POL 102 Pluralism Assignment

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POL 102 Pluralism Assignment


Explain Features of the Pluralist Theory of the State. In your own View is the Pluralist Theory Applicable to Africa?


The concept of how modern state emerged is attached to various theories; these theories aim to paint a picture of how the modern state came about and the different paths of its development. The purpose of this paper is therefore, to interpret the modern state as per the pluralist theory .This paper will look at the case studies of South Africa, which is politically decentralized and Nigeria which is under a powerful military central administration.  Although Otto’s theory is compelling and correct this paper argues that the pluralist theory is generally not applicable in Africa because the state in Africa was imposed and most of the African countries are run by elites. It is however important to note that it is less prevalent in Africa .This theory is important because it advocates for decentralization of power within the state which bridges the gap between the citizens and their state. The first objective will define the key terms, secondly it will discuss the features of the pluralist theory and at the same time showing whether it is applicable to Africa or not as well as to what extent. The third objective will show why the pluralist theory is not applicable to Africa. Finally the paper will be concluded with a summary. POL 102 Pluralism Assignment

Definition of Key Terms

While discussing the meaning of the pluralist theory, it is seen that various theorists have different perceptions on defining the theory. The following key terms are to explain and simplify the meaning of the pluralist theory of the state:

A state refers to people that are organized within a definite territory governed by law (Hirs,1993) , while Aristotle defines the state as a union of families and villages having for its end a perfect and self – sufficing life. This implies that a state is simply a political association in a geographical area that has some sort of dominion over it.  A theory is a model of reality that helps us to understand and explain how things are in reality. A Pluralist is simply an advocate of a system in which multiple groups, principles and states co-exist.  This implies that the pluralist theory is a society under a territory governed by law in which multiplicity of groups or institutions are operative within society.

Features of the Pluralist Theory

The pluralist theory was developed by a number of political thinkers from Europe and America. German Jurist Otto Van Gierke, G.D.H Cole (1859-1959), Emile Durkheim (1858-1979) and its commencement can be traced form the time of guild system of middle ages. This theory which advocates for limited power to the state implies that power should be evenly distributed amongst the groups in society. Some of the pluralist countries include America, Canada, Nigeria and South Africa. Features of the pluralist theory include, State as reflection of groups, decentralization of authority, the role of the state as a neutral arbiter, the independence of the interests groups from the state and lastly interest groups influence the state.


The State as a Reflection of Groups

The pluralist theory is marked by a focus on the societal character of the state. It recognizes the role of several associations in society formed by men as a way of attempt to meet their interests and needs. This is important because for a state to exist it is because of a society. This should thus be practiced because these groups are basically a way through which the society can raise their concerns and reach to the government easily as per the group’s objectives. These groups are formed on the basis of differing objectives. Some are formed advocating for environmental protection and some as trade unions. Hirst (1993), explains that plural societies recognizes the various types of organizations present in the state for example the religious groups , the voluntary bodies like environmental clubs, trade unions, diversity of tribal and the different cultural and ethnicity of groups. POL 102 Pluralism Assignment

The state is expected to recognize all the existing groups as its own creations. This aspect is important because it would allow people’s interest to be considered first. It would ensure that it is not a particular group that is important but rather the goals of that group that would benefit the society as a whole. For example studies have shown that the public sector unions are the major interest groups in American politics because they can greatly influence the important types of government policies. Union density is much higher in local and state governments than in the federal government. Also, public sector unions are weaker in Southern and border states than elsewhere (DiSalvo, 2014).

These groups are formed on the basis of differing goals or interests. The public sector unions would usually seek higher wages, better benefits, and job protections for their members, which are costly for governments to provide. Unions can mobilize money and manpower in ways that the unorganized cannot, implying that government workers will exercise greater power when they are unionized. P.B Harris (1968) explains, In South Africa groups are more interested in “government” than in party politics because through the governmental process, the interest groups can most effectively operate. For example, the South African Chamber of Industries declared itself to be “non-political” as well as the Chambers of Commerce and the Institute of Race Relations.

The Role of the State as a Coordinator

Cole’s argument is that in a pluralist society there exists a neutral state machine that acts a referee between the competing groups. The need for a state in this context is that since these several associations take care of the societies needs it should therefore not exist above these associations. The state coordinates the activities of these associations in the society. Associations are as-well expected to coordinate the activities of their members. The sole reason behind this is due to the differing goals held by these various groups which tend to make them competitive in trying to influence the state. It is these differing goals that would determine whether the state would listen to them or not. POL 102 Pluralism Assignment

A state is a neutral arbiter between competing interests. It is a means of resolving the conflicting claims of these associations, by evolving a common basis of their functioning. This implies that the state is not supposed to impose its own will or regulations on them, but should apply a way by which it could lead to a harmonizing common good, or the common interest. Schwarzmante (1994:52) stated” the state is the key servant of its society not its master”, implying that the state should be responsive to these association needs or demands. In Hobbes’s view the neutrality of the state reflects the fact that the state in the interest of all citizens. For example the Mozambican National Movement (Renamo) in (2013) and the Tuareg rebellions in Mali(1997) are notable achievements in restoring state unity. Senghor and K Poko 2007).

