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Comparing Pluralist And Marxist Accounts Of Power In The Uk And Us

2186 words - 9 pages

Comparing Pluralist and Marxist Accounts of Power in the UK and US

Pluralism and Marxism both offer comprehensive theories about the
location of power within the modern state. Both theories to some
extent were based on Western governments; with Marxism being developed
partly through Engels’ experiences in Manchester in the mid nineteenth
century and Pluralism being developed through the studies in America
in the mid twentieth century; but they both offer radically different
ideas about who holds power in the UK and the US. We should, however,
be wary about using terms such as ‘pluralism’ and ‘Marxism’ without
acknowledging that many different variations of the theories exist,
and that they have both developed over time. It must be seen,
therefore that my analysis of the accounts of power in either system
can hardly be holistic.

One of the basic premises of pluralism is that the more power is
dispersed between different groups within a society, no single group
will have a monopoly of power, and the problems of ruling elites or a
single ruling class will be altogether avoided. Pluralism is
descriptive, and asserts that modern states have developed mechanisms
over time which avoid state monism and encourage a diverse range of
methods and channels through which a citizen can control political
leaders and shape the development of public policies.[1] To this end,
therefore, pluralists invest key institutions such as the media,
pressure groups the state and elections with the importance of
diffusing power to individuals, which prevents a single group or
institution from controlling the state.

Marxism accounts for the location of power in a completely different
manner. It asserts that the only basis of power is economic power, and
that that is unequally distributed. Unlike pluralism it indicates the
existence of a ruling class which has a virtual monopoly of power, and
Marxism also disagrees that the existence of institutions such as the
church or courts of law help to disperse power from the state, as it
claims that they are merely part of the ‘Superstructure’ of society
which tries to justify the inequalities inherent in modern society.
The accounts of power and the significance of state institutions
differ greatly between pluralism and Marxism, therefore.

In pluralism, for example, the media is given a great deal of
responsibility, as its role is seen as one of disseminating
information to citizens in an unbiased, objective way; as it is
logical to say that the more accurate information citizens have about
the running of a country the better position they will be in to vote
at elections. Dunleavy and O’Leary say: “Accurate and full information
about politics is essential if [citizens] are to control politicians,”[2]
as if people know that a government is making decisions they...

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