Pluralism is a system of government that allows and encourages public participation so the state can satisfy the needs of the people. This is achieved through a multitude of organisations, such as pressure groups, trade unions, environmentalists and civil rights activists, seeking to influence the making of laws and policies. It ensures that power is dispersed rather than concentrated within a select few and enables minority groups to voice their opinion. If Pluralism is to develop, it can't be possible for a single group to dominate.
Political force exerted by one group will be counteracted by equal and opposite political force exerted by other groups. For that reason, there are multiple centres of power and authority, as opposed to one where the state controls people's actions. This encourages political participation as everyone can exercise influence over decision makers. An example of this would be Medieval Europe where the Monarchy and Church were co-equal rulers in their different spheres.
In democracies, people vote for representatives and in the UK, MPs have this role. If the majority don't like what their representatives are doing, they can vote them out of office at elections. This means representatives have to act in a way which satisfies the majority. But our electoral system often produces representatives who are unrepresentative because only those voters who voted for the winner are represented by their member of parliament. Another problem is that this system doesn’t allow voters to influence specific issues.
Therefore people then join interest groups such as pressure groups. These are a vital for the growth of a pluralist political system. Robert Dahl saw that pluralism responded to a high degree of industrialization. Therefore it’s highly unlikely that a pluralistic democracy would be seen in developing nations, where people are undernourished, uneducated and illiterate and as a result unable to participate. The aim of pluralism is to set limits on the power of the rulers over the community.
This is achieved by agreeing certain rights and liberties which the rulers can’t infringe. Therefore there is a requirement for checks and balances to occur on the relationship between the state and the individual to allow pluralism to develop. Freedom of association is a necessary condition of political pluralism so that opposition is able to occur within the public domain of the media. This is usually prohibited in totalitarian states, as seen under Hitler's regime when he banned trade unions and suspended the right to assemble.
When individuals are given that freedom though, they tend to form into groups. These are needed to assert individual interests and in turn acquire political power. This could be used to change a governmental policy in a way that advances the interests of the group's members. Therefore, while a single individual is basically powerless when it comes to changing state policy, the coming together of several individuals presents a more challenging contender.
The pluralistic political model is one in which groups are used as a means to vindicate the interests of its members rather than dominate other groups as the latter encourages tyranny. Citizens are therefore organised into a variety of interest groups that must bargain with each other for the influence over government. This competition between groups is precisely what ensures that the key characteristic is maintained – no group dominates as power is openly competed for.
In order for Pluralism to grow, the state must act as a mediator in the political process when responding to the demands of all segments of society and distributing policies in such a way that all of the groups have some influence on government strategy. Ideally the government should intervene to help the weaker groups and that they consider alternatives in order to meet national interests. This means that the people within society need to be open-minded and show tolerance towards the ideas of others.
In conclusion, there are many basic conditions necessary for pluralism to develop, including fundamental freedoms such as free speech, a free media and fair elections. Yet the key requirements appear to be a genuine toleration of other people’s beliefs and interests, as well as the ability to form into groups such as trade unions and pressure groups which stand for all the different interests of the population. The collective power of these associations representing different interests provides a counter to the tyranny of the state and that of the majority.