Interest groups are the organizations that citizens form in order to influence policy makers, legislators, administrators, executives and judiciary. They are the means for every citizen to express their preferences and demands to public officials. Interest groups are significant part of cotemporary democracy. Hence, it is difficult to imagine democracy without them. On the other hand, social movements are less formally organized, less hierarchal and less bureaucratic; however, they require more demanding form or political participation as compared to interest groups. Social movements tend to attract people with more intense feelings about an issue and are formed to influence public policy.
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This essay reviews the fact how social movements and interest groups influence the democracy by their demands. Additionally, it will also explain how these authoritarian regimes facilitate the political participation as well as political outcomes.
Just like the water trying to escape from the weakest part of the dam, these authoritarian regimes are always looking for the weakest point in the wall of power. This may happen as a result of political participation simultaneously, or by concentrating exclusively on mobilizing voters, lobbying officials and organizing protests.
Political participation involves several forms such as contributing money in elections for interest groups, in voting, or helping citizens to participate in social movements. As economic and political conditions become more challenging, the citizens’ participation in political activities depends upon the resources available to them, the opportunities and obstacles they face and, most important, their level of commitment.
The involvement of interest groups has tremendously increased in more issues than in the past. On the other hand, their activities in response to the administrative and procedural changes in congress have led them to getting involved in new policy initiatives and lobbyists, which played a pivotal role in creating new stakeholders and institutionalization of social movements.
Interest groups from the business class have more resources and have more influence on policymakers, as compared to other groups. However, being powerful does not guarantee win-win condition. Sometimes people working in the same group appose each other. In the same way, when business interests adopt the wrong political strategy, public opinion may become arrayed against them. Hence, the interest groups these days rely on persuasive strategies to attract more and more members. This makes them centralized and professional advocacy groups to strongly oppose mass membership organizations and to attract wealthier supporters.
One of the key elements in increasing the efficacy of interest groups in political participation is ‘electronic media’. It has significantly reduced the cost of recruiting, coordinating and organizing interest group activities. On the other hand, it has also allowed the rapid formation and growth of interest group activities. The rise of internet and the decline of member-ship based organizations in America have made the interest groups weaker, when it comes to the relationship of the members.
Social movements, on the other hand, arise when the change in relations of power allows groups to mount a challenge who make an alternative culture that legitimates their demands and influence the ideological supporters. Hence, these supporters are willing to get involved in more demanding genre of political participation as compared to interest groups.
The authoritarian prevailing regimes in the United States of America preserve the right to influence the law that governs them. The citizens can participate in political campaigns, social movement, voting, and can write letters to their representatives to make their voices heard. However, some citizens are in better position than others and this greatly influence their participation in all abovementioned activities. The influence and participation are greatly affected by class factors such as education, time, money, contacts, self-confidence and civil position. The uneven distribution of these resources leads to uneven participation in political activities and, thus, results in uneven political outcomes. Consequently, the issues that are heard and the actions taken for them greatly reflect the interest of those who have power to make their views heard.
However, all of the citizens can develop their political voices and change the policies that govern them by electing the leaders who can make them do so. Also, joining interest groups and social movements are alternatives, the significant mean of political expression is using the ballot box, otherwise the quality of democracy and productivity of government will become poorer.