Umair Ali discusses a pertinent subject
The ideal form of state in the current parlance is a pluralist state that carries in its wake all the stakeholders living within its parameters. Underling the pluralist state is the concept and practice of political pluralism that emerged at a time when the state was becoming increasingly active and powerful. The emergence of pluralist state was a reaction against the widespread practices of totalitarianism with the theories in vogue then giving undue prominence to the role of the state and it was considered to be the beginning and end of all political action. Contrary to this practice, the pluralist emphasis was upon the importance of groups within the state and particularly upon the crucial role of small groups. This reaction was obviously a protest on the one hand against individualism and on the other against idealism. Treading the middle way the pluralists believed that individualism and collectivism were but two sides of a single coin. They pointed out that individualism, which was based upon a false view of human nature and of human relationships, led by easy stages to collectivism and to statism.
Pluralists were of the view that by denying the political importance of the social life of citizens as it manifests itself in the family and civic association renders politics as a matter of the man versus the state. This point of view was in line with the perceptions of idealists, who, while recognising the importance of the role which groups play in the life of the individual, usually failed to carry these convictions into their political theories. They became either sponsors of state paternalism or of the ideology of self-help on a very wide basis but, to the pluralists it fell short of their own thought process. In this changing scenario, political pluralism was built upon a foundation of three pillars: an insistence that liberty is the most important political value, and that it is best achieved in a state where power is distributed and dispersed, rather than being concentrated at one point; a rejection of the idea of sovereignty; legal, political and moral; and a notion of the real personality of groups.
However, it was also noted that pluralism is that the group can be quite as oppressive to the individual as can the state as the action of the state in exercising compulsion against people for their own good came to be justified in terms of helping them to live the life that they would really like to live, if only they were provident enough. To them it implies that it is one of the rights of the citizen to be protected against his own weaknesses. Nevertheless, those who did not justify the positive actions of the state as directly contributing to an increase in human freedom defended these actions as promoting the general happiness or realising the common good, happiness and a good which were thought in some way or other to be willed or desired by the people.
In addition, by the beginning of the twentieth century it had become clear to a number of thinkers that the only hope for freedom in the modem world was by attacking the outrageous claims being made on behalf of the state. The only factor uniting these thinkers was a refusal to pay homage to the established capitalist system of their day and it was observed in this context that the ascendance of the absolute state was directly linked to the horror of that very economic and industrial oppression which is the distinctive gift of modem capitalism to history. It is interesting to observe that many proponents of such concept were members of groups whose existence was being challenged by the claims of the state. It was also mentioned that there will certainly be occasions on which individuals will find themselves tom between loyalty to one group and loyalty to another.
While rejecting this concept, pluralists conceded that there will inevitably be friction in a pluralist state as the individual will have to make up his mind what he should do in these cases of conflict. Perhaps the state will itself intervene and side with one group against another on the particular issue; normally citizens will accept the decision of the state because they accept the importance of there being some generally recognised machinery for maintaining order. It was however emphasised that they may on a particular occasion refuse to accept the ruling of the state and disobey or even take to arms. Sometimes the state will go beyond its role as the mediator and will attempt to pursue some national goal which it will impose upon its citizens.
The pluralists advocated that a pluralistic state will keep common good in view along with adhering to general will or a public interest and these factors constitute an allembracing, substantive purpose to be followed by the state as a whole. In this case the state will sooner or later come into conflict with a number of the voluntary groups which are to be found within it. However, the idea of a pluralist state is to bring all such elements into political mainstream by ironing out the difficulties in the way. TW