State, Pluralism

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Summary

A state is an organized community living under one government. States may be sovereign. The term state is also applied to federated states that are members of a federal union, which is the sovereign state. Some states are subject to external sovereignty or hegemony where ultimate sovereignty lies in another state. The state can also be used to refer to the secular branches of government within a state, often as a manner of contrasting them with churches and civilian institutions.

Details

Pluralists view society as a collection of individuals and groups, who are competing for political power. They then view the state as a neutral body that simply enacts the will of whichever groups dominate the electoral process. Within the pluralist tradition, Robert Dahl developed the theory of the state as a neutral arena for contending interests or its agencies as simply another set of interest groups. With power competitively arranged in society, state policy is a product of recurrent bargaining. Although pluralism recognizes the existence of inequality, it asserts that all groups have an opportunity to pressure the state. The pluralist approach suggests that the modern democratic state's actions are the result of pressures applied by a variety of organized interests. Dahl called this kind of state a polyarchy.

Pluralism has been challenged on the ground that it is not supported by empirical evidence. Citing surveys showing that the large majority of people in high leadership positions are members of the wealthy upper class, critics of pluralism claim that the state serves the interests of the upper class rather than equitably serving the interests of all social groups.

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