Pressure groups - AQA spec, power and politics

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  • Created by: Amy Leech
  • Created on: 11-04-13 22:55
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Asses the view that pressure groups and interest groups are declining in
importance and influence in the political system today (33 marks)
Pressure groups, in today's society are declining in importance and influence in the political system to
a fairly large extent. This is because of a number of reasons such as the media, globalisation, identity
politics and new social movements. However on the other hand to a small extent it can be said that
pressure groups are still an essential feature to our political system and how they are inevitable in
our democracy.
Pressure groups can either be protective or promotional. Protective groups seek to protect the
interests of a particular group for example like trade unions protect groups of workers. Promotional
groups promote causes for example Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth promote environmental
causes. Bagguley argues pressure groups are influenced by economic and class factors. They focus
their attention on public policy issues, attempting to influence decision makers and law makers, many
pressure groups are occupationally based whereas others are concerned with single issues.
However it can be argued class de-alignment would have affected the importance of pressure
groups because their influence will have decreased as class alignment decreased.
On the one hand, pressure groups have declined in importance and influence in today's society. One
of the reasons for this is the rise of New Social Movements (NSMs). Hallsworth defines NSMs as
movements which challenge the established political and cultural order in capitalist societies; this
includes feminism, environmentalism, and the civil rights movement and anti- racist movements.
NSMs can be defensive or offensive. Hallsworth claims that most members of NSMs tend to be
young, middle class, particularly from the public sector middle class. NSMs have recruited well against
the educated young middle class but they haven't shown much evidence of a more ­ broad based
appeal. This shows that pressure groups have lost importance because they don't engage with the
younger generations and also lose influence because they don't appeal to the whole majority
anymore. NSMs are informally organised and non-bureaucratic. They tend to operate outside of
traditional politics. Unlike pressure groups and political parties, NSMs tend to favour direct action
such as demonstrations, civil disobedience and sit-ins. However trade unions which are actually
classified at old social movements can take part in strikes which is classed as a form of direct action.
There were frequent strikes in the 1970s. Trade union laws was changed by the Conservative
government in the 1980s to make it more difficult for workers to go out on strike, and since then
strikes have become much rarer. This supports the idea that pressure groups still have influence as
they do occasionally employ the same direct action and NSMs however as demonstrated above,
strikes are very rare in modern society.
Marxists point out that the influence of some pressure groups may be disproportionate because of
the nature of their membership. An example being that some groups recruit exclusively from the rich
and powerful sections of the community and so exercise more power and influence than other
groups. However this could support the idea that pressure groups haven't all declined and lost
importance, it's only some of them. Marxists also argue that powerful capitalist interests such as
finance capital and global corporations dominate political decision-making and therefore competition
between pressure groups. However it's easy to identify these groups but impossible to prove the
extent of their influence on decision making process so it can be argued that pressure groups haven't

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Marxists basically suggest that pressure group activity doesn't enhance democracy at
all and that pressure groups tend to not be democratic because members have little say in the day to
day running of them. This supports the idea that pressure groups have little importance in our political
system today.
New Right analysts claim that the existence of pressure groups threatens to destabilize democracy.…read more

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NSMs have had limited success so it's easy to exaggerate the importance and growth of NSMs which
then doesn't make them more or less influential than pressure groups.
Pluralists argue that pressure group activity is an essential feature of modern democracy as pressure
groups provide valuable input to government policy and provide expert opinion. Pressure groups
provide a vehicle for many views to be represented and pluralist say that pressure groups have
equal access to government.…read more



This is a great essay example which can be very useful to students who are still feeling not very confident with regards to structure. Thiis can be a great tool for a revision lesson too. This can be annotated to identify the things which are essential in order to gain a good grade with regards to the essay questions such as identifying key terminology, theorists and such like. Great job.



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