What is group theory?

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As one of the most articulate among the proponents of democratic theory, Group theorists assert the importance of group interaction for securing equilibrium in American democracy. Power, for group theorists, such as David Truman, is conceived along Weberian lines.

But the state is not autonomous like in the Weberian sense nor in the sense of Marx, who considers state's capacity to change as central to society. For the group theorists, State reacts to the purposive exercise of power. Power is fragmented within society. Truman also hopes that out of the competing interests a relative coherent policy will emerge.

Robert Dahi was another Group theorist after David Truman. He assimilates the central concern of Madison about factions considering it as the best expression of democracy. Dahi calls it pltyarchy and argues that competition among various interests ensures the safety of democracy.

S.Lukes in his Power: A Radical View argues that "the bias of a system is not sustained simply by a series of individually chosen acts, but also most importantly, by the socially structured and culturally patterned behaviour of groups, and practices of institutions." This conception of power as the capacity of individuals to realize their will against resistance, neglects the importance of collective forces and social arrangements. For this reason, the classical pluralists failed to grasp the asymmetries of power - between classes, races, genders, politicians and citizens and thus were responsible for shattering the premises of classical pluralism.

The evolution of political groups associated with the New Left also began to alter the political space in the U.S. Political polarization took place in the name of anti-Vietnam war movement, student movement. Civil rights movements etc. The new left and its political polarization did not fit into pluralist terms, and consequently the pluralist inadequacies in grasping the nature and distribution of power led to many great difficulties in understanding reality.

A great deal of empirical research into understanding power also proved that many groups do not have the resources to compete in the national arena, as the national politics are controlled and manipulated by powerful national and multinational corporations. Acknowledgement of these problems in both conceptual and empirical terms has led to dissolution of classical pluralist theory and emergence of newer and competing schools.


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