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Department
Sociology
Course
SOC260H1
Professor
Greg Bird
Semester
Fall

Description
SOC260 Lecture 7 November 3 Elite Theory vs Pluralism debate straddles line between substantive and formal democracyPluralism y within the rank of substantive democrats there is a liberal strain which usually subscribes to pluralism y Pluralists believe that modern democracies are supposed to be composed of competing interest groups y Ex two political parties or ideologies competing for power unions vs Employers y All the groups lobby the government in order for the government to write rules regulations and laws in their own interest y The government has a responsibility to mediate the conflict between interest groups It is its role to ensure that no single interest group or a group of interest groups in society has too much power No group should be allowed to dominate the political scene y Argue that in order for a democracy to be healthy the government has to be neutral It is supposed to be relatively autonomous from economics and special interest groups who could be operating in civil society or economic society Government has to ensure that policies reflect diverse interests Government is supposed to be a third party that keeps the peace and protects the stability of the country y Pluralists often point to checks and balances in moderndemocracies that ensure that no group dominates They include neutral government civil rights freedom of speech freedom of association y Having multiple political parties is important for pluralism y It is important for modern governments to have a division of powers legislative executive juridicial and responsibilities If the three have different roles and they dont overlap too much then you might be able to have a more plural society y Most importantly set of laws and regulations that deal with conflict Conflict has to be civil Ruels and regulations around strikes and protests etc y Government acts as a neutralizer and a third party that is disinterested from all conflicts y This is idealistic and most people point out that there is no society like this Early pluralists would argue that it used to exist y Dahl American liberal who argued that pluralism and the commitment to it was the backbone of American politicsNeopluralists argue that that was an unrealistic vision of society and no government is that neutral Poulantzas said the state was relatively autonomous from the economyElite Theory y argue that pluralists are naive y Modern democracies are marked by a close alliance between economic and political elitesy There is no distinction between economic and political interests Elites shift back and forth between the two groups and write rules and regulations y Two strains of elite theory y a political realism formal democracy justify formal democracy y Michels is a classical thinker in political realism y Schumpeter represents a more modern take on realism y Often realism comes from a rightwing conservative position y Distance between political class and peopl is justifiable They argue that the average person is unfit to govern or be a real democratic citizen They need leaders and people to make decisions on their behalf y Want to make sure system has more compromise to make it more stable Peopel have to just accept their roles People are followers and they should accept thatthere are going to be leaders and followers People have to be passive and stop thinking about substantive democracy Leaders have to teach people that they have to be passive Average human is irrational y b substantive democrats critical of elites but also of pluralism because it is naive y They are liberal and more leftwing y Both a and b see that modern democracies are marked by a growing distance between the people and the political class y Take the opposite position of a y They agree with realists on one key point they also say that modern democracies are marked by a division between elites and people They would also agree that the average citizen is unfit to play an active role in politics However they dont blame the people for this They blame the system The system creates people who are unfit for politics There are various structures in society that exclude people and make them passive People are not naturally passive followers People are politically disenfranchised y Most of these argue that there is real socioeconomic inequalities in place that divide the elites from the average person It is the formal elements political class emphasis on who is in power bureaucracy specialization representative system political parties etc that create the disconnection between themselves and the substantive elements the people Joseph Schumpeter Democracy and Elitism y General Position A lot of his ideas overlap with ADT Weber and Michels He put forth an obscure vision of democracy which is barely democratic He is dismissive of substantive democracy and promotes formal democracy He is wearysuspicious and critical of the notion of action citizenship Argues that at the verybest the average person should only be able to elect leaders y For him democracy is less a practice and more a political method democracy is merely an instrument for arriving at political decisions It is a way at arriving at decisions that gives certain individuals power to make decisions These individuals have to struggle for the average persons vote All democracy is is elections y Behind the scenes democracy is a struggle between different leaders who compete for votes y For the rest of us who are outside the political system the only democratic thing we do is vote By choosing a leader we authorize them to do whatever they want and act on our behalf We dont actively participate in politics and he doesnt want us to Our role as citizens is to produce a government who represents them and makes decisions on their behalf y The only check and balance on government is that every 4 years if you dont like the government you can vote for a new one y By still having elections governments are prevented from being too authoritarian or too distanced from the people It is the ability to change government that provides a check against tyranny Critique of Substantive Democracy Unrealistic y SD active citizens who make political decisions y FD voters who elect representatives y modern societies are becoming increasingly more democratic Politics are becoming more centralized and increasingly a small group of experts within the bureaucracies are making the decisions
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