Womens rights activists holding protest signs and marching. Womens rights activists holding protest signs and marching.

What do Experts Point out as a Flaw in Pluralism Theory?

Let us first understand what pluralism is and if we even go down to the word’s anatomy it means plural, that is more than one.

In the political system, pluralism theory implies that democratic powers should not be contained by one person or one group. Instead, there should be a dispersion of power among various groups who are holding strongly to different features of democracy.

So, there can be pressure groups for economic considerations, some for ideologies, and others for different political actions.

I’ll Tell You About Pluralism Theory in Detail

A philosophical and political understanding that brings together people of different backgrounds, beliefs, and lifestyles so that they can live together peacefully in a society and equally participate in the political proceedings.

Their idea is that this coexistence will help in making better decisions and eventually a common good for the whole society.

Minority groups are also given importance and even protection by the legislation. It overall supports both the cultural and religious sentiments of all people.

This can be explained by an example of the United States where the labor laws help workers and employees and their needs are addressed in a uniform manner. When the environmentalists need any assistance they approach ahead and form laws or rules for air pollution and other similar issues. Similarly, all segments of the society are taken into the bigger picture.

The Pluralist Commonwealth

It is believed that this decentralization of power is very helpful for the smooth working of democracy and it is beneficial to society overall so that different sectors can be looked upon nicely, without compromising on any part as such. The autonomy of functioning helps different groups, trade unions, and even minorities.

So, when we see the characteristics of pluralism, it is basically a democracy that is run by small groups, these groups are organized in a very systematic manner and some are even funded.

The influential power of these differs since not all of them can have the same amount of influence. This in turn also changes the scope of their power. The most attractive feature is that they cater to narrow dimensions and each group focuses on one characteristic, rather than bringing universal nature with itself, like defense, agriculture, or banking.

Policy Advocate and Political Strategist Na’ilah Amaru discussed several aspects of pluralism theory in an interview with the Icy Whiz team. Here is what she said:

Na’ilah Amaru
Na’ilah Amaru

“Several key challenges arise that impact effective coordination and decision-making among groups.

First, while pluralism theory suggests that power is distributed among various groups, in reality, some groups possess more power and influence than others.

These power imbalances skew decision-making in favor of dominant groups, marginalizing the voices and interests of less powerful groups. Overcoming these imbalances requires mechanisms to ensure fair representation and participation.

Also, modern political systems grapple with identity politics, where individuals and groups mobilize around their identities based on various factors such as race, ethnicity, religion, gender, or sexual orientation.

While pluralism encourages the representation of diverse identities, identity politics can lead to polarization and exclusionary tendencies, undermining the inclusive spirit of pluralism.

Balancing the need for representation with the risk of identity-based division is a key challenge.

Finally, unequal access to resources such as financial capital, information, or expertise creates disparities in the ability of groups to participate effectively in decision-making processes.

Addressing resource disparities may involve providing support and assistance to marginalized groups to ensure their voices are heard and considered.

As to insight into the complexity of implementing pluralism and maintaining its efficacy in modern political systems, there are several points to consider.

First, in an ever-increasingly globalized world, political systems are interconnected, with events and decisions in one part of the world potentially impacting others.

Pluralistic governance must navigate these interconnected dynamics, considering not only domestic interests but also global implications. This requires a nuanced understanding of how different groups are affected by global trends.

Also, issues such as climate change and resource scarcity have profound implications for pluralistic governance. These challenges require collective action and cooperation among diverse groups, transcending traditional political boundaries and interests.

Effectively addressing environmental challenges within a pluralistic framework requires recognizing the interconnectedness of environmental, social, and economic issues and finding solutions that balance competing interests while safeguarding the planet for future generations to come.”

So, Who are these Small Groups?

The groups are autonomous implying they are politically independent. They have their own rights and operate in the manner that they like in a marketplace.

Now since these groups are basically part of the big umbrella of democracy, the intergroup competition will actually help with no group being too influential over the other.

This creates a good working environment that is balanced in a state of equilibrium, although members can be repetitive, it does not adversely affect the working because these members actually reduce the number of conflicts.

The system is very open, it supports openness in all aspects. The groups are never shut down from the outside and they keep on adding new members from different spheres of life. Since the availability of resources is limited there is a perpetual urge to form new groups, and this need is fulfilled periodically. Society is judged by equality rather than political opportunity. The citizens actually have a comparatively equal chance to participate in government work.

The people can also exert influence during the process of choosing leader. So now, even though these people do not directly govern they have an outlet to put their views forward.

Let’s Look at the Flaws in Pluralism Theory

It is believed by many that the theory as a whole is basically a large contradiction. Now it states that you do include more people in decision making but also the fact that the ordinary citizens governing it are less than the functioning is better.

The system does not rely on autocratic rule nor does it rely on totalitarian rule, so the leaders do not possess the ultimate power or decision authority. The decision-making is done by different groups which are formed by members from all parts of the society.

If we look at the bigger picture then we will actually observe that the number of these so-called small groups is huge. They have various categories like state level, local, or even national but not even one of them can totally supersede another.

