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Interest Groups Lecture Or, Rather: Collective Action and Interest Groups Lecture


The Logic of Pluralism: ... Interest Groups and Pluralism (3). Before Olson: ... This classical pluralism both described and celebrated lobbying in a democracy. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Interest Groups Lecture Or, Rather: Collective Action and Interest Groups Lecture

Interest Groups Lecture(Or, Rather Collective
Action and Interest Groups Lecture)
  • Prof David Rueda
  • Department of Politics and International
  • and
  • Merton College

  • The main theme
  • The Logic of Collective Action as the main
    theoretical framework which we will apply to
    interest groups, corporatism and policy networks.
  • Lecture available on my website
  • Go to my website (http//
    ) and then teaching, Oxford, etc.
  • Or go to Politics Department website, staff, etc.
  • There are some additional references at the end
    of the lecture notes.
  • Feel free to interrupt and ask.

  • Collective Action
  • Collective Action The Free Rider Problem.
  • Collective Action Problems of the Free Rider
  • Interest Groups
  • Collective Action, Interest Groups and Pluralism.
  • Problems of Interest Groups.
  • Corporatism
  • Collective Action and Corporatism.
  • Corporatism in Practice Small States in World
  • Problems of Corporatism.
  • Policy Networks.
  • Collective Action and Policy Networks.
  • Problems of Policy Networks.
  • References.

Interest Groups and Collective Action Why Do
They Matter?
  • Interest Groups have been studies extensively in
    political science
  • Some have argued that they are essential for
  • Some have argues that interest groups are not
    good for democracy.
  • How do we figure out who is right?
  • We will use a theoretical approach to collective
    action to make sense of interest groups and their

Collective Action The Free Rider Problem (1).
  • Olsons The Logic of Collective Action and Rise
    and Decline of Nations.
  • Collective action and collective goods.
  • Collective action the action needed from the
    group to obtain the collective good.
  • Collective good a good that, if provided to one
    member of the group, cannot be withheld from any
    other member of the group.
  • Pre-Olson conception
  • If an outcome benefits everyone in a group then
  • The free-rider problem
  • Collective good and rational behavior.
  • If the collective good cannot be withheld from
    any member of the group, rational individuals
    have a motivation to free ride on the actions of
  • Example Group (classroom), Collective action
    (demonstration), Collective good (lower fees for
  • Outcome?

Collective Action The Free Rider Problem (2).
  • The problem before Olson why doesnt collective
    action happen more often?
  • The problem after Olson why does collective
    action happen at all?
  • Are there factors that make collective action
    more likely?
  • Selective incentives (negative and positive).
  • Example of positive selective incentive
    National Retired Teachers Association (NRTA) and
    the American Association of Retired Persons
    (AARP) in the US.
  • Membership rose from 750,000 in 1965 to 13
    million in 1979.
  • The secret of this phenomenal growth, however,
    was not the attractiveness of the policies being
    advocated by the group rather it was the special
    medical insurance policies available to older
    persons through membership, the tours and
    vacations conducted by the groups with the
    special needs of the elderly in mind (Walker,
    1983 396).

Collective Action The Free Rider Problem (3).
  • Social selective incentive like-mindedness,
    homogeneity (group heterogeneity would therefore
    exacerbate the free-rider problem), etc.
  • Without selective incentives, group size
    compounds the free-rider problem less
    membersgreater individual pay-off, less
    memberseasier supervision.

Collective Action The Problems of the Free
Rider Problem.
  • Weaknesses in Olsons argument?
  • Selective incentives cannot solve the free rider
    problem. Why?
  • Selective incentives are themselves a collective
    action problem.
  • Accepting the diversity of selective incentives.
  • They can be material (mostly in Olson).
  • But also solidary (emerging from social
    interaction praise, respect, friendship, shame,
  • Or purposive (emerging from internalized norms
    self-esteem, doing the right thing, etc).
  • Are these problems for Olson?
  • Other problems?
  • See Oliver (1993) and McLean (2000).

Collective Action, Interest Groups and Pluralism
  • What is an interest group
  • A group of organized individuals seeking to
    influence public policy, usually though not
    exclusively by attempting to influence government
  • These groups vary considerably in every
    imaginable way - in age, size, sophistication,
    resources, tactics, policy focus, geographic
    focus, and ideological orientation.
  • Some groups focus on only a single issue, while
    others focus on broader areas of public policy.
  • Some groups are born and disappear over the
    period of a single election, while others have a
    long tradition of influencing elections and
    public policy choices.
  • Some choose to focus not only on government, but
    on persuading the public or other non-
    governmental organizations to support their
  • Examples?

