By Amer Rizwan
To begin with, let us question the arguments of some theorists, who predicted in the recent past quite unjustifiably that the Liberal Pluralist model was outmoded and is therefore no longer being functional in most of the countries around the world.
The Liberal Pluralist state in its modern form is in fact complex societies with large scale political organizations. On the top of all this, pluralist democracy offers a process of competition and eventual accommodation to almost every interest of the society, and in the process, individual liberty is best guaranteed. In this context, the model was first theorized by a group of theorists working at Yale University – David Truman, Robert Dahl, and Charles Lindbolm. The group of academicians was known later as the Yale school of thought who advocated and supported the Pluralist Model of state on the basis of the Empirical Democratic Theory. They studied the role of political parities and other interest groups in the democratic societies such as US and UK. They ultimately found that due to the process of competition and the accommodation that the process offers to different groups and parties, this model of governance offers best guarantee of individual liberty. In this respect, this model is in sharp contrast with dictatorial and other forms of non-democratic governments. In one sense this model can rightly be called as "polyarchical state which is neutral in respect of the interests which it represents."
In fact the Empirical Democratic Theory and Normative Political Philosophy should not be seen as mutually exclusive; they can be seen as working on the different angles of the same projects. This model corresponds to a "Liberal state which is neutral in respect of different conceptions of good life."
The third model that takes up the issue of the Liberal Pluralist Democracy is known as the Multi-culturalist Model proposed by Kymlicka. This model gives a conception of "Multicultural state which is neutral in respect of ethno-cultural bias."
The sources of liberalist political thought can be traced back to Locke and Montesquieu. Whereas the former is the forerunner in giving the idea of a government that held government in trust, the latter inspired the framers of the American constitution who were very skeptical of any attempt of concentration of executive, legislative and judicial powers in the same person or agency. As a whole, liberalist thoughts were the cornerstone of the US Declaration of Independence 1776 and the French Declaration of the rights of 1789.
Yale School has the traces of both the Protective as well as of the Development models of pluralism. Pluralism is either protective or developmental. Protective pluralism implies institutional arrangement primarily aimed at safeguarding the liberty of the individual. The developmental model is concerned with securing opportunities for individuals to participate in politics as well. While all the development models do value individual liberty, the Development Model also value participation for its own sake. Whereas Montesquieu and Madison are the central sources of protective pluralism, de Tocqueville and J.S. Mill are undoubtedly the sources of its development aspects.
A very important influence on the Yale school is that of the classical Utilitarianism. They believe that different interests must be accommodated in any pluralist democratic process. There must be broad consensus on the political values. Like any game, the game or competition of politics has its rules which must be faithfully observed by the competitors. In the absence of such a consensus on observing the rules, the political system would descend into chaos.
Then Yale school has been influenced by British pluralists like Laski who refuses to give the state the exclusive source of allegiance; they argue that other associations, organizations, family institutions etc play an equally important role in the life of the individuals, and thus in certain spheres the latter would prefer these non-state institutions instead the state itself. Laski lived in an age, when there were no transnational non-state actors which have posed a real threat to the very existence of the states themselves. The actions and interactions between the states and the non-actors such as Al-Qaeda, Taliban, LTTE, Hizbollah would have certainly reinforces his case; nay they would have certainly enriched the political jargon of his supporters.
American pragmatism, a philosophical school engaged with the idealistic and the scientific conceptions of the truth, has also been one of the sources for the Yale school.
We may get two different conceptions of pluralist state from the writings of the Yale school. There is either a "Responsive State," which while makes its policy in accordance with the demands of the competing interests or groups of the society. However, in this conception, the state is viewed as impartial and without interests of its own. It does mediate between and among the demands emanating from civil society, yet it does not take sides. Again there may be a "Broker State." In such a case, the pluralist state has a distinct interest of its own. In such a case, the state itself forges alliances with the key elements (most importantly the capitalist interests) in the society and governing in their favour). While theoretically speaking, all the Western democracies are Responsive Pluralist states, practically they all are "Broker Pluralist States" to a lesser or a greater extent. One of the initial debates of the Yale school focused on the debate between the passive or active role for ensuring fair competition between different interest groups.
