These organisations are here to protect and represent people’s specific interests to Government, in a sense, becoming the loudspeaker to individual concerns which they want addressed. They encourage debate, attention and action. Matei Sacerdoteanu questions whether these aims truly promote pluralism, the coexistence of different values, in our society.
By Matei Sacerdoteanu
|The existence of pressure groups leads to other voices being side-lined and silenced.
(Photo: SGS Politics)
When people hear the words “pressure group”, they think of a nice alternative to political parties that further promotes pluralism in our democracy with numerous organised groups all having some political leverage in the decisions making process of the country. It assumes there is a lack of elite groups who would otherwise dominate the political forum with their demands. Thus, pressure groups are viewed as an essential part of promoting a pluralist democracy.
How true is this really?
We can all say that all pressure groups are equal and thus promote pluralism. However, some pressure groups are favoured by the government, as they may be beneficial to that government when election time comes. Take ASH (Action on Smoking and Health) for example; they are an insider group and have much more influence than other groups like Forest, all because they create a voter friendly image for the government. This is one of the main places in which we can truly see pressure groups creating the opposite of a pluralist democracy and giving rise to elitism.
Also, some pressure groups, due to their economic status, actually have much more power than other, less wealthy ones. This is mainly because they can afford to advertise themselves a lot more and buy the support of the government; money always speaks loudest. Compare, for example, a group like the RSPCA, which is very influential with the financial position it holds and thus can inspire a lot more change than a less financially successful group like Fathers 4 Justice could. This is proof that pressure groups can lead to elitism and leave many smaller ones without a say in the matter.
Yes, I have placed some emphasis on the negatives, because most people simply don’t consider them. Nonetheless, there are indeed ways that pressure groups do promote a pluralist democracy. They aren’t all bad and I personally support quite a few pressure groups, with which I have highly agreed.
|Pressure groups give the
public a say on issues that
matter to them.
(Photo: Brand Culture)
Finally pressure groups provide the public one very important thing that most pluralist democracies would simply not exist without: choice. Pressure groups widen public access to power and decision making, giving citizens another option instead of having to go and join a political party to make their voice heard. For example, if people don’t agree with how any of the political parties handle the environment, they can go and join Greenpeace, which will give them another avenue of making their democratic ideals heard, creating a very pluralist democracy and giving us all an open political forum for our country.
However, one question does remain; how influential are pressure groups on our government really?
This is actually, also a symbol of elitism in pressure groups. Certain pressure groups which enhance the image of the government or just represent individuals important to the government can easily get a more powerful voice in how the country should change.
Last but not least, there are also other conditions. The party in power directly affects which pressure groups have influence. Back when Margaret Thatcher was PM, the government weakened unions (which also class as pressure groups) to the point of leaving them absolutely powerless.