Collective Action, Interest Groups and Pluralism
  • Pluralism
  • Competing interests balance each other by
    bringing resources and arguments to bear on
    different sides of important public policy
  • Groups compete on a more or less level playing
    field created by national constitutions as well
    as by laws. As a result, multiple competing
    interests are believed to create a stable
    political environment that allows those interests
    to be represented before the government.
  • The Logic of Pluralism
  • Individuals form groups and these groups are the
    principal actors in "democratic" politics.
  • Groups will accurately represent the beliefs and
    preferences of group members.
  • All interests form groups and are politically
  • All interest groups compete for influence on
  • All interest groups provide information (at a
    level where they are more efficient than
  • The government promotes equal access to the
    decision-making process, and reflects the
    equilibrium reached by the groups.

Collective Action, Interest Groups and Pluralism
  • Before Olson
  • Political scientists had assumed that the
    interplay of pressure groups was the essence of
    democracy. Some got their way, others did not.
    Well, that showed that the first had more members
    than the second, or members who cared more
    deeply, or both. So it was right and proper that
    they should get their way. This classical
    pluralism both described and celebrated lobbying
    in a democracy. (McLean 2000 653)

Problems of Interest Groups (1).
  • In practice interest groups do not enjoy uniform
    capabilities or effectiveness, despite having
    equal rights to attempt to influence government.
  • E. E. Schattsneider the problem with the
    interest group chorus was that it sang with an
    upper-class accent.
  • More importantly
  • For Olson, not all groups accomplish collective
  • Some lobbies (such as the poor or consumers) are
    dispersed. Others (such as producers) are
    concentrated (McLean 2000 654).
  • What groups would be less likely to organize?

Problems of Interest Groups (2).
  • For Olson, will the result of interest group
    actions be optimal/good for a democracy?
  • There is no basis for expecting countervailing
    powers to develop, indeed quite the contrary
    successful groups will strengthen over time,
    while under-mobilised groups will remain latent
    (Dunleavy, 1991 36).
  • For Olson, do interest groups provide
  • Interest groups are not likely to provide
    reliable information and governments use the
    information that its most useful to them. This
    discretionary ability explains why many Western
    European social democratic governments accord
    primary influence to trade unions, while
    right-wing governments exclude the unions from
    influence and defer instead to business
    organisations (Dunleavy, 1991 36).

Collective Action and Corporatism (1).
  • What is corporatism?
  • A particular interest group structure,
    characterized by monopolistic, centralized
    associations, and a particular policy-making
    process, also known as 'concertation' or 'social
  • What groups? Unions, employers, the state.
  • Groups are encompassing.
  • Tripartism.
  • Why Corporatism?
  • Very important interest groups. The organization
    of labor and employers and its relationship to
    the state influences politics, policy, economic
    outcomes, etc.

Collective Action and Corporatism (2).
  • How can bargaining among organized groups result
    in efficient out comes?
  • Implication of Olsons argument large groups
    should not obtain collective goods (low
    inflation, low unemployment, etc).
  • Example Unions as the actors, low inflation as
    the collective good and high wage demands as free
  • Is Corporatism a Solution?
  • The incentives facing an encompassing special
    interest organization are dramatically different
    from those facing an organization that represents
    only a narrow segment of society (Logic of
    Collective Action 48).
  • The members of an encompassing organization own
    so much of the society, that they will be ready
    to make sacrifices for a collective good.
    Distributive outcomes that benefit the group but
    harm the whole society will be less likely to be
    promoted. Example enterprise unions vs.
    industry unions.

Corporatism in Practice Small States in World
Markets (1).
  • How does corporatism come about?
  • Katzensteins Small States in World Markets.
  • The small corporatist states Sweden, Norway,
    Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria and
  • Corporatist states not big enough and too
    dependent on trade to be statist (Japan), and too
    dependent on trade to be immune to international
    crisis (like the US).
  • The solution adaptation to change by promoting
    compensation for losers.
  • Democratic corporatism an ideology of
    partnership, centralized and concentrated
    interest groups, voluntary and informal
    coordination through tripartite exchanges.

Corporatism in Practice Small States in World
Markets (2).
  • The consequences of corporatism
  • Cameron in Goldthorpes Order and Conflict in
    Contemporary Capitalism.
  • The Corporatist/Social Democratic give and
  • Unions give low earnings, few strikes.
    Result low unemployment, low inflation.
  • Unions take favorable collective bargaining
    legislation, higher social wage, and more
    comprehensive welfare state. And low
  • Calmfors and Driffill corporatism and economic

Problems of Corporatism
  • Decline of corporatism?
  • Union decline.
  • Welfare state retrenchment.
  • Globalization.
  • Etc.

