General Studies II – Interest Groups

Interest Groups

What are interest groups?

An interest group is an organization which tries to influence the public policy for its own personal and partisan interest without being part of the government. A type of pressure group.

These groupings can be justified on two ethical claims:

  1. In terms of their benefits to the individuals who constitute them.
  2. They are based on choice rather than fate.

 Functions:

ü  They represent private interests in the public sphere so that the government recognizes and notices their special needs and makes provisions for them in the public policy.

ü  They are constituted of loyal members and so little external or regulatory state effort is required to cement their unity, they tend to demand more freedom for their organic development and thus strive to turn policies in their favor.

ü  Primarily concerned to protect or advance the interests of their members.

Characteristics of Interest Groups:

Classification of Interest Groups based on number:

  • Small
  • Medium and
  • Large

Categories based on the political constituency:

  • Privileged
  • Intermediate
  • Latent

ü  Privileged: one member who gains enough privately from public good to be willing to supply it on its own if necessary. Generally small.

Ex : AITUC, INTUC.

It may also have professional or occupational groups.

Ex: Sugar Mill Owners Association.

ü  Intermediate Group: Not privileged, but sustains its collective action on the basis of mutual watchfulness over each other’s behavior. Each functions in its own small area with weak participation.

ü  Latent: Neither privileged not intermediate, but is more or less non-existent. Interests of this group though being specific and important does not help to consolidate people into a group.

Another classification by McLean:

  • Producer groups
  • Consumer groups
  • Altruistic groups

Producer Groups : Strongest as they control the factors of production. Includes Factory owners, trade unions, farmers. They can bring some pressure on the government.

Consumer Groups: They cannot withdraw from the market, hence no pressure.

Altruistic Groups: they neither have the spur of self-interest nor the drive force for controlling some tangible produce

  • The importance of interest groups in policy process did not conclude that these groups have the capacity to replace the political parties or that parties are subordinated to these group interests.
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