Power and Politics - Asses the Pluralist view of the distribution of power (33 Marks)

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Gareth Collins

Sociology - Topical questions.

Power and Politics

Item A

Pluralists believe that the certainty that an election must come, means that a governing party must always conduct itself in a way that will ultimately appeal to the majority of the electorate. There is evidence that widespread retrospective voting does occur. In other words, many voters do in fact remember major features in the overall performance of an administration, and this acts as a check upon it. When the election comes, the government knows that, to win, it must have the backing of a ‘majority of minorities’. Thus, no single group can dominate the political process, since neither can win the election without securing a broad base of support from many different groups. 

Using material from Item A and elsewhere, assess the pluralist view of the distribution of power. (33 Marks) 

Pluralism is the idea that power is diffused throughout society. It’s the idea that power is held by many groups whom in turn vie for success on different issues. They believe that power fluctuates, and that power operates under a “variable sum” model, in which, the amount of power in society is determined by the amount of people who believe it is legitimate, and accept it. Dahl is an example of such a Pluralist, whom conducted an empirical (meaning using first hand sources) study into decision making in power in the US. He used many methods to attempt to measure power, including looking at changes in socio-economic backgrounds of those in higher positions. He looked at measuring the nature and extent of the participation of particular socio-economic groups. He looked at determining the influence particular individuals had on the process of decision making. As well as taking random samples from community based activists and voters, and finally, analysed the changes in voting behaviour. 

He found in his research, that power in modern societies is diffused and distributed among a range of community elites who represent interest groups in unique areas. No single group exerts dominance.

He found each group exercises countervailing power - meaning that each group serves as a check on the others, preventing a monopoly of power, this I tend to disagree with - as the foundation of modern British politics, is that a dominant party will have control of the government, albeit for a term of approximately 5 years. However that being said, this study was conducted in America. 

Another development uncovered was that power tended to be situational, meaning if one group does dominate in one area of policy, it most likely won’t in another. This is shown in interest groups excelling in their specific interest. The RAC or AA wouldn’t potentially have much ability to influence Agricultural policy, but would have a lot of input into a bypass or fuel economy policy, for example. Finally, he found that elites within the groups tend to be accountable because they rely on popular support - and this is reflected heavily in the Item. The parties…


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