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501 Readings Week 12

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Schattschneider, E.E. 1960. The Semisovereign People: A Realist’s View of Democracy in America. Hinsdale: The Dryden Press.

Chapter One: The Contagiousness of Conflict

Every conflict consists of two parts: the participants and the audience. Understanding conflict requires understanding the relationship between the combatants and the audience because the audience is likely to do things that influence the outcome of the fight. First proposition: “the outcome of every conflict is determined by the extent to which the audience becomes involved in it”. Outcome is determined by scope of participation (2).

Second proposition: “The most important strategy of politics is concerned with the scope of conflict” (3). Simply, conflicts are decided by the success of participants in involving or excluding the audience. Scope is most easily controlled at the outset of a conflict. Interveners are never neutral; involving participants changes the conflict (4). Political strategy involves attempts to socialize (nationalize) or privatize (localize) conflict (6-10). Venue shopping is used as a strategy of controlling the scope of a conflict (10).

“Inevitably the outcome of a contest is controlled by the level at which the decision is made…”: in conflicts with scopes that have been highly enlarged, original participants are likely to lose control of the direction of the conflict. With change in scope and level of the conflict, new considerations, complications, resources, and solutions are introduced (11). To understand political organization, questions of scope must be addressed. Democratic government is a tool for socializing conflict (12). Government participates in conflict: its strategies involve ‘privacy’ and ‘publicity’. Because contestants lose control when scope is expanded, outcomes after expansion may be distasteful to both / either sets of original participants (15).

Dynamics of Expansion of Scope: Losers tend to seek expansion (15, 16). Visibility plays a role. “The effectiveness of democratic government as an instrument for the socialization of conflict depends on the amplitude of its powers and resources” (16). Political systems are shaped by procedures for controlling the scope of conflict. Attempts at expansion will be challenged by attempts at privatization; these are the basic political strategies (17).

Chapter Two: The Scope and Bias of the Pressure System

On pressure versus party politics: “The basic issue between the two patterns of organization is one of size and scope of conflict…” pressure groups small, parties large (20).

“The scope of conflict is an aspect of the scale of political organization and the extent of political competition”. Constituency size, mobilization of that constituency, private or social nature of expected conflicts all influence the development of political theories (20). A difficulty has been trying to explain everything through group theory, especially because ‘group’ has been conceptualized in a too general and universal manner (20 – 21). → Need to create distinctions. First, distinguish between public-interest and special-interest groups. Second, distinguish between organized and unorganized groups (22).

The distinction between public and private interests: public interests: necessary for community; private interests: necessarily exclusionary (23). Why do we need this distinction? Because, “conflicting claims are made by people about the nature of their interests in controversial matters” (24). We can use verifiable facts in order to determine the nature of group interests: look at the types of benefits sought (exclusive or public), look at composition of group membership, allows us to distinguish public interest groups from special interest groups claiming to be public interest (26). Political conflict between special interest groups has become public, and so will be addressed to the public and carried out in public terms because these groups will appeal to the public for support of their interests (27).

The distinction between organized and unorganized groups: “worth making because it ought to alert us against an analysis which begins as a general group theory of politics but ends with a defense of pressure politics…”. Distinguishing between public and private interests and organized and unorganized groups gives the subject of groups both shape and scope (28). Focus on organized groups because they are identifiable (29).

→ The pressure system can be defined: it has boundaries, a scope, and we can estimate its bias (organization is the mobilization of bias for action), define the pressure system as composed of organized, special interest groups. “Whatever claims can be made for a group theory of politics ought to be sustained by the evidence concerning these groups, if the claims have any validity at all” (29 - 30). Looking at the pressure system: small in scope, range is narrow: dominated by business interests (30). Participation in these organizations is higher among those of higher socio-economic classes → system has an upper-class bias (32). Scope and bias of the pressure system raise concerns about pluralism. The pressure system gets results because it is narrow: “it is possible that if all interests could be mobilized the result would be a stalemate” (34). But, “pressure tactics are not remarkably successful in mobilizing general interests” these groups have a difficult time representing general interests of large groups of people. Party politics are different from pressure politics: “The competing claims of pressure groups and political parties for the loyalty of the American public revolve about the difference between the results likely to be achieved by small-scale and large scale organization” (35).

