• Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

Compare and contrast the pluralist, elitist and Marxist theories of the state.

Extracts from this document...

Introduction

Compare and contrast the pluralist, elitist and Marxist theories of the state. Pluralism, elitism and Marxism are all theories of power; disparity arises from the ways in which power is measured. In "Power: a radical view" Steven Lukes talks about three dimensions of power, with each following dimension becoming more complicated than the previous one. Pluralism could be portrayed as being one-dimensional in its view of power, in its simplistic account of decision-making. Elitism could be portrayed as being two-dimensional in its outlook on power as it also takes nondecision-making into consideration. Finally, Marxism furthers the elitist's view by declaring that society has economic structures which ensure that certain decisions are never made, so in this way power could be seen in a third-dimension. As the approaches of elitists and Marxists invoke broader considerations these lead to a more obviously ideological account of the state. Dahl defined pluralism simply where "A has power over of B to the extent that he can get B to do something B would not otherwise have done"1. Pluralists view power as being held by a variety of groups in a society, some of which are more powerful than others, and consequently there is a constant struggle for power. Dahl argues that this is so because "power and influence are crudely lumped together". For example, this is based on the assumption that if a man has wealth this means that he also has status, and this status enables him to mobilise popular support. ...read more.

Middle

Whilst Pareto saw political power in terms of a rule by elite groups because of their members superior intelligence, education, cunning and so forth, Mosca argued that elite groups ruled politically because of their superior organisational ability. In this latter respect, elites came to power because of their superior internal organisation; they took power in the face of the disorganisation of other elites, the general mass of the population. Both writers saw the general (politically disorganised) mass of the population as being controlled through manipulation, propaganda and the like to serve the interests of powerful elites. More recent elitists include Bachrach and Baratz, who criticise the pluralist account of power as being one-dimensional and too simplistic: "it [pluralism] 'unduly emphasises the importance of initiating, deciding and vetoing' and, as a result, takes 'no account of the fact that power may be, and often is, exercised by confining the scope of decision-making to relatively "safe" issues!" 10. So Bachrach and Baratz came up with what they called a second-dimension of power which "involves examining both decision-making and nondecision-making".11 This two-dimensional view of power underpins the crucial importance of identifying "potential issues which nondecision-making prevents from being actual"12. It is thus concerned with the determination and composition of the political agenda. A good contemporary example of this type of power being exercised was in when the British government gave the British people a chance to have their say if they wanted Europe to be part of the EEC, now EU, in the form of a referendum. ...read more.

Conclusion

"false-consciousness" of power has been criticised by Alan Bradshaw, as Lukes employs the tem to indicate "exercises of power involving a lack of decision", and by implication, "the unconscious may only apply to a lack of decision".16 However he later discusses "the unconscious[ness] in power exercises with reference both to inactivity and activity"17. It becomes apparent that Lukes uses one term of "unconscious" to attack the two-dimensional writers, "before moving to another level of definition in order to admit the possibility of unconscious activity into the argument".18 In conclusion the pluralist, elitist and Marxist theories of the state argue about the way in which power is measured. The pluralist concept of power seems to be the simplest in the way it is merely measured by observing or "behavioural" analysis in decision-making. However, the pluralist concept portrays the most democratic account of the state, indicating the spread of decision making in society. The Elitist theory seems to build on this on-dimensional account of power and also includes the power of nondecision-making. However, as elite groups make the decision-making, and subsequent nondecision-making process, this leads the State being slightly less democratic as particular views of the elite are taken into account, as opposed to the whole "general masses". Finally Marxists view power in a third-dimension and this includes the ability to shape and manipulate desires, a matter of "false-consciousness". Marxists are completely opposed to the State, as they believe the State only operates for the benefit of the Bourgeoisie. ...read more.

The above preview is unformatted text

This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our AS and A Level Political Philosophy section.

Found what you're looking for?

  • Start learning 29% faster today
  • 150,000+ documents available
  • Just £6.99 a month

Not the one? Search for your essay title...
  • Join over 1.2 million students every month
  • Accelerate your learning by 29%
  • Unlimited access from just £6.99 per month

See related essaysSee related essays

Related AS and A Level Political Philosophy essays

  1. An analysis of the Marxist perspective on religion

    Another is that many religions make a virtue out of the suffering produced by oppression. An example of this in Hinduism where it is taught that you must accept what comes to you during this life as it is only Karma; bad things that happen to you are in consequence of your previous wrong doings.

  2. Compare and Contrast pluralist and ruling elites accounts of political power

    to avoid talking about the "state" preferring to look at the "study of groups.....not abstractions" Pluralists explicitly state that no single group dominates all decisions. They state to exercise power requires resources and no one group is able to monopolise on these resources.

  1. Compare and contrast Pluralist and Ruling Elite accounts of political power.

    opponents and so on, as different items and subjects come to the fore in politics and government. Also needed for a pluralist society and political system, as stated by pluralist theorists are; Free and fair elections, inclusive suffrage, elected officials, the right to run for office, free speech and alternative sources of political information.

  2. Utilitarianism: Explanation And Study of Criticisms

    Rule Utilitarianism does not look at individual acts but the usefulness of a rule in morality. Mill was an Act Utilitarian and applied rules that usually bring the most good to situations. Strong Rule Utilitarians never break rules, and Weak Rule Utilitarianism keep rules in mind yet are prepared to break them if necessary.

  1. Marx and Weber - Theories of the state

    Therefore, Marx claimed that the state oppressed the people that it was meant to represent and that it reinforced the nature of class divisions within society. Marx identified the theory of 'Historical Materialism', this was the explanation of how societies have developed throughout time, the developmental stages and the forces

  2. Discuss the conflicts between Employee and Employer by Marxist

    something that can be exchanged for money.'4 In addition, capitalism can purchases labour power as a commodity. In other words, 'Labour power is a commodity governed by the same laws as other commodities. Its value is determined by the labour-time necessary for its production.

  1. "What are the main strengths and weaknesses of Marxist histories"?

    Also with the capitalist system, came competition. This drove the capitalists to cut the costs as much as possible. This is done through cutting the wages of the labourers. It is then evident that the public could no longer afford even the products they themselves produce.

  2. What were the most important factors in the rise of the modern state?

    course required them to extract more revenue, which in turn made them more ambitious (and so on and so forth). Charles Tilly explains this cycle of war in a simple yet profound analysis where he essentially claims that war makes states and states make war (Tilly, 1985, pp.

  • Over 160,000 pieces
    of student written work
  • Annotated by
    experienced teachers
  • Ideas and feedback to
    improve your own work