established interest groups, such as the Sierra Club and Wilderness Society, that are organizationally coherent (collecting dues, electing officers, and holding meetings) and that engage in traditional forms of political pressure (lobbying, contributing money to candidates, educating the public, and testifying before Congress).
The attempt to influence what members of Congress and the executive branch do and what they decide in matters of public policy. Lobbyists are people who exercise this influence.
Are organizations that citizens form to influence policymakers. Groups seek to influence what bills are proposed, what provisions they contain, and how legislators vote on them. They also try to affect such matters as administrative rulings by federal agencies, executive and judicial appointments, and the awarding of government contracts.
Examples of interest groups include such well-known organizations as the National Rifle Association (NRA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) as well as more obscure ones such as the Rocky Mountain Llama and Alpaca Association and the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society.
Interests groups such as these connect individuals with government. They are a means for citizens to express their demands and preferences to public officials. Indeed, a variety of interests groups are found in every contemporary democracy, and it is difficult to imagine any democracy without them.
Such as the antiwar movement of the 1960s or the antiabortion movement of today, engage in unconventional and confrontational forms of political activism. Social movements are also distinguished from interest groups in that they are less formally organized, less hierarchical, and less bureaucratic.
Finally, social movements are a more demanding form of political participation than joining an interest group or voting because the risks of social movement activism are so much greater.
Consequently, social movements tend to attract people with intense feelings about an issue who are more committed and willing to assume the greater risks that social movement participation entails. Social movements are often identified with groups that have liberal, progressive agendas.
But conservatives have also formed social movements to influence public policy. The ideological commitment to participate in social movements is not the monopoly of any one tendency but can be found across the political spectrum.
Collective action by citizens that goes beyond the normal channels of electoral or interest group activity.
“Pluralist” Interests Group Systems
Found in the United States.
Where large numbers of interests groups compete with each other for members and exert influence by lobbying the government.
“Corporatist” Interest Group Systems
Found in Western Europe.
When a few interest groups include a large proportion of potential members and are often given some official recognition by the state and included in the policymaking process.
A consequence of all-directional lobbying,
pursuing “insider” and “outsider” strategies simultaneously, is to ratchet up its cost.
As lobbying becomes more extensive, it becomes more expensive. It now costs more to play competitively, thus giving an advantage to those groups, such as business, that have the resources to do so.
Efforts by interest groups to
influence not only policymakers, but the wider public.
If people acted rationally, they would not contribute to groups if they could still receive the benefits.
They would free ride, let others go to meetings and pay dues to the Sierra Club, and then just sit back and enjoy the benefits of clean air and water that environmentalists worked for.
Of course, if everyone behaved like this, the Sierra Club would not exist.
The situation that occurs when people take advantage of some public good, some common resource, without paying their fair share for it.
Other groups depend upon purposive incentives, rather than material incentives, to recruit members.
Such organizations give people an opportunity to express their common values and realize their common goals.
Membership in these organizations—such as the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), which opposes abortion rights, and the National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL), which supports them—is an expression of one’s values.
A practice that groups use to attract members by appealing to shared values.
If everyone were a “free-rider” then the Sierra Club would not exist. But the Sierra Club does exist. And it exists partly because groups offer a variety of incentives that entice people to join them.
Some groups, for instance, offer material benefits to recruit members. Members receive some tangible reward for joining.
For example, the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP), which represents the interests of the elderly and is the second-largest membership organization in the United States after the Catholic Church, recruits members by offering medical, insurance, and travel discounts to those who join.
Tangible rewards that groups offer to attract members.
Professional Advocacy Groups
Another interesting shift among interest groups has been a change in the quality and class character of their memberships.
Traditional mass membership organizations, such as the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), had state and local chapters and required members to pay dues.
Members engaged in politics by participating in the life of their organization, developing civic values and organizational skills in the process. And these organizations reached down to include workers and promote their civic and political engagement.