A Critique of Group Theories of Politics: One problem has been the search for a prime mover, which has led to economic theories of group politics. But, do we really understand a conflict by simply understanding its origins? “Everything we know about politics suggests that a conflict is likely to change profoundly as it becomes political” (36). But ‘pressure politics’ allows for misunderstanding the role of special interests in politics (37). This sort of group theorizing also ignores the majority and large numbers. “One possible synthesis of pressure politics and party politics might be produced by describing politics as the socialization of conflict” (38). Pressure politics might then be seen as part of the process of politics. Understand the role of government as enlarging the scope of the conflict in order to moderate public-private power. Pressure politics might not be the best tool for the business community, they need a broader policy. Understanding this, we can understand how pressure politics become party politics: the need for broad policy used to organize and mobilize a larger community while attracting public support creates a need for a larger scale political organization (41).

Chapter Three: Whose Game Do We Play?

“A presidential election involves the greatest mobilization of political forces in the country; a good test of the significance of the pressure system in party politics is therefore to estimate the potential weight of special interests in a presidential election” (48). In this analysis, need to remember that mobilization is not perfect, and pressure-group members are not likely to be unanimous (49). The presence of pressure-groups might also have a negative impact on the election (51). It ends up being “nearly impossible” to translate pressure politics into party politics. Pressure groups may impact public opinion, but when this occurs, is no longer pressure politics (52). “The notion that parties are aggregates of special-interest groups held together by an endless process of negotiation and concession is unrealistic” (53). Two party system creates majorities by offering two choices (54). Parties monopolize the paths to power, parties are not captured by pressure groups, pressure groups align with the parties that share their interests (goes back to the desire for broad policy) (55 – 56). “The parties organize the electorate by reducing their alternatives to the extreme limit of simplification. This is the great act of organization” (58).

Chapter Four: The Displacement of Conflicts

What happens in politics depends on cleavages and which conflict becomes dominant (60). “Every shift of the line of cleavage affects the nature of the conflict, produces a new set of winners and losers and a new kind of result” (61). Conflicts divide and unite people in certain ways, one conflict may inhibit the emergence of another because such a shift would result in shifting of priorities and relationships of the participants, participants have to choose between conflicts (62 – 63). Cleavages allocate power, new cleavage = new allocation of power. Democracies function by “establishing priorities” among conflicts (64). Parties also function in this way: potential conflicts are displaced by focusing on the larger conflict between parties, “unity is the price of victory” (65). “the unequal intensity of conflicts determines the shape of the political system…the definition of the alternatives is the supreme instrument of power…because the definition of the alternatives is the choice of conflicts, and the choice of conflicts allocates power” (66). Political struggle is about creating alliances while breaking opposing alliances (67). Political organization is about managing conflict: “All forms of political organization have a bias in favor of the exploitation of some kinds of conflict and the suppression of others because organization is the mobilization of bias” (69). “The very fact that no alignment can satisfy all interests equally makes the political system dynamic”. Because cleavages allocate power, and because defining the alternatives is power: the party most able to provide dominant definitions is the party most likely to attain control (73).

Mitchell, William C. and Michael C. Munger. 1991. Economic Models of Interest Groups: An Introductory Survey. American Journal of Political Science 35(2): 512-546.

The field of political science draws from many disciplines to understand the questions of politics, economics being one important contributor. However, economics has not been used to a large extent in the study of interest groups. Economists paid scarce attention to interest groups until the late 1970s, with work becoming more populous in the 80s. Despite this literature, political scientists have applied little of this economic work into their field. The authors believe that economics has much to offer political science on interest groups and have developed a study motivated by two questions:

1. How do interest groups influence policy in a democracy?

2. How should the institutions of government be designed to encourage or control this influence?

And explores economic work on interest groups and political science’s use reactions to such.

Aspects of economic approaches:

- All of the economic studies of interests share the tenets of methodological individualism and utility maximization.

- While political science begins with events and then seeks to explain, economics starts with models that they apply to events.

- Results of the approach often include more startling possibilities and counterintuitive results.

- Run the risk of being too abstract, being too reductionist, and oversimplifying complex processes.


