Pressure groups

Pressure groups
Lecture 1
What do we mean by a p/group?
 ‘The
field of organized groups
possessing both formal structure and
real common interests in so far as
they influence the decisions of public
bodies’ (W J M Mackenzie)
 Social movements may not have a
formal structure and are usually
united by ideas not interests
Differ from parties
 Party
wants to win control of
government or at least a share of
office to implement policies
 Parties are broad coalitions that have
to aggregate interests, groups oftens
single issue
 Parties run candidates in elections,
but note ‘interest parties’
Social movements approach (1)
 Literature
in sociology
 Represent people with an outsider
 Seek to change elements in the
existing power structure
 Often use direct action methods
 Opposed to conventional power
Social movements approach (2)
 Do
not want to influence state, want
to act in civil society
 Loosely defined organisational
 Either lack clearly defined leadership
or have charismatic leader
 Often left of centre, lifestyle politics,
but note petrol protests
Changing terminology
search for ‘hurrah words’ to
describe pressure or interest groups
 Stakeholders – used by government
and EU
 Non-governmental organisations
(originated with UN)
 Campaigning groups
 Advocacy groups
What’s in a name?
 We
don’t want to restrict your choice
of group
 You can study international
 You can study direct action groups
 Key consideration is feasibility – is
there enough material
 Step 1: check out web site
Web site design (1)
 Does
it download reasonably quickly?
 Is the site design coherent?
 Is it uncluttered?
 Is the meaning of categories clear
 Can you fond what you want quickly
and easily?
 How would the site appear to
someone wanting to get involved?
Web site design (2)
 Can
you join on line or download a
membership form?
 Can you find out how to get involved
in campaigns?
 Are illustrations relevant and
 Podcasts or videos?
 Has it been updated recently
PGs and democracy – in favour
 Additional
route for political
 Allow diversity of views to be
expressed in way that is more fine
grained than parties – more
important as society becomes more
 Allow intensity of opinions to be
PGs and democracy – in favour (2)
 Provide
information to government
about public concerns
 Provide expertise not easily available
to government or only at
disproportionate cost
 Consistent with basic democratic
norm of freedom of association
PGs and democracy - against
 Who
do they represent? Often lack
internal democracy
 Membership often passive, join for
selective benefits
 Fragment political process, only
interested in own demands
 Over represent education and
affluent, increase political exclusion
How can we categorise pressure
 Insider/outsider
groups cuts across
traditional sectional/cause distinction
arguing that was helpful but
 Insider groups recognised as
legitimate by government
 But had to abide by rules of the
political game which imposed
Outsider groups
more disparate category
 Include ‘would be’ insider groups,
outsider groups by necessity
 Ideological or protest groups who do
not want to be drawn into embrace
of government
 Implication of typology that insider
groups more likely to succeed – but
not always
Aberdeen Group modify typology
 Core
insiders dealing with a broad
range of issues
 Specialist insiders in policy niches
 Peripheral insiders, little influence
Criticisms of typolgy
 One
can pursue both strategies
simultaneously – Greenpeace
 But does set up tensions within a
group, Greenpeace very hierarchical
and can control of them
 In some areas now insider and
outsider groups – National Farmers
Union and Farmers for Action
Easy to become an insider
 Insider
groups number outsiders by
 Not that hard to be placed on a
consultation list. Blair Govt. has
consultation code
 Internet lowers costs of formation,
mobilisation and involvement
 Being involved in consultation is not
same as real access to policy makers
Most important criticism
 Nature
of politics has changed,
leading to changes in nature of
pressure group activity
 Outsider groups becoming more
successful, hence undermining one of
key points of distinction
Growth of direct action
 Growing
dissatisfaction with results
of conventional politics
 More fragmented society makes
identity politics more important
 Technology aids mobilisation:
internet and mobile phone
 Imitation effects
Recent literature (1)
 Baggott,
Speaking for Patients and
Carers 2005
 Depts. becoming more accessible
 Using restrained language still
important – no emotion
 Dept. of Health disliked
confrontational groups
 One group excluded for causing
Recent literature (2)
 Ministers
worked more closely with
groups that shared aims
 Groups that had insider status more
likely to report example of influence
 Not hard to gain insider status, but
core status crucial
 Govt. able to manipulate and control
groups, offer small concessions in
return for compliance
Recent literature (3)
 Anne
Binderkrantz, ‘Interest Group
Strategies’, Political Studies, Decemb
2005, 53 (4), 694-715
 Uses Danish evidence and multiple
regression to distinguish four types
of strategy
 Groups utilise a wide repertoire of
tactics and strategies