Pluralistic approach, or state as a product of society - Public policy

2.1.2. Pluralistic approach, or state as a product of society

The pluralistic approach has become quite widespread in the works of American authors devoted to the analysis of decision processes. This approach is organized around the idea that the state is the result of the development of social processes. It, therefore, is the product of interaction between freely formed interest groups and represents a form of a peculiar "veil" , which is completely penetrated by the interests of these groups and the rivalry between them. And this, by the way, characterizes the social logic of the development of society.

In the framework of this approach, there is no denying the existence of a structural inequality between groups of interests, as well as the impact of the state on the interests and requests of interested groups.

What are the implications for this analysis of public policy? For the supporters of a pluralistic paradigm, as we have defined it, the content of politics is the result of the pressure exerted by interest groups.

Take, for example, the policy in the field of fuel and energy resources. The widespread use of road transport inevitably raises the issue of implementing a set of measures to reduce environmental pollution. The solution of such a problem predetermines the emergence of an appropriate public policy. Its resultant vector will undoubtedly become the result of conflicting pressures of various interest groups: car designers and manufacturers, environmentalists, transport consumers, etc. The meaning of this policy will be determined by the complex result of the pressure of each of the interested groups in order to practically realize their vision of the problem and their interest.

The interest groups in question are exist regardless of their relationship with the state. They are the product of competition between the communities or coalitions whose interests they represent. At representation market , interest groups enter into relations with the state or through their representatives, or through the mediation of professional lobbyists. Their task is to make them evaluate their point of view and translate their interest into specific legislative acts.

In this interaction, the structures of the state participate. So, bureaucracy in its totality, as a rule, does not represent a monolithic group of universal foresight. It splits into a larger or smaller number of competing groups, each of which seeks recognition in the process of developing a state solution for its own point of view and its interests.

In a pluralistic approach, the concept of "general interest" as it loses its meaning and meaning. And this becomes clear if we try to answer the following question:

What can be a common interest if the action of the state is the result of only free competition of private interests?

And this is not a rhetorical question. Especially if we consider that the approach we are considering underlies the analysis that is used in the sociology of interests or the school of rational choice and Public Choice . In this approach, individuals are guided by the desire to maximize their interest by mobilizing their resources, which ultimately can lead (but not necessarily) to collective action. In such a situation, public action is largely hampered by the existence of competition of interests. Let's not lose sight of the fact that competition of interests can lead to blocking of free functioning of the political market and expression of preferences of actors.

What are the implications for the analysis of public policy are the approaches we are considering?

In many aspects, the analysis of public policy can be based on the classical approach to the state, shown by us above, thereby enriching the pluralist approach. In the event that, when analyzing a public policy, the state is considered in relation to public policy actors and their strategies, the researchers are faced with what is known as the "deconcentration" state. This allows us to identify the existence of a multiplicity of competing rationality within the state, which is associated with the activities of various actors whose interests do not necessarily coincide and are distinct from what could be identified as a general interest.

In a pluralistic approach, the analysis of public policy is at variance with the Weberian concept of the state (the state is no longer "the machine" in the service of the Sovereign who is exercising the will of the governors) as well as with the orthodox Marxist tradition, which views the state as an instrument in the service of the ruling class. The attention of the researcher of public policy in a pluralistic approach is not concentrated at all on the state as a kind of global integrity. It is riveted to his (state) action. So, in the foreground are the contacts (interactions) of the state with its social environment.

Two dimensions of government action

Both of the above approaches focus on two special dimensions of the state, which allow one to assess the contradictory nature of public action. First of all, the ethical approach is accompanied by the understanding of the state in its unity. The nature of this unity is not limited only to the actions of actors who participate in public policy.

This approach allows us to comprehend the global nature of the state as a kind of integrity. And this integrity in one way or another expresses the form of the unity of society. The state, in any case in modern societies, is really the place where "are built" representations that society has about itself, that is, the notion of one's own existence as a spatial and historical community and its relations with the world.

The pluralistic approach, on the contrary, emphasizes the inevitably societal character of the state, on immersing public policy in the complexity of social relations. And this complexity puts an imprint on the contradictory nature of public action, which, due to the multiplicity of antagonistic demands, is characterized by a difficult-predictable character.

This means that both approaches express, each in its own way, a certain truth of the essence of the state and its actions. It's a fact that the state expresses both unity, and diversity of the society. It can be characterized, if I may say so, as some kind of total thought, but also endowed with the tendency of the disintegration of the state. Therefore, the study of the state's actions must be built taking into account these two extremes. In the 1980s. this led to the emergence of two new approaches in the study of public action: neoinstitutionalism and an updated cognitive approach.

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