- Mancur Olson (see pp. 515-519, figure 1) – challenged PS’s taking for granted of the formation of interest groups. Argued: most gains from collective action are public goods; isolated conditions for the organization of interest groups : restrictive size, asymmetry of interests among individuals and role of sanctions; public activities of interests groups a by-product of private action; in later work also argued that interest groups, acting in individually rational fashion can clog the system and that larger and more encompassing groups will create more good for the system because they find it more difficult to coalesce into single actions. Problems with Olson’s theorizing: focuses on the demand-side to the exclusion of the supply-side resulting in a marginal role to government action.

- The Chicago Model: Stigler, Posner, Barro, Peltzman – theories of regulation based on interest group considerations and reject notion of regulation growing out of public interest concerns. Demand for regulation comes not from public interest, but from the regulated industry itself – and due to this the regulated industry is the chief beneficiary of such regulation. Government supplies regulation (price fixing, restriction of entry, subsidies…) and in exchange legislators receive benefits (campaign contributions, votes form industry employees, highly paid future employment…) from the regulated industry – the economic principal-agent model. Potential problems with Chicago model: cannot predict which industries will be regulated; doesn’t/can’t meaningfully account for deregulation.

- The Virginia School – analyses of rent seeking and interest groups. “Interest group theory of government” which characterizes groups as the “motive force” in actions of politicians, bureaucrats and citizens. Political system is characterized as a “quasi-market setting for brokering wealth transfers and extorting rents.” Rent seeking: “ political activity on the part of individuals and groups who devote scarce resources in the pursuit of monopoly rights granted by governments.” Propositions of rent-seeking theory: (1) expenditures of resources to achieve a transfer is a social cost, and (2) resulting privileges or rent represent a welfare loss on consumers and taxpayers.

- Chicago (Reprise): Gary Beck – emphasizes price analysis; combines rent seeking scholarship with the Chicago School. Individuals are members of pressure groups that vie for political favors through supporting candidates with votes and contributions. Pressure groups engage in three types of behavior: support of preferred candidates, opposition to opposing candidates, and controlling free riding within their own organization. Problems: does not include the “supplier” (government).

- Interest groups in Equilibrium Models of the Policy Process: looks into the “black box” of decision-making be the executive and legislative actors – Ben-Zion and (Eytan and Bental): model of interest group influence on legislator’s policy platform; conflict between geographixc constituency and interest groups; moves beyond other works in including candidate’s own preferences. Denzau and Munger: add a focus on relation between the effectiveness of campaign spending and the level of info possessed by the electorate and treat re-election as a constrained maximization problem; interest groups impact less when voters informed, legislator’s pick committee assignment by constituent interest in and knowledge of that committee’s jurisdiction, committees have monopoly proposal and gate-keeping power over legislation in Congress.

Economic approaches offer the strength of being able to apply rational choice to long-standing questions by political theorists. Downside of economic approaches: models abstract and formal and may leave out important details.

Gray, Virginia and David Lowery. 1996. “A Niche Theory of Interest Representation.” The Journal of Politics. Vol. 58 (1): 91 -111.

What: Using niche theory (ecology) to explain interest groups and to help connect studies of mobilization and organizational maintenance (91 - 92).

Stuff to keep in mind / misc.: James Q. Wilson’s ‘autonomy’ foreshadowed niche analysis by emphasizing control of resources as contributing to organizational survival (92). Membership groups, associations, and institutions are analyzed separately (98).

Niche Analysis: Need to make a distinction between ‘fundamental niche’ (rarely fully realized) and ‘realized niche’. This distinction is explained through competition for resources. “That is, species with overlapping fundamental niches compete over the area of overlap until only one remains on any part of the shared dimensions; the shared fundamental niche-space is partitioned between the species, producing their realized niches. This conclusion has been codified as the competition exclusion principle…”: competition means that species displace each other into realized niches (93).

Competition theory (in niche analysis) has useful implications for the study of interest groups: 1. Shifts our attention to interactions between interests sharing common resources. 2. Emphasizes partitioning as a result of competition, not conflict. 3. Implies that niches will be partitioned but not what those partitions will necessarily look like. 4. Competition allows us to link adaptation to our understanding of niches (94).

