Comment on: Pluralist Theory of State | Model Answer| PSIR

 Pluralist Theory of State

Q. Comment on: Pluralist Theory of State.


Pluralist theory of State is based on the belief that sovereignty resides not only with the State but many other institutions. It holds that State acts as an umpire or referee in society. Pluralist Theory of State was developed against the monistic theory of State which upholds the legal and absolute sovereignty of the state.

Pluralist theory holds that political power should be regarded as analytically distinct from economic power. According to the Pluralist notion, there can be various sources of political power. Many social, political, cultural and economic institutions exercise influence in society. For example, family, religious institutions, charitable trusts, etc.

Pluralism as a theory of society asserts that within liberal democracies power is widely and evenly dispersed. Pluralism as a theory of State holds that the state is neutral in so far it is susceptible to the influence of various groups and interests of all social classes.

Harold Laski argued that with the growth of federalism the idea of absolute sovereignty has become irrelevant. Because constitutionally the powers of union and the state are clearly divided, making the assumption of absoluteness of state power is a wrong notion. Further, the powers of the state are also limited by the factors like international law, conventions and organisations, human rights activism and NGOs.

Laski, as a pluralist goes so far to declare that it would be of "lasting benefit to political science, if the whole concept of sovereignty were surrendered".

Schwarzmantel proclaims that state is the servant of society and not its master. The state apparatus is thought to conform to the principles of public service and political accountability. Competition among political parties and interest group activities ensure that state remains sensitive and responsive to the public opinion.

Robert MacIver calls, "State is an Association of Associations". He views the State as any other association in the society. The associations such as family and church are also natural as State and some are even prior to the State in terms of origin. They are not dependent on the State for their existence.

Neo pluralists take a more Critical view of the State. They accept that modern industrialized states are more complex and less responsive to popular interests. Business enjoys the privileged position. Moreover, they accepted that state can and does forge its own sectional interest. State elite like bureaucrats, judges, military leaders etc may be seen as the most powerful interest group.

However, Pluralists fail to see the prominent and leading role that State plays in socio-economic development. Pluralist theory of state does not visualize state as an innovator. It is also criticised on the ground that if sovereignty is divided among various associations, it will lead to the devastation of sovereignty. Consequently, chaos will prevail in society and there will be turmoil.

Pluralists tried to put practical form of the state in theory, though they are right to some extent but all the states in the world cannot be judged on the same criteria of pluralism; as there are different types of States like military state, democratic state, authoritarian state autocratic state etc.


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