Comparative Politics Today Notes Chapter 4:
Interest Articulation: the process for which people and social groups can express their needs
and demands to their government in almost every political system.
• One aspect of interest articulation involves what you might do as an individual citizen.
One can address their mayor, or talk amongst themselves for the betterment of a
community, all of which are policy-focused and exert direct pressure on decision-makers.
• Some interest articulation involves direct contact with the government, such as writing a
letter to an elected official or to a government bureaucracy. This is common across all
political systems, even the authoritarian ones.
• Protest: a contentious act where a person or group expresses their objection to
something. These tend to be high-pressure activities that can both mobilize the public and
directly pressure elites; these activities can be very focused in their policy content.
• Political consumerism, buying or boycotting an item for political reasons, is another form
of active participation, at least here in the West.
How Citizens Participate:
• Citizen participation varies depending on the type of activity and political system
• The most popular form of citizen participation is through elections
• Public efforts to express political interest and influence public policy extend beyond
elections. Grassroots politics – people working together to address a common problem –
is a very direct method for conveying political interest and attempting to influence policy
• The most expressive and visible form of citizen action involves contentious actions, such
as signing a petition, joining a boycott, or participating in protests. The majority of the public in Western democracies has said they’ve signed a petition, and a sixth of Western
publics say they have been in a protest. Both are popular forms in the West.
• In some parts of the world (France), protests have become part of the tradition in politics.
• Citizen participation reflects the way that people use the opportunities existing within a
political system. Most people in a democracy participate in them.
• Cross-national research shows that better educated and higher-social-status individuals
are more likely to use the various opportunities for participation. They have a stronger
sense of civic duty, and have more resources and skills involving politics.
• In nations with working class parties and labor unions, organizational networks
encourage the participation of less affluent citizens.
• For citizens to influence government policy, they first need to articulate their interests to
the government. Therefore, the different forms of interest articulation vary with their
policy content and political pressure.
• Overall: those who are more active in articulating their interests have a better chance of
their interests being addressed by policymakers.
• Interest articulation can also occur through the actions of groups that represent people
• Anomic Groups: groups that suddenly form when many working-class individuals in the
same neighborhood react to an event that stimulates strong emotions. They may suddenly
take to the streets, sometimes violently, but not always.
• Some political systems, including both developed and developing nations, report a rather
high frequency of violent and spontaneous anomic behavior. • Sometimes, anomic groups are a subset of individuals drawn from a larger social
grouping, such as a racial or ethnic group.
• Try to not call a group anomic when it was actually constructed with detailed planning
• Nonassociational Groups: the working class as a collective. These are rarely well
organized, and their activity is episodic. They differ from anomic groups; they are based
on common interests/identities of ethnicity, region, religion, occupation, etc.
• Two kinds of nonassociational groups are of interest: one is a large group that is not
formally organized, although its members may perceive common interests. Many ethnic,
regional, and occupational groups fit in this category. The members share a common
interest or need, but there is no formal group to represent their interests.
• Collective Action Problem: when members share a common problem, but none of them
will undertake the effort to organize other members because the individual costs
outweigh the individual benefits. Even when there are benefits, they’re shared with
everyone, even those who didn’t work (the “free riders).
• A second type of nonassociational group is the small community economic group or
ethnic subgroup whose members know each other personally. Since they all know each
other or their goal is unpopular, their group will be informal
• Institutional Groups: the labor dept. within the government. Formal organizations that
have other political or social functions in addition to interest articulation. The influence
of these groups is usually drawn from the strength of their primary organizational base. A
group based on a governmental institution has direct access to policymakers. • In industrial democracies, bureaucratic and corporate interests use their resources and
special information to affect policy. The government bureaucracies don’t always have to
react to political pressures form the outside, but can be an independent for of interest
• Nonpolitical institutional groups can also participate in the political process
• In authoritarian regimes, institutional groups can still play a major role
• Associational Groups: a labor union. Formed explicitly to represent the interests of a
particular group, such as trade unions, chambers of commerce, manufacturers’
associations, and ethnic associations. They are active in representing the interest of their
group, and have procedures for formulating interests and demands, usually with a full-
• Associational groups affect the development of other types of groups because they have
an organizational base of a nonassociational group, and their goals are recognized
• A special subset of associational groups consists of citizens who are united not by a
common economic or individual self-interest but by a common belief in a political
ideology or a policy goal. i.e., women’s rights, the environmental movement, etc.
• The nature of a group can reflect the kinds of resources they have
• Civil Society: a society in which people are involved in social and political interactions
free of state control or regulation. i.e., community groups, volunteer groups, etc. Working
in a civil society can show you the importance of teamwork and of the political process
• As political and economic conditions become interdependent across nations, there is also increasing attention directed toward the development of a global civil society. People
reaching out for each other in other nations with the same common interests. This is
another sign of how the international context of domestic politics is growing worldwide
• The problem for recovering nations is building groups where they were once suppressed
• The relationship between interest groups and government policymaking institutions is
another important feature of the political process.
Pluralist Interest-Group Systems:
• Pluralist interest-group systems: these have several