But such organizations now face increased competition from more professionally managed advocacy organizations, such as the Children’s Defense Fund or MoveOn.org, that do not have dues-paying members or local chapters.
These types of organizations are funded by foundations, direct mail, or Internet fund-raising appeals as opposed to membership dues.
As a result, the predominance of these new professionalized advocacy organizations amplifies the voice of the well-off and well educated, who find their minimal demands congenial, while the voice of the lower classes has been muted as the traditional mass membership organizations they were accustomed to declined.
Thus, the impact of these new organizations on the quality of American democracy has been somewhat paradoxical.
The proliferation of these centralized, professional advocacy groups has brought new voices into the political arena but has exacerbated class-based inequalities in terms of who is speaking.
They have increased the number of views expressed in the political process without broadening the base of who expresses them.
Interest group created by political entrepreneurs who are not accountable to a membership.
Fourth, social movements require organizations that can develop and disseminate an alternative culture.
Most social movements are built on organizations that cultivate identities, raise resources, and coordinate activities.
Harry Boyte referred to such organizations as free spaces, where an oppositional culture could be elaborated that was insulated from the disapproval and reproach of the dominant culture.
The Black Church offered such a haven for the Montgomery bus boycott by providing a physical space that was autonomous from white control where meetings could be held and an affirming message of hope and moral worth could be articulated.
It was an expression of the black community that served as the base of operations for the bus boycott.
Organizations that are free or insulated from elite control so that they can develop and disseminate alternative value systems.
When the Depression first began, workers initially looked to their employers for help, and many placed their faith in company unions that employers sponsored.
But such hopes were quickly disappointed, and works began to form their own unions.
They believed that only a legally binding collective bargaining agreement negotiated by an independent union could protect them from managerial favoritism and arbitrariness.
Employers resisted these efforts fiercely.
In response, workers occupied factories, fought with police, engaged in mass picketing, and staged industry-wide strikes in support of their demand for union recognition.
Type of bargaining that occurs when unions negotiate on behalf of workers with employers over wages, hours, fringe benefits such as health insurance, and working conditions.
Regardless of which labor federation a union belongs to, most union leaders realize they cannot afford to be complacent and are pursuing a variety of new strategies.
First, unions recognize that traditional strikes at the point of production are no longer effective, and so they are conducting corporate campaigns outside of it.
Corporate campaigns try to raise the stakes for business by informing authorities of regulatory violations that employer have committed, publicizing unsavory corporate conduct, or pressuring banks to withdraw lines of credit to recalcitrant firms.
For example, unions have bankrolled efforts to embarrass and harass Wal-Mart in order to soften the company’s anti-union policies.
A tactic unions use to pressure recalcitrant employers through third parties, such as members of the firm’s board of directors or its creditors, suppliers, or customers.
The right to vote.
Following the Civil War, when the Reconstruction Congress passed constitutional amendments giving blacks the right to vote, it pointedly failed to do the same for women.
Consequently, an independent women’s movement developed whose goal was female suffrage.
Wanted the country’s natural resources to be managed efficiently by the government. They believed in using the land and its resources wisely.
They also supported San Francisco’s plan to dam the valley because they thought it was more practical than other alternatives for bringing water and electricity to the city.
Those who promote efficient, sustainable use of the environment and its natural resources for the public good.
Wanted to retain the land in its natural state. They opposed the dam and decried the beauty and recreational opportunities that would be lost.
Those who believe that land set aside for national parks, forests, reserves, and wetlands should be left in its natural state as much as possible and oppose efforts to extract natural resources from them.
An appreciation of the fragility and interconnectedness of nature.
Toxic pesticides and radioactive isotopes could be carried through the air and the food chain to poison people and animals.
This new ecological perspective broadened the movement’s goals beyond simply preserving wilderness areas or using resources efficiently to new issues such as ensuring clean air, pure water, and safe food.
It also broadened the base of the movement beyond elites to newly affluent middle-class people who were concerned about the damage being done to nature and its potential for deadly repercussions.