Applying Niche Theory to Interest Communities: Organization’s niche is defined as a multidimensional space. “The particular identity that an organization establishes – its realized niche – will be specified through how partitioning occurs of critical dimensions of the fundamental niche shared with competitors”. This allows us to understand the structures of interest communities (95). Resource dimensions defining fundamental niches: (the initial set) 1. Members (not institutions). 2. Access to selective benefits (not institutions). 3. Finances. 4. Access to policymaking process for its issue area. 5. Action (potential or actual) by government. So, how do we understand the resource dimensions of realized niches? First, look to interactions between groups. Interactions signaling a resource may not be critical to survival: overt conflict, cooperation (96). Look to competition to see critical resources (97).

The Interest Organization Survey: Survey questions looked at four out of five resource dimensions (excludes government activity) (99). Respondents believe that they interact with relatively few legislators. Respondents also see their policy arena as highly structured in terms of jurisdiction and involvement of legislators. Evidence for partitioning not as strong when looking at the policy arena: most respondents see their policy arena as providing at least occasional opportunity for serious conflict. So, need to look at frequency of overt conflict, cooperation and partitioning (100). Find at least “modest” interaction among opponents, stronger levels among allies (101). Not clear that strict partitioning is occurring along the access to policymaking dimension: “Allies and foes do interact” (102). Findings are consistent with niche theory: but “limiting similarity threshold” is defined along internal resource dimensions (1, 2, 3 above). Test this by looking at strategies (104). Active (competition visible, resources haven’t been partitioned) and passive (competition not visible, non-existent) partitioning are the strategies of choice. Membership and financial resources are important (107).

Findings: “for state interest communities as a whole, partitioning of the shared resource dimensions of members, financial resources, and, to a lesser extent, member services may be more important in defining limiting similarities than exclusive control of a policy agenda”. Suggests that structures of interest group communities are more strongly influenced by internal resources than by external relations with government. Niches (and limiting resources) may vary across contexts (108). Need to use comparative case studies to better bridge studies of mobilization and organizational maintenance through niche analysis (especially since we can’t put lobbyists in glass jars for study) (109).

Hall, Richard L. and Frank W. Wayman. 1990. Buying Time: Moneyed Interests and the Mobilization of Bias in Congressional Committees. American Political Science Review 84(3): 797-820.

The authors explore the common claims about moneyed interests dominating influence on the legislative process. Research has shown little correlation between monetary donations/moneyed interest interaction with Congressmen and the voting patterns in Congress, the common conceptualization of the influence taking place between moneyed interests and legislators. Drawing on literature that suggests that a rational actor will be strategic in how they spend their time, resources, and effort, Hall and Wayman instead explore the relationship between moneyed interests and time in committee spent by legislators.

Committees are focused upon rather than election donations due the limitations placed upon election campaign donations and the uncertainty that campaigns will net the gains PAC’s are looking for (for instance the candidate may lose, or pay little attention to the PAC’s area of interest after the election). By focusing on committees PACs can achieve gains through influencing legislation in its early stages, they are more likely to find a “sympathetic audience” due to the tendency for legislators to attempt to gain seats on committees concerning topics they are interested in, and less public attention (and associated scrutiny) occurs at the committee level.

PACs’ actions in committees may concern the direction f members’ support for an issue, but ore importantly it concerns the “vigor” of support. “The goal is not simply to purchase support, but to provide incentives for supporters to act as agents” (802). Supporting this are several arguments: (1) “participation is crucial to determining legislative outcomes,” (2) while choices in voting are limited, more discretion occurs in allocating time and resources, (3) PACs donations often are weighted towards those that they know will win/support them (rather than seeking to sway those legislators whose support they are less sure of), and (4)this view of rational action on the part of PACs “renders the matter of access more comprehensible (802-803).

To apply this model the authors draw data from three committees and three issues in the House: (1) 1982 consideration of the Dairy Stabilization Act in the Agricultural Committee, (2) 1982 consideration of the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) in the Education and Labor Committee, and (3) 1983-1984 considerations of the Natural Gas Market Policy Act in the Energy and Commerce Committee.

The authors find that there is a relationship between contributions and legislative attention. There finding include:

1. “Moneyed interests are able to mobilize legislators already predisposed to support the group’s position.” (814)

2. Producer interests had more influence than consumer interests (organized v. unorganized interests) and that the unemployed populations interests (exlcusive from union connections) received little attention.


