Pressure, Power, and Policy: State Autonomy and Policy Networks in Britain and the United States

Pressure, Power, and Policy: State Autonomy and Policy Networks in Britain and the United States

Pressure, Power, and Policy: State Autonomy and Policy Networks in Britain and the United States

Pressure, Power, and Policy: State Autonomy and Policy Networks in Britain and the United States

Synopsis

"Pressure, Power and Policy provides an accessible and comprehensive introduction to new developments in pressure group theory. Traditionally, analysis of pressure groups has been dominated by pluralism, corporatism and Marxism. Martin Smith suggests that, while these approaches provide useful insights into state-group relations, they also have major limitations. He then goes on to outline the concepts of policy networks and state autonomy, and evaluate their contribution to understanding state-group interaction. The book focuses on the interrelationships between groups and the state rather than the activities of interest groups alone. It is also concerned with how policy networks develop and change, and how they affect policy outcomes and the level of state autonomy. The argument these theories provide for a more sophisticated analysis of the policy process is illustrated by case studies taken from a range of policy areas - business, health, agriculture and consumer policy - in both Britain and the United States. The case studies suggest that the types of relationships that exist between groups and government vary not according to the resources of the groups, but according to the way policy is made and the types of policy networks that develop. Pressure, Power and Policy is for students and researchers of political sociology, public policy, comparative politics and British and American Politics." Title Summary field provided by Blackwell North America, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Excerpt

Pressure groups have long been central to the understanding of the policy process. Indeed, many studies of policy-making define groups as one of the key determinants of policy outcomes. The underlying argument of this book is that too much attention has been paid to the role of groups in the analysis of the policy process. It suggests that more consideration needs to be paid to the broad context within which groups operate. The important variables in understanding decisions are the nature of the relationships that exist between groups and the state -- the types of policy networks -- and the interests and activities of state actors -- the degree of state autonomy. This book has two aims. The first is to introduce students to the concepts of policy networks and state autonomy and the second is to use these concepts to analyse a number of policy areas in Britain and the United States.

The key focus of analysis is not, therefore, groups but the nature of the relationships between state actors and groups, and the impact that these relationships have on policy outcomes. In the past, pressure group studies have been dominated by three theoretical traditions (which are discussed in detail in Chapter 2): pluralism, corporatism and marxism. Marxism, in a sense, sees pressure groups as having little importance and focuses on two groups in particular -- the representatives of labour and the representatives of capital. It is concerned with the question of how the capitalist state is able to ensure the longterm interests -- of capital despite the presence of conflicts between capitalist interests and the existence of organised labour. Corporatism is likewise concerned with economic groups. For corporatism, the increased complexity of industrial society, combined with the concentration of power within particular groups, forces the state to incorporate groups into the policy process in order to ensure economic growth and to avoid class conflict. For pluralists, groups are central to the political process. They are a means of articulating the interests of various sectors of society and representing those interests to government. Policy is the outcome of various group pressures. The existence of a range of groups ensures that power is distributed widely through society. No single group or the state has the ability to dominate the policy process.

Pluralism and marxism are seen as society-centred approaches. In other words, they see policy as being determined by pressures within society. The state is responding either to the interest of classes or groups. Recently, theorists have . . .

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