In Rawl's Normative Political philosophy, the state is pluralistic in yet another sense i.e. it is pluralistic in a moral sense in respect of diverse ways of life or conceptions of good – liberty and opportunity, income and wealth – that it makes possible. The state as per Rawl and his followers has a normative concern. In this sense, the pluralist state fits in to the conception of the US state given by the outgoing Bush administration whose aim was decimating the forces of "evil" all around and taking American flag to every nook and corner of the world for furthering the cause of democracy all around.
The most pressing problem faced by the liberal state today relate to the problem of ethnic minorities within the state. A liberal state has to evolve principles of ethno-cultural policy that may orientate its policy in respect of different cultural minorities. Ironically the very election of a "coloured" Obama bespeaks of this model of pluralism in the US. This is the beauty of Pluralist model which, given sustenance, can promise representation and accommodation to all the interests and groups in the society. Mayawati may not become the prime minister in India as a result of the ongoing General Elections yet the coming of an untouchable to the national spotlight in a country that is rampant with deep class divisions is by no means any less significant development.
There are a number of different senses to the term liberal pluralism. There may be the pluralism of the political process analyzed by the Yale school e.g. David Truman, Robert Dahl, and Charles Lindbolm. Again, Pluralism may give a conception of the state in respect of different conceptions of good analyzed by the Liberal Equality thinkers such as Rawl. Yet again, there may be liberal pluralism of the multi-cultural state which has been theorized by Liberal theorists such as Kymlicka. There is a number of links between these different senses of the liberal pluralist polity.
In pluralist state, there is a number of centers of power in a society, policy is made and implemented, not by a single body but by a number of different bodies, including different departments, different braches of government, supranational and sub-national government and interest groups.
As discussed earlier, many scholars in the 70s predicted that the Liberalist theory of Politics was doomed to fail. However, the sea-changes that were brought about by the concomitant transformation of the world from the bipolar phase to the unipolar phase of world history belied those premonitions. However, one of the corollaries of these developments has inter alia been the erosion of rationality and sense of proportion in the Liberalist ranks itself. For instance, Francis Fukuyama's belief that Western forms of government, political economy and political community are the ultimate destination which the entire human race will eventually reach poses at least three challenges for orthodoxy within international relations.
One, political and economic development always terminates at liberal-capitalist democracy; that the Western path to modernity will eventually command universal consent; two, it also assumes that the West is the keeper of moral truths, which 'progress' will oblige all societies to observe, regardless of natural and cultural distinction; three, progress in human history can be measured by the elimination of conflict and the international adoption of the principles of legitimacy which have evolved over time in certain domestic political orders. This constitutes an 'inside-out' approach to international relations, where the exogenous behaviour of states can be explained by examining the endogenous political and economic dispositions. Doyle also claims that democracies are uniquely willing to eschew the use of force in their relations with one another. A claim spurned by Jacques Derrida and Alaxandre Kojeve by arguing that never have violence, inequality, exclusion, famine and the economic oppression affected as many human beings in the history of mankind as is being witnessed during the apogee of the liberal pluralist mode of democracy.
On the whole, the Liberal Pluralist Model has the greatest capacity to accommodate the myriad interests of the gregarious society, be it in the form of promising dividends to each and every interest groups or accruing multiple versions of good or even holding best future for all the ethnic groups within a state. Whereas the critics to the Liberal Capitalist Model may have overstated their case yet it is no denying the fact that even the exuberant utopians of the Liberalist camp also not done any justice to the idea. Practically speaking, numerous groups in a pluralist polity try to influence the policy making. So a policy emerges out of compromise. It means that there are "mutual adjustments" between various interest groups. It also presupposes a shared commitment on the part of all interested parties on reaching an agreement. The agreement is actually about the basic rules of the game/competition. Since the implementation of the policy is not permanent and it is followed by "trial and error method," there is always the possibility that "losers" in the game of influencing policy could win on a future occasion.