Pluralism as a concept and its practice

ByHoor Asrar Rauf

A national swimming champion and recently Graduated from UCF-USA in Hospitality and Event Management


February 18, 2023

Pluralism as a concept

Hoor Asrar defines a deepening Pluralism as a concept

Pluralism as a concept has gained tremendous traction in the last hundred years with the current world greatly valuing this concept and its practice. The concept was in currency since the beginning of the last century and by the time of the First World War business corporations and industrial combines had risen to prominence, underscoring the unequal distribution of power between labor and capital.

However, the labor classes succeeded in drawing a balance between unbridled capitalistic hegemony and with gradually increasing role of the working population. The result was that the class structure of the 19th century started to dissolve giving way to the fast-eroding difference between vocation and attitude, income and education, and grossly unequal influence and control both economically and politically.

With time pluralism got widely recognized as containing immense possibilities for variety, freedom, and change. The applicability of the concept of pluralism to political and cultural contexts was rapidly noticed and it was expected that a pluralistic world could be construed as a polity where groups, possessing inherent rights not con¬ceded by the state, elicited individual loyalties and pursued social ends.

The approach came to assume central significance in the plural¬istic theory of the state and vision of a commonwealth of different ethnic groups and their cultures. Pluralism as a concept offered an ana¬lytical and normative notion that responded to the increasingly associative character of society, the rise of governmental interventionism, the lobbying activities of organized groups, the nascence of immigrant subcultures, and the mal-distribution of political resources.

Pluralism is positive in content as it establishes a plurality of interests and corresponding social groups that act as latent centers of power and aims at organizing them into associations. Moreover, the trans¬formation of this diversity into public policies takes place through pressure exerted on each other and governments.

Complex Sociopolitical Interaction

Essentially, pluralism endorses the process of individuals turning to the organization and the resulting formation of interest groups as sub¬jects of democratic politics along with the sequence of group conflict, bargaining, and compromise characterizes the shaping of public policies while retaining the condition that basic rights and the principles of justice remain respected.

In this context, Pluralism as a concept is rightly considered as both a descrip¬tive and a prescriptive concept and practice of individual participation by the social association in the political process. In the process, groups are envisaged to operate as instruments, representing individuals rather than replacing them in the political process, thereby enhancing their chances for individual-centered democracy in a world of increasingly complex sociopolitical interaction.

It is however conceded that being a representative arrangement, Pluralism as a concept also comes with inbuilt tensions that exist between the original individual interests and eventual leadership action. To the extent that such group action currently has come to be treated as a substitute for individual action in reaching political outcomes, the chances for individual-centered democracy are diminished.

This inference is especially relevant because political resources enter the picture as a second pivotal element. Their grossly unequal dis¬tribution skews the political process in favor of powerful minorities. More often than not, from the viewpoint of the theory and practice of democracy, non-committed or indoctrinated citizens who are caught in a web of hierarchical organizations.

Over time, pluralism has vacillated between diagnosing severe democratic deficits in the political process and accepting the ongoing results of that process. The situation in the emerging consensual world seemed to be ready for a new political concept, reformulating the notions of freedom and democracy in a determined attempt to attain a good society in the context provided by organized capitalism the large nation-state.

Response Of Pluralism As a Concept

The response was a concept of groups and associations; of positive, interventionist government; and industrial democracy as a complement to political democracy. Another significant influence in this respect was the argument that associations sprang up in society according to the logic of functional differen¬tiation and that self-government, and consequently it proved identical with functional representation on every social level.

That included the workplace, the factory, and the enterprise; in a nutshell, it represented the control of production by worker organizations, since individuals had remained enslaved by industrial autocracy in the economic sector. It was emphasized that no political democracy could be real without being underpinned by economic democracy.

The concept focused on control rather than on ownership of the means of production and on the enfran¬chisement of the citizens both blue- and white-collar employees of the political body that was and is the modern enterprise. Most importantly, the pluralist concept merged into more comprehensive norms of democratization and ultimately spilled over onto the economy and society.

It became more than clear that the political aspect was re-conceptualized and was now considered related to now related to any form of group decision-making, whose democratization would be intended to make all sectors of society more responsive to their members. Additionally, pluralism ensured that it became firmly entrenched with the progress of financial and economic globalization.

With the insistence on cutting business regulation and welfare expenditure and opting for the privatization of public services, government, and market players alike have worked at reducing the size of government. Otherwise also the ongoing globalization has not simply diminished governance capabilities due to the pressure of mul¬tinational investors and foreign competition but they are governments themselves that have determinedly been restricting their performance.

Pluralism And Political Resources

Persisting inequalities of socioeconomic and, in addition, ethnocultural, influence and control, equivalent to so many embedded participatory barriers, have to keep resurfacing during this overview of research on pluralism and democracy.  As a powerful approach to inquiring into these issues, Pluralism as a concept has turned out to be of continuing relevance superseding many current practices that are getting challenged gradually.

What is emerging broader societal participation and a more equitable representation of social interests in the shaping of public policies along with reducing disparities in control over political resources to ensure the accessibility, accountability, and legiti¬macy of a representative democratic government?

Globalization has further pluralized and diversified Western-type soci¬eties with the fragmentation of interests getting advanced, and traditional institutional loyalties put in jeopardy. However, it also became evident that pluralism, because it considered diversity a pivotal value, has strongly emphasized cultural diversity, aiming at a cross-fertilized culture generally acceptable to multiple segments of the globalized population.

Pluralism strategizes affirmative action procedures in employment and education as well as the composition of political bodies reflect¬ing the existence of various social groups that work to reinforce cultural pluralism. Pluralism’s most pressing concern is centered on the controversial question of how to balance individual against group rights.

A pluralist politics informed by a spirit of both political participation and social justice clearly would eventually concede most space to political standing and legal rights though to what extent it is possible is not clear as yet. In this context, federalism as a form of self-government in which representa¬tives of varied groups share decision-making power is now considered the most suitable solution to socio-political and economic issues that keep on cropping up. The Weekender


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