The Governmental Process: Political Interests and Public Opinion

By David B. Truman | Go to book overview

9
Interest Groups and Political Parties

"POLITICS," according to Max Weber, "...means striving to share power or striving to influence the distribution of power, either among states or among groups within a state."1 Such a view of the political process is a particularly helpful one if we are to understand the tactics of group influence upon and through the institutions of government. It suggests the importance of viewing these institutions in their proper perspective as power relations and of going beyond their formal, legalistic aspects.

It may seem unnecessary to insist that political institutions are essentially power relationships, since most sophisticated readers will acknowledge that legal and constitutional structure provides an incomplete statement of the governing process. And yet, so strong is our awareness of the standardized, formal aspects of government -- especially a government to which we owe allegiance -- that we easily fall into the error of a simplified, stereotyped picture of the process: the legislature adopts policy, the executive approves and administers it, the courts adjudicate controversies arising out of it -- only these things, always in this order, constitute the process of government and where such is not the case, it ought to be. Although this account may be something of a caricature, a close reading of almost any textbook on American government will indicate that it is not a gross distortion. The standard procedure in such expositions is to take the legal formalities as the theme and to treat everything else as variation.

A clearer picture of reality is not likely to be provided merely

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1
Max Weber: Politics as a Vocation, in H. H. Gerth and C. Wright Mills : From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology ( New York: Oxford University Press, Inc., 1946), p. 78. Copyright by and used with the permission of Oxford University Press, Inc.

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