What is the pluralist model?

What is the pluralist model?

The Significance of the Pluralist Model in Democracy

The pluralist model of democracy was designed to explain the function of democracy in spite of limited political interest or participation. The pluralistic model is based on the philosophy of pluralism which states that people often form groups in accordance with economic, religious, ethnic, or cultural interests or similarities. Institutions are formed and thrive in group participation. In example, people with similar interests form interest groups to sway politicians to with their interests.

The classic perspective of pluralism sees government as the decision making authority with political parties and non-government groups influencing this decision making. Within this model power takes many forms in political and special interest groups that attempt to maximize policy making in their best interests. This leads to bargaining and negotiation between different groups or in the US system partisanship. However, pluralism also contains large amounts of inequality due to the distribution of economic and other forces amongst groups. For example, despite most Americans not having an issue with a waiting period fall all firearms, the NRA and other groups have consistently fought legislation for waiting lists.

Other issues exist in pluralism such as time wasting and stagnation of policy. Partisanship is not always achievable and policy making often becomes mired in politics with small changes to policies keeping policy from occurring. For instance, lengthy policy deliberations can occur in committees and then in congressional meetings only to be vetoed by the president. This often occurs when the interest groups can place enough leverage against the president to make passing the policy unwise with regard to voters.

The pluralist model has many issues with partisanship such as the two party system which does not always speak for the majority of people. There are large numbers of swing voters who do not uniformly fall into either party are often at the mercy of policy making that is either favoring one party or the other.

The pluralist model of democracy is significant because its interpretation of government and the interpretation of democratic process is inclusive of the idea that people form groups which compete for interest in policy. For this reason, the pluralistic model works best with a government that is decentralized in authority and is a complex bureaucracy. Representation is key to this model as groups are able to apply pressure to these members of government.

The pluralist model is important in the 21st century because of globalization. As the world becomes more connected there are naturally increased political groups representing the interests of new markets, people, and other diverse associations. As the population of the US continues to become more diverse the plural model becomes more apparent in the political arena.


William E Connolly, The Ethos of Pluralization. University of Minnesota Press, 1995.

Photo by Unseen Histories on Unsplash


Triola Vincent. Thu, Apr 01, 2021. What is the pluralist model? Retrieved from

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