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Chapter 10

Week 10 Readings - Chapter 10.docx

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University of Guelph
Political Science
POLS 2300
Tamara Small

POLS 2300: Canadian Government and Politics Week 10: Interest Groups, Social Movements and Lobbyists – Chapter 10 Pluralist Theory - Interest Groups: Organizations that pursue the common interest of groups of people, particularly by trying to influence the marking and implementation of public policies - Pluralist Theory: The Theory that the freedom of individuals to establish and join groups that are not controlled by the government results in a variety of groups having ability to influence the decisions of government with no group having a dominant influence - Interest groups articulate the demands of various interests in society, allowing citizens to make their voices heard by joining an organized group that is able to influence government, each person may join or be represented by many groups - Pluralist theory also assumes that government will be influenced by pressure from various groups - Suggests that no one group or interest has a dominant influence over public policy as long as people are free to form and join groups, it is assumed that the differing interests in society will be able to shape public policy - Interest groups play a major role in creating a democratic political system in which power is widely dispersed Interest Groups - Types of Interest Groups o Self Interest Groups: Interest groups that are primarily concerned with selective benefits that are directed toward their members o They are interested in gaining selective benefits from government for their members, something not available to the public as a whole o The also advocate public policies that facilitate their exports and promote investment in their industry o Other groups are concerned with advancing the interests and gaining recognition for the identity of a particular sector to society o Public Interest Groups: groups that pursue goals that can be viewed as being good for the public good and do not benefit members of the group exclusively o Believe the policies will provide collective benefits for society, benefits to society as a whole o Industry groups are primarily concerned with selective benefits to members even though the policies the seek may provide some benefits to country as a whole o For equality seeking groups such as women’s groups and poor people’s groups it can be argued that they are focused on winning similar rights and benefits for their sector of society as are enjoyed by other members of society o Yet claims that the policies sought by any group, company, or individual are in the public interest are often controversial and need to be examined carefully to assess their validity o Many professional associations also devote considerable attention to activities such as the following:  Educating and informing their members  Arranging conferences for their members  Assessing the qualifications of those who seek accreditation to practice their profession  Determining whether members should be disciplined for violating the ethics and rules of their profession o Business associations may be involved in helping members find export markets, developing certification standards for products and working with community colleges to ensure potential workers are properly trained o Interest groups also vary in whether they seek to influence the policies adopted by governments on one particular issue or range of issues o On the other hand, try to influence government on issues that relate directly or indirectly to the interests of big business and labor unions - Why Do People Join Interest Groups? o Pluralist theory assumes that individuals join with like minded people to form groups to influence politics in order to advance their interests o Significant proportion of Canadians say that they are members of voluntary groups although organizations that are not primarily political attract larger number of members than those that are more likely to be formed to take up a political cause o Rational choice Theory: theory based on the assumption that individuals rationally pursue their own self interest o RCT used to explain why individuals would find it in their interest to join and be active in an interest group, works from the assumption that individuals rationally pursue their own self interest and maximize their own benefits o Free Rider: An individual who enjoys the benefits of group action without contributing o Olson’s analysis situations arise in which groups form and have the membership needed to pursue collective action:  1) Coercion may be used to ensure that those benefiting from group action act in their common interest, membership is compulsory, pay dues  2) Groups that represent the interests of small numbers of individuals will find it easier to form and maintain an active membership, individuals realize that if they do not support the group that aims to represent their interest, the group will fail and they will not gain the benefit they seek  3) The group may be able to provide some selective incentives to its members that are not available to non-members o Solidary Incentives: People may join an interest group for social reasons, such as the opportunities to attend meetings and interact with others o Purposive Incentives: incentives to join a group based on the satisfaction that is gained by expressing one’s values or promoting a cause in which one believes - Are All Sectors of Society Adequately Represented by Interest groups? o Interest groups have been formed to represent those elements fo society that have in the past been marginalized or excluded from politics o Interest groups need money and expertise to be effective o A Canadian Interest group may need to have provincial offices if it wants to affect the many policy areas in which provincial governments play a key role o On specific challenge to fundraising is that Canadian tax laws limit the ability of interest groups to raise funds o If a group wishes to have a charitable status so that it can give donors a deduction on their income tax, the group cannot spend more than 10% of its budget on political advocacy - Government Sponsorship and Support o State-centered Theory: state is largely independent of social forces and thus state actors are relatively free to act on their own values and interests, sees the state as trying to shape the political context in which it operates o This can include encouraging and supporting certain interest groups, selecting which interest groups to include in the policy-making process and using interest groups as a means to persuade the public of the merits of the policies government plants to adopt o Doesn’t assume that the state is a single minded actor, sees public policy as largely the outcome of interaction o Interest groups don’t have a large affect on public policy o Most Canadian government departments developed programs to fund interest groups related to their areas of policy-making either in the form of sustaining grants o Providing support for interest groups can be useful to government, they are a source of information and policy advice, a channel of communication o Government should not be funding “special interests” that may be demanding benefits that increase the costs of government and increase the role of government in the society and economy o Interest groups may be connected in various ways to government, may be involved in carrying out the agendas of government and may be used by one agency of government in its struggles with other agencies - Does Competition among Interest Groups Lead to Public Interest? o Pluralist theory views the activity of interest groups as resulting in policies that are in the public interest o Numerous interest groups reflect differing interests and perspectives their influence on policy makers will likely lead to compromises that take into account the views of those who are interested in particular policy area o Rational choice theorists argue that become small groups are better able to organize, small groups are able to exploit the public as a whole to gain benefits for themselves o Rational choice theorists generally assume that the competitive free market is ultimately in the public interest because its efficiency leads to the maximization of wealth o The political “marketplace” of competing interest groups is viewed as inefficient o Marxist theory views capitalist societies such as Canada, sharply divide into social classes based on conflicting positions in the process of production o Those who take this perspective note that there are often strong personal connections between members of the capitalist class and the political elite o In some contemporary versions of Marxism government is viewed as playing an active role in trying to ensure that the capitalist system maint
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