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
 Some group activity directed at private
bodies, but still relatively limited
 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 often
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
organisations or from country other
than UK – but need understanding
 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 find 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?
Balance of question
 Approximate
division between two
parts of question is one third/two
 Assessment of group effectiveness is
core of second part of question
 You will be given credit for examining
methodological problems of
assessing effectiveness
PGs and democracy – in favour
 Additional
route for political
participation, allowing citizens to
develop political skills
 Increasing sense of involvement in
politics and responsiveness of
process, reducing alienation
 May counter political exclusion at a
time when more conventional forms
of participation are declining
PGs and Democracy – in favour (2)
 Allow
diversity of opinions to be
expressed which is important as
society becomes more diverse –
more ‘fine grained’ views than those
of political parties
 Allow the intensity of opinions to be
expressed so that democracy is more
than a ‘head counting’ exercise
PGs and democracy – in favour (3)
 Provide
information to government
about public concerns – conduit of
 Provide expertise not easily available
to government or only at
disproportionate cost, leading to
better decision-making
 Consistent with basic democratic
norm of freedom of association
PGs and democracy – against (1)
 Extent
of participation is often very
limited in both quantity and quality
 Involvement may just be financial
 May be motivated by selective
 Membership often very passive
 No greater engagement with civil
PGs and democracy – against (2)
 Groups
often lack internal
democracy, very hierarchical, run
almost as businesses
 Hence opportunities for participation
may be limited
 Over represent educated and
affluent, hence increase rather than
decrease political exclusion
PGs and democracy – against (3)
 May
be fronts for business activities,
a lack of transparency
 Patient groups are coy about how
much money they receive from
pharmaceutical companies, but at
least half do
 Lobbying for (expensive) drugs sold
by companies to treat particular
PGs and democracy – against (4)
 Fragment
the political process,
especially ‘single issue’ groups
 Arouse expectations that cannot be
met, fuelling cynicism
 Do not aggregate demands – do not
have choose between priorities or
consider opportunity costs of policies
Summary of concerns
 Using
language of Gerry Stoker
 Participatory failure – not engaging
many citizens effectively
 Reinforcement of (social) bias
 Undermining effective governance by
increasing polarisation
 See book chapter on website for
elaboration of these arguments
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 typology
 One
can pursue both strategies
simultaneously – Greenpeace
 But does set up tensions within a
group, Greenpeace very hierarchical
and hence can control 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