The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion

By David B. Truman | Go to book overview

Preface

SIGNIFICANT amounts of power are wielded in American politics by those formations usually known as "pressure groups." Most people recognize, in fact, some dimly and some sharply, that these groups are critically important elements in the political process. The power such groups dispose is involved at every point in the institutions of government, and the efforts of these formations are in various ways aided, restricted, and identified with institutionalized government. Partly because the diversity of relationships between groups and government is bewildering, we have had no inclusive working conception of the general political role of "pressure groups" or, as I prefer to call them, interest groups. The treatment of the interest group in most books on American government and politics is like that accorded the party in political writing until about the end of the nineteenth century. Nonparty groups have been dealt with in a manner that has been relatively casual and unsystematic. The interest group by and large is known as anatomy without being adequately understood as physiology.

We have had no dearth of muckraking exposés designed to rouse a presumably ignorant citizenry by revealing the allegedly evil activities of "lobbies" and "special interests." The end of such tracts has not yet been seen and undoubtedly will not soon appear. They perform a political function themselves that is likely to continue indefinitely.

More important for purposes of this book are the academic monographs on particular interest groups, of which there have been a

-vii-

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