of these security issues different proven by history and present events around the world. There are also multiple interest groups in political America as well as in many modern systems. These groups are constantly multiplying and increasing in diversity while pressing their concerns in a bid to seek government action Eldersveld, Most importantly, political parties have a specific role of communicating with the public to mobilize and support its interests and to yield pleasant results.

The objective of this paper is to discuss American political parties to understand their forms, categories and functions. The United States of America comprises of a federal They are made aware of their voting rights. Furthermore, political parties help the public examine the pros of cons of current political matters. Amit Goel argues that this process leads to organize and formulate public opinion on important issues. In the presidential government where the executive and the legislature are divided, an information-rich environment is promoted. Both branches are motivated to investigate each other, and are motivated to publicize either by formal proclamation or informal leaks information that is beneficial to their political image and is consistent with their own ideologies.

Home Page Pluralism. Pluralism Satisfactory Essays. Open Document. Essay Sample Check Writing Quality. American Pluralism In Federalist No. When Federalist No. However, the political theory that is the foundation for United States government was the influential force behind pluralism and its doctrines. Pluralism comes from the political system that focuses on shared power among interest groups and competing factions.

A pluralistic society contains groups that have varying interests and backgrounds, including those of ethnic, religious, and political nature. Differences like these are to be encouraged, with overall political and economic power being maintained. When a number of people, all sharing a common interest are threatened, a group is involuntarily formed in order to defend against competing interests. These pluralistic interest groups are free to operate and lobby in the political arena, fighting against the majority and other competing factions for voice in Congress.

With the influence of multiple factions operating throughout the political system, a balance of power is created Kernell , With this in mind, special interest groups are constantly contending for power by raising money, campaigning, and lobbying in Congress. When a special interest group is threatened by a competing policy, the group will organize efforts to balance, or transcend the power of the competing group. That is, as American economic development increases, in the form of industry, trade, and technology, factions are produced in order to protect special interests. Factions have a large platform on which to find support from various political parties, committees, subcommittees, and the courts, as well as federal, state, and local governments Kernell , Get Access.

Good Essays. Federalist 10 Words 2 Pages. Federalist Read More. Satisfactory Essays.

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