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Elitism and Pluralism Debate Essay

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The rise of pressure groups in the United States has created strong foundation for the development of the new policymaking networks. Despite the fact that in many instances the political decision-making was influenced by economic and social elites, pressure groups have become indispensable elements of the contemporary politics. Citizen pressure groups “have proved to be remarkably resilient, and they are a strong and stable force in American politics” (Berry, 2002).

Despite the claims that citizen pressure groups have not expanded their influence onto the all political areas, they have completely changed Washington’s approaches to decision-making; the political strength of pressure groups could no longer be ignored by parties and politicians.

The development of citizen pressure movement was long and thorny, but the mere fact that Reagan’s administration was seeking the means to limit their activity proves a simple fact: citizen pressure groups have turned into an extremely influential political force.

The impact of their decisions and pressures is still perceived in Washington’s political environment.

It is easier and more correct to determine political activity in terms of networks, and not groups. Pressure groups have made the whole political process substantially opener; furthermore, citizen groups have become the sources and initiators of a new political vision, where networks played the predominant political role and were built on trust, familiarity, and immediate need (Berry, 2002).

Those networks have become the results of an extremely well formulated pressure strategy which citizen groups exercised in politics. Pressure groups “reformulated their special needs into a program of legislation that allegedly would benefit a large part of society and the best interests of the nation. They conducted vigorous campaigns to get as many members as possible; this was done to impress legislators or administrators with wide popular demand for the pressure group’s program” (Grazia, 1992).

The professional strategies, which Grazia (1992) mentioned in his work, have later resulted in the political success of the citizen pressure groups during Washington’s negotiations over free trade agreement with Mexico (Berry, 2002). At that time, ecological formations were acquiring additional political weight and were exercising almost unlimited political authority. Mexico free trade negotiations have shown the ability of citizen pressure groups to penetrate into political domains, where “they previously had no presence at all” (Berry, 2002).

The political weight of citizen pressure groups was growing so rapidly, that the American community no longer viewed Congress as a productive political formation. On the contrary, the pressure groups were creating the political climate, the ideological vision, and the policymaking networks in the Washington’s decision making structure. Since the 1960s, pressure groups have been experiencing the constant growth of their political power. Having learned much from antiwar movements, they have re-directed their political efforts to gain more credibility in the press and to entrance the policymaking community on equal terms.

As a result of those political strivings, citizen pressure groups have substantially expanded their influence, creating ideological cleavages and using the press to increase the uncertainty within policymaking structures. Consequentially, the successful partnerships between the press and pressure groups have undermined the stability of the traditional subgovernmental structures and have proved groups’ ability to create irreversible political influence on the major decision making networks. Conclusion Pressure groups have completely changed the face of the contemporary American politics.

Pressure groups have proved the consistence and political power of previously underrepresented groups. The constantly growing number of citizen groups in the U. S. shows the declining power of subgovernments under the pressure of the policymaking networks, in which pressure groups continue playing the leading political role.


Berry, J. M. (2002). Citizen groups and the changing nature of interest group politics in America. In Finsterbusch, Taking sides, Social issues, twelfth edition, pp. 197-204. Grazia, A. D. (1992). Political behavior. Free Press.

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