Democratic features of pressure groups

Authors Avatar

1. Education

It is clear that pressure groups offer a considerable amount of information to the people. They are, by definition, independent of government (if they were not, we could not describe them as pressure groups), so we are receiving important messages from which we can make sound judgements. Of course, we cannot always rely upon the information being totally accurate, but if we combine all the various sources of information available to us, we are able to form some kind of reasonable judgement. So pressure groups certainly help to inform and educate us.

2. Representation

Whether we take an active part or not, pressure groups represent our interests to those who govern. In virtually all our activities there is probably a group which is seeking to secure favourable legislation or decisions and to avoid unfavourable ones. As motorists, hospital patients, students, sports-people, environmentalists, cyclists, walkers, birdwatchers, holidaymakers, workers, and so on, we can be sure there is a group which is fighting our corner. In some cases we may be active members and so know exactly what issues are being addressed. In other cases we are not active, but are nevertheless being passively represented. Even the smallest minorities are likely to enjoy such benefits. So pressure groups have important representative functions to perform.

3. Participation

A passive citizenry is often seen as a danger to democracy. When people do not involve themselves in political activity there is a strong probability that government will become dictatorial, safe in the knowledge that its power is unlikely to be challenged. Political activism is therefore important both to prevent excessive accumulation of power and to ensure that government remains accountable to the people. With declining levels of popular involvement in political parties, pressure groups have provided a vital opportunity for political participation

Join now!

4. Minority interests

But perhaps the most important democratic function of pressure groups is to ensure that all of us, in small or large groups, are taken account of, protected and awarded equal status. If this does not occur there is a danger that democracy simply becomes rule by the majority. The nineteenth-century liberal philosopher, John Stuart Mill, referred to the dangers of the tyranny of the majority in this context. Majority rule, he argued, is not true democracy. Seeking majority support, political parties will inevitably have to ignore the interests of many minorities. It is therefore necessary ...

This is a preview of the whole essay