So, the large number of citizens that they are representing is not really under their control. They have an indirect voice, and public opinion is also paid attention to in an indirect manner. Even when we consider limited resources then we have to consider the possibility of one group exploiting more than the other thus creating slack in the system.

We interviewed Andrew Pickett, the Founder and Lead Trial Attorney at Andrew Pickett Law, and talked about navigating pluralism challenges in politics. Here is what he had to say:

Andrew Pickett
Andrew Pickett

“In the landscape of pluralism, coordination, and decision-making stand as pivotal challenges. The crux lies in the balance between valuing diverse perspectives and reaching an actionable consensus.

In my observations, the most significant hurdle is ensuring that various stakeholders not only have a voice but that their viewpoints translate into effective policymaking.

This requires a nuanced approach to governance that fosters open dialogue and compromise, mechanisms often underutilized in our current political systems.

From my work in legal contexts, I’ve seen the potential for legal frameworks to serve as mediators in pluralistic debates, offering a structured approach to negotiating differences.

The efficacy of pluralism hinges on our ability to cultivate these dialogues while maintaining a commitment to democratic values and responsive governance.

From a legal perspective, pluralism theory poses a complex challenge in balancing the rights and interests of diverse groups. As an attorney, I’ve witnessed how our legal system is transforming to accommodate the changing dynamics of pluralistic societies.

This includes recognizing and protecting minority rights while also promoting inclusivity and representation in decision-making processes.”

Is Implementing Pluralism Difficult?

Implementation of pluralism is such a difficulty that it actually becomes a flaw. This process requires a lot of coordination between different groups because of the decentralization of power.

When the coordination is not done in an optimal manner then the entire working efficiency is reduced and the effectiveness of pluralism decreases.

Since the number of groups is large the time required for making any decision or a policy is also very large. Because there are a lot of factors that have to be considered and complexity therefore increases.

The overall problem that occurs is sometimes the political system does not function correctly, the groups can dominate or influence the working. They develop strategies and tricks to outvote their counterparts by creating extreme political pressure.

Sharing his views on pluralism in a democratic setup, Matt Little, Director/Entrepreneur at Festoon House, presented some remarkable insights. Here is what he said in an interview with the Icy Whiz team:

Matt Little - Featured
Matt Little

“When we talk about diverse groups holding power in a democratic setup, it’s a bit like juggling different balls; you’ve got to keep them all in the air to make it work.

But let’s be real, it’s not always smooth sailing. Challenges abound when it comes to ensuring effective coordination and decision-making among these varied groups.

First off, let’s talk about the sheer cacophony of voices. With pluralism, you’ve got a plethora of groups, each with its agenda, priorities, and methods of operation. It’s like being in a crowded room where everyone’s shouting their opinions at the same time.

So, coordinating all these diverse interests into cohesive policies can feel a bit like herding cats. You’re trying to find common ground among groups that might have vastly different values and visions for society.

Then there’s the issue of power dynamics. Sure, in theory, pluralism promotes equal participation and representation. But in practice, some groups inevitably wield more influence than others.

It’s like that saying, ‘All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.’ So, ensuring that decision-making processes aren’t hijacked by the loudest voices or the most powerful players becomes a delicate balancing act.

Another major hurdle is the risk of gridlock. Picture this: you’ve got all these groups with competing interests pulling in different directions. Now, throw in bureaucracy, legislative processes, and partisan politics, and you’ve got a recipe for stalemate.

It’s like trying to drive a car with one foot on the gas and the other on the brake. Progress becomes sluggish, if not downright impossible when consensus is elusive and compromise is scarce.

But perhaps the biggest challenge of all is maintaining legitimacy and accountability. In a pluralistic system, it’s vital that all groups feel heard and represented. When certain voices are consistently sidelined or ignored, it can breed resentment and erode trust in the political process.

And without that trust, the whole system starts to unravel. So, ensuring that decision-making is transparent, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of all stakeholders is essential for the long-term viability of pluralism.”

What really needs to be done is that the individual citizens have to be vested with power, they have to be given the choice of making decisions.

Once they become accountable they will become more responsible and they will choose accordingly.

People should be involved as the first person in the process and policymaking should incorporate them so that there is more focus on the development of the whole country as a whole rather than personal development.

Guest Author: Saket Kumar

Last Updated on May 17, 2024 by Pragya


Anushree Khandelwal
  1. Pluralism is such a sensitive issue, and this article covers its multifaceted aspects very coherently. As the author mentions, implementing pluralism in real time is so difficult which becomes its major flaw. In terms of limited policy formulation and implementation, multiple interest groups may be consulted. The article expands on such flaws of pluralism in matters of wider and lasting implications such as international policies.

  2. I’ve always been a supporter of pluralism, but this article brings up some thought-provoking flaws. It’s crucial to question and refine our theories for a more comprehensive understanding.

  3. This concept carries such great insights. Its various meanings like in politics, was truly eye-opening. It’s principle of promoting coexistence and ultimately achieving the common good is something I found truly intriguing. Bringing individuals from diverse backgrounds to peacefully coexist is also incredibly fascinating, and sheds light on a dimension I was previously unaware of.

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