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French Government: An Oligarchy Rather Than A Polyarchy

1253 words - 5 pages

The modern French government is a unique political entity like no other in history. In my research paper I aim to show that while France's system of government appears democratic it is in actuality not. I plan to demonstrate it is more of an oligarchy than a polyarchy, polyarchy being fundamentally necessary for democracy. Drawing on research from conflict theorists I plan to show that France is not truly democratic. I plan to first draw a parallel between research on France as a pluralist state and Robert Dahl's New Haven study by showing that France like New Haven appears to be a pluralist democracy. I then plan to show just as G. William Domhoff did with Dahl's original study, that the same inequality in power exists in France as in New Haven. This power inequality leaves a certain elite with a greater control over the states political system.
To me true democracy must include all adult citizenry. According to Robert Dahl in a democracy “all members are to be treated as if they were qualified to participate in the process of making decisions about policies”. He goes on to further sate no group should in a democracy have control of an agenda. When you have a group of people who as a result of their class and status in society can participate more fully and influence what issues are addressed by policy makers as well as control the policy making themselves you do not have a democracy.
Frank L. Wilson in his article French Interest Group Politics: Pluralist or Neocorporatist? makes the case that interest groups that are most affective in changing policy are the ones which employ informal and formal contact between their groups and leaders and subleaders within the political stratum of France. The French people are reluctant to enter into the political stratum through the traditional means of civil society as exemplified in US democracy (Bell 2002:122). Most of the democratic initiatives in France are spear headed by issue groups and pressure groups that are political in nature and not the type of organizations neo Tocquevillian Robert Putnam claims help create a strong democratic foundation. Putnam's civil society of associations and fraternal organizations in the US focus on increasing social capital which leads to greater civic participation. These issue groups and pressure groups in France on the other hand are highly political, focused on well defined goals that are mutually beneficial to the interest of their members and often fade way after accomplishing their goals (Bell 2002:121-123). Putnam's US examples while they did often championing political causes for their members, were also focused on creating a sense of familial cohesion amongst the members. That is not to say however that both forms of civic engagement don't create pluralist democracy through balance of power stemming from multiple power sources. In other words these pressure groups create the multiple power center necessary for polyarchy. Furthermore since a 1962...

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