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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Motivational pluralism : a revision of pluralist thought Nicoll, Scott L.


This paper is premised upon the assumption that classical pluralist theory is no longer a useful tool of explanation for contemporary western societies. In its original form, as espoused by Arthur Bentley and David Truman, pluralist theory was accepted as mainstream political thought, apparently capable of demystifying the structure and relation of power blocks within modern western democracies. As time elapsed, however, greater numbers of critics emerged and glaring inadequacies began to show through its once flawless facade. The group of neo pluralist writers were the first to attempt wholesale salvage of the model. One of their foremost considerations was the expulsion of the myth of perfect competition amongst groups. This was replaced instead, with what was then an alarming proposition: contrary to the original pluralist contention, there exists a marked tendency for power to concentrate in the hands of an elite policy community. The neo pluralists further suggested it was important to understand the structure and organization of a group if a coherent group theory of politics was to be developed. While they illustrated the undemocratic nature of the coalescence of power within pluralist society, however, various proponents of this model also suggested that groups were a functional requirement within any modern democratic governing system. A group of economic theorists, led by Mancur Olson and his rational actor model, also contributed significantly to the downfall of classical pluralism. At the same time, Olson's criticisms also undermined elements of neo pluralist thought. He argued that, contrary to both the pluralist and neo pluralist assumptions, the goals and aspirations of groups were not necessarily the product of the values and desires of the group membership. Olson argued that by virtue of the nature of the collective good, those in control of the organizational mechanisms of the group could dictate the policy goals of the group and still maintain the mandate of the group membership. Olson's paradigm also had the advantage of being analytically convenient, a precise model within which social phenomena could be neatly packaged. Further contributions have built upon Olson's' model, developing his emphasis upon the internal dynamics of the group and, in particular, the importance of group leadership. The organizational behaviouralists illustrated the utility of Olson's introduction of selective incentives, and also that it could be taken further, that material incentives were only one type of incentive. The exchange theorists further narrowed this analysis with an exclusive focus upon the relation between the entrepreneur and the group membership and characterizing it as an exchange of value. They adopted Olson's leadership focus but incorporated non-material incentives within their framework. The end result is the potential for the development of a coherent and effective analytical tool. With the systemic level of analysis provided by the neo pluralist framework, recent contributions to group theory may make possible an interest group theory of politics capable of providing a level of insight into social phenomena previously unavailable to proponents of this theoretical tradition. It is thus the object of this paper to combine elements of group analysis previously considered distinct. Terry Moe builds upon Olson's analysis, illustrating that individuals will form organizations for reasons of a non-economic nature. While the interaction of groups within contemporary society has been shown to differ from the original conception of the classical pluralists, the neo pluralist perspective, with the addition of Moe's insight, holds the potential for a valuable analytical tool.

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