Pessimistic theory of pluralism.
A politics characterized by the pursuit by groups of their various interests which used to give something to everyone and achieve negotiated compromises, but which has changed to a situation where competing interests are deadlocked, and neither the public interest nor that of groups is served.
S H Beer, Britain Against Itself (London, 1982)
Classical pluralism is the view that politics and decision making are located mostly in the framework of government, but that many non-governmental groups use their resources to exert influence. The central question for classical pluralism is how power and influence are distributed in a political process. Groups of individuals try to maximize their interests. Lines of conflict are multiple and shifting as power is a continuous bargaining process between competing groups. There may be inequalities but they tend to be distributed and evened out by the various forms and distributions of resources throughout a population. Any change under this view will be slow and incremental, as groups have different interests and may act as “veto groups” to destroy legislation. The existence of diverse and competing interests is the basis for a democratic equilibrium, and is crucial for the obtaining of goals by individuals. A polyarchy—a situation of open competition for electoral support within a significant part of the adult population—ensures competition of group interests and relative equality. Pluralists stress civil rights, such as freedom of expression and organization, and an electoral system with at least two parties. On the other hand, since the participants in this process constitute only a tiny fraction of the populace, the public acts mainly as bystanders. This is not necessarily undesirable for two reasons: (1) it may be representative of a population content with the political happenings, or (2) political issues require continuous and expert attention, which the average citizen may not have.
Important theorists of pluralism include Robert A. Dahl (who wrote the seminal pluralist work, Who Governs?), David Truman, and Seymour Martin Lipset.