Collective Action and Policy Networks (1)
  • Starting in the late 1960s and 70s, network
    perspectives have grown increasingly popular in
    the field of politics and political science.
  • The network approach presents an alternative to
    both the pluralist and the corporatist model. The
    policy network is a meso-level concept of
    interest group intermediation which can be
    adopted by authors operating with different
    models of power distribution in liberal
    democracies (Rhodes and Marsh 1992 4)
  • Defining Networks
  • Networks involve the institutionalization of
    beliefs, values, cultures and particular forms of
    behaviour. They are organizations which shape
    attitudes and behaviour. Networks result from
    repeated behaviour and consequently, the relieve
    decision makers of taking difficult decisions
    they help routinize behaviour. They simplify the
    policy process by limiting actions, problems and
    solutions. Networks define roles and responses
    (Marsh and Smith 2000 6).

Collective Action and Policy Networks (2)
  • Governance nowadays involves the close
    cooperation of a large number of semi-autonomous
    actors who operate in networked structures,
    because of a need to exchange resources and
    negotiate goals (Rhodes 1996).
  • Networks can be analyzed formally
  • Indicators such as intensity of communication,
    reputation or resources may be used to map
    networks (Thatcher 1998).
  • Networks as a form of interest group/collective
    action analysis.

Collective Action and Policy Networks (3)
  • An Illustration
  • Baumgartner and Jones 1991 The interaction of
    beliefs and values concerning a particular policy
    explain both periods of extreme stability and
    short bursts of policy change. They examine
    civilian nuclear power policy in the US.
  • A British example
  • Roads Policy by Dudley and Richardson (1998).

The Problems of Policy Networks
  • In most of the work featuring policy communities
    and issue networks, networks have a descriptive
    function and do not aspire to account for changes
    in policy (Thatcher 1998).
  • Current definitions are often weak and
    contradictory too broad to distinguish policy
    networks from other types of cooperation, or too
    precise to allow for variations across cases.
  • Is everything a network? What would not be a
    network? (Dowding 1995).
  • Do they resolve Olsons problem?

References (1)
  • Baumgartner, Frank R., and Bryan D. Jones,
    Agenda Dynamics and Policy Sub-Systems, Journal
    of Politics 53, no. 4 (November 1991), 1044-1074.
  • Cameron, David. 1984. Social Democracy,
    Corporatism, Labor Quiescence, and the
    Representation of Economic Interest in Advanced
    Capitalist Society, in John Goldthorpe, Order
    and Conflict in Contemporary Capitalism (New
    York Oxford University Press).
  • Dowding, Keith, Model or Metaphor? A Critical
    Review of the Policy Network Approach, Political
    Studies 43, no. 1 (March 1995), 136-158.
  • Dudley, Geoffrey, and Jeremy Richardson, Arenas
    without Rules and the Policy Change Process
    Outsider Groups and British Roads Policy,
    Political Studies 46, no. 4 (September 1998),
  • Dunleavy, Patrick. 1991. Democracy, Bureaucracy
    and Public Choice (Hemel Hempstead Harvester
  • Katzenstein, Peter. 1985. Small States in World
    Markets (Ithaca Cornell University Press).

References (2)
  • Marsh, David, and Smith, Martin, Understanding
    Policy Networks towards a Dialectical Approach,
    Political Studies, Vol. 48, Issue 1 (2000).
  • McLean, Iain, Review Article The Divided Legacy
    of Mancur Olson, British Journal of Political
    Science 30, no. 4 (October 2000), 651-668.
  • Oliver, Pamela. 1993. Formal Models of
    Collective Action, Annual Review of Sociology
    19 271-300.
  • Olson, Mancur. 1965. The Logic of Collective
    Action (Cambridge, Mass. Harvard University
  • Olson, Mancur. 1982. The Rise and Decline of
    Nations (New Haven Yale University Press).
  • Rhodes, R. A. W., The New Governance Governing
    without government, Political Studies (1996)
  • Rhodes, R. A. W., and David Marsh, Policy
    Network in British Politics, in Marsh, David and
    R. A. W. Rhodes (eds.), Policy Networks in
    British Government, Oxford Clarendon Press.

References (3)
  • Thatcher, Mark, The Development of Policy
    Network Analyses From Modest Origins to
    Overarching Frameworks, Journal of Theoretical
    Politics, Vol. 10, No. 4 (1998).
  • Walker, Jack. 1983. The Origins and Maintenance
    of Interest Groups in America, American
    Political Science Review 77 (2) 390-406.
  • Wilson, Carter A (2000) Policy Regimes and
    Policy Change, Journal of Public Policy, 20 (3)