1. These “money interests” affect decision-making in the House.

2. Research needs to be more focused on the alternative purposes of political money in the legislature (not just on vote buying).

3. While interest groups are often justified due to their information-providing benefits, this is not a neutral or “just” process. Production, analysis, and distribution of information requires resources , which money interests have and those without money do not – which has negative ramifications for the representativeness of such processes.

Robert H. Salisbury An Exchange Theory of Interest Groups The Jist of the article Exchange theory of interest groups- Group organizers invest in a set of benefits which they offer to potential members at a price- joining the group. Benefits- Could be material, solidary or expressive. For a group to survive members must continue to receive benefits and leaders must be able to conceptualize profits. The Proliferation hypothesis As consequence of various processes of social differentiation, especially those linked to technological change but including others as well, there is within a given population more and more specialization of function. Three salient points of proliferation hypothesis 1. Associations are products of differentiated sets of values or interests 2. Over time there will appear more and more different, diverse, specialized groups in the political arena as the processes of social fission continue. 3. It is to the processes by which values are altered that one must look for an explanation of group formation. Homeostatic mechanism hypothesis Less emphasis on the processes of social differentiation and the generation of “new interests” thereby and assumes a certain differentiation and suggests the following sequence as typical of group origins An equilibrating tendency underlying the process- once a set of social group bargaining encounters has been organized on all sides there is an end to the group formation process and a stability to the associational activities. The key benefits- people mainly seek a positive balance of benefits over costs Group leaders engage in a similar exchange of benefits that is not quite as simple or easy to determine, but “lobbying activity by group leaders may be understood as a form of personal consumption of profit derived from their intragroup exchanges. When their membership declines or is threatened with decline such profit to reduce and the lobbying for policies that are non-instrumental to the groups exchange structure would also decline. I.E. spend more time contract bargaining and union-related instrumental lobbying and less time on policy issue of a more personally expressive character.

Jack L. Walker The Jist of the article Concentrates on the ways in which interest groups are created and the means by which they remain in existence. “All organizations must devise a successful strategy for obtaining resources, but what are the implications for political system of the kinds of strategies that have been devised by successful groups in the United States.” Data Colected Large sample of interest groups surveyed during 1980-1981 total collected was 564 out of 913 groups which equals approximately 64.8% Typology of Association Groups initially divided into 2 categories 1. Groups that require specific professional or occupational credentials 2. Those that are open to all citizens no matter what their qualifications 80% of all respondents reported that membership in a certain profession or industry was required or exceedingly important 20% required no special occupational qualifications. Of the occupational groups they were divided up into 1.Those whose membership worked predominately either in private, profit-making enterprises, or in self-employed, were operating on a fee-for-service basis. 2. Members worked predominantly in public sector, not-for-profit organizations. Most groups fit clearly into either the public or private sectors but about 67 (%15) membership backgrounds are so easily. Olson’s Theory vs. Truman- Truman believed in the spontaneous generation of interest groups. Essentially that groups formed around specific and spontaneous arrangements. Olson- theory looked at groups forming around a benefit exchange between group leadership and the group itself. Groups must be able to be self sustaining or they will die out and cease to exist relatively quickly. Where do groups get the money? The data demonstrates that private individuals are most likely to backup new organizational ventures. What does it come down to? Patrons of political action play a crucial role in the initiation and maintenance of interest groups. Although the initial energy that drives interest groups may come from below with widespread popular discontent, ultimately large amounts of capital are needed to form and maintain most interest groups.

John Mark Hansen The Political Economy of Group Membership The Jist of the article Why do people join interest groups? The argument Political mobilization of large groups does indeed reflect political concerns, but only under certain conditions. Hansen develops a model of interest group membership in which group incentives interact with individual circumstances and test the models propositions against membership data from three prominent lobbies. Olsons theory- Collective benefits vs. selective benefits 3 things assumed by theorists concerning interest groups 1. Associations offer political benefits 2. The extent and nature of the information available 3. The configuration of individual preferences and resources. Human nature 1. Different kinds of information are available at different times and are salient in times of threat 2. Potential loss is weighed more heavily than potential gain. 3. Threat changes peoples risk attitude-if people face large losses they take risks.

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