Statistics in Uganda have shown that the new multi-party system has been in existence for barely four years. Over two-thirds (68%) of the respondents agreed that the majority of local citizens accepted multi-partysm as an appropriate political system, while only 21% disagreed. As a result the society divided and formed groups, one advocating for multi-partysm and one for non-multi-partysm. The state had to intervene and have a final say looking at what would benefit the society at most. Upon weighing the advantages of this issue it was officially announced in the 2005 referendum that local citizens are free to join these parties. The state went for the perception that the majority of local citizens accept multi-partysm as an appropriate form of governance that supports freedom. The State of Political Pluralism and Democracy at Local Government Level in Uganda (2010).

This is significant because it essential for the maintenance of society, although in some cases it fails to exercise this character. For example Nigeria is currently acutely divided along ethnic, religious and regional associations. The division manifests in lack of cohesion and violent religious, ethnic and communal conflicts that have been experienced in different parts of the country in which thousands of people were killed. Ethnic and religious violence involving loss of many lives have been recorded during the past four years in many cities, including Kaduna, Lagos, Jos, Kano, Aba and Warri. Alemika and Okoye (2002-2001).

It is also important to note that this is impractical because the state tend to be biased towards groups that supports its motions. Favourism of groups is observed in groups that are funded (or rely on) by government of which even their goals as associations favors the government. Usually favor is given to groups with huge members that can exert more pressure to the state decisions. The pluralists’ theory does not delete the state as whole but rather it also recognizes some functions of the state. For instance, the functions of maintaining internal order and security, defense from external enemies.


Decentralization of Authority

Pluralists have replaced the centralized state by advocating for political system which is open to multiple interests.  The principle of decentralization in government includes the distribution of authority among many organs of defined geographic according to relatively permanent constitutionals. This implies that they will be promotion of citizen interest in government through wider popular participation, as the goals of development are people’s participation, political stability, planning and implementation as well as decision making   . Decentralization brings decision-making close to the people and therefore deals with programs and services that better address local needs. For example The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) was sponsoring a program in Nigeria which aimed at promoting greater participation of the people in democratic process and provides consciousness of the people about their rights and decision-making. Burns Danny, Robin Hambleton, and Paul Hoggett (1994). POL 102 Pluralism Assignment

UNDP report states that, “Decentralization aims to bring government closer to people that decisions made on the local level will be more sensitive to local conditions, more responsive to local needs and will allow for higher accountability and transparency”. This implies that that the management and control of society should be shared by several associations in proportion to their contribution to the social good.  These groups play a vital role in society by bridging the gap between the people and the running of the state. The pluralistic theory, therefore, advocates reorganization of the state through a set of institutions guaranteeing its effective limitations, such as workers’ and consumers’ unions, which should serve as countervailing powers in the state.

For example the labour process in South Africa which is characterized by a racial division that was a result of the forced African migrant labour power at a low wages. The selling and buying of labour power was thus linked to the colour of the worker and not his or her skill (Von Holdt and Webster (2005). Webster Buhlungu, and Bezuidenhout (2001) term this racial despotism, racial in that one group was superior legally, politically and economically while other were denied such rights. This is against the advocates of the pluralist theory since all groups should be fairly treated irregardless of ethnicity. According to Edigheji (2009:62) positions in the bureaucracy in Africa have to be based on merit rather than patronage; ethnic or religious considerations. According to Decentralization and Municipalities in South Africa(2009),  more residents across South Africa are demanding better quality services from their local authorities. For example, 3000 residents of Diepsloot (Gauteng province) took to the streets demanding basic services. In Durban (KwaZulu-Natal province), 5000 people from informal settlements marched through the city centre demanding houses and services.

Several approaches to the idea of decentralization include the doctrinal approach, which is based on the distribution of political and economic power. The political approach which refers to a shift of power away from centre and the he administrative approach, which takes us to understand the various levels of government and the related conflicting situation between area and function.


State Must Justify its Claim to Authority

As the state is only one of the associations in society intended to serve the interests of society, its claim to superior authority cannot be taken for granted.  The state has a privileged position as its jurisdiction is compulsory over all individuals and associations within its state. It still carries authority or powers to rule over its people. For example it can still punish the law breakers. These characteristics are there to show that the state holds more responsibility. The state is expected to secure the interests of its society by harmonizing the interests of all associations that are operating in the society.

Some of the associations might be stronger than others which most of their interests will be well-represented in the assemblies or impressing the state. There are several ways in which these impressions might be achieved for example through mass movements, demonstrations and rallies of which others might be dormant and hardly noticed. Although this is the case, the state is expected to ensure that all interests are given equal treatment or attention as they seek their coordination in pursuance of the common interest. The state, as an arbiter of conflicting

Claims, must demonstrate that it is not dominated by any special interest or ‘vested interests’ while exercising its authority otherwise would create chaos within the society. POL 102 Pluralism Assignment

As Benn and Peters (1975) have insisted: “The state must not be allowed to fall into the hands of men concerned only for the interest of a limited group. It must be sensitive to all, without succumbing to any one or any limited coalition of interests”. This implies that the state should fairly serving the interests of the existing groups, rather than focusing on the dominant class at the expense of the dependent class.

Whether Pluralism is Applicable to Africa or not and to what Extent

Although Otto’s theory is compelling and correct this paper argues that the pluralist theory is generally not applicable in Africa because the state in Africa was imposed and also most of the African countries are still developing. It is however important to note that the pluralist theory is less prevalent in Africa due to its minimum prevalence in the African continent the most pluralist countries being South Africa and Nigeria.

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