by Rod Hague and Martin Harrop

Chapter Nine: Interest Groups

Chapter Notes

  • The pervasiveness of interest groups in liberal democracies but contrasting conceptions of their role. Many organizations lobby, not just specially-created interest groups. The emergence of groups as a response to the growing importance of government.
  • Classifying interest groups: protective, promotional and peak. The importance of protective groups but growing acceptability of promotional groups. Peak (apex) associations as federations of protective groups The decay of corporatism but social partnerships continue.
  • Pluralism as an influential model of state-society relations. Pluralism as rule by multiple minorities and the absence of a governing elite. The state as a referee of group competition. The American example. Implications for how we view liberal democracy. Criticisms of pluralism.
  • From iron triangles and sub-governments to issue networks and policy communities: who knows what, not just who knows whom.
  • Channels of influence: direct discussion with the executive, bureaucracy, legislature and courts. Importance of the bureaucracy for protective groups. Indirect influence through political parties and, especially for promotional groups, public opinion.
  • The rise of lobbying firms in response to government regulation, the technical demands of complex PR campaigns and the willingness of companies to lobby without working through their trade association. Personal nature of the lobbying business. Limited impact of much work by lobbying firms but perception of corruption. Regulating lobbyists.
  • Ingredients of group influence: their legitimacy, sanctions, membership (density as well as number) and resources.
  • Interest groups in authoritarian states: leaders seek either to suppress or to incorporate organised groups, especially unions. Decay of corporate solutions in countries such as Mexico. Some limited expression of group interests in later communism, including China’s Gongos.
  • Competitive authoritarian regimes: some orthodox representation for interests in non-controversial areas but political factors override in key sectors. Economic control as a source of patronage for the president. Personalized relationships discourage institutionalization of groups. Weaknesses of civil society in Russia and discouragement of overseas-funded NGOs.

Figures and tables


Multiple choice questions


Essays and term papers

  1. Do interest groups help or hinder liberal democracy?
  2. How accurate is the pluralist portrait of the relationship between interest groups and governments in liberal democracies?

Hague & Harrop, 2013 edn, ch.9.

C. Cigler and B. Loomis, Interest Group Politics
R. Hrebenar and R. Scott, Interest Group Politics in America
T. Lowi, The End of Liberalism
L. Maisel and J. Berry, The Oxford Handbook of American Political Parties and Interest Groups
D. Marsh and R. Rhodes, Policy Networks in British Government
M. Olson, The Rise and Decline of Nations
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