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Unit 4

4.6 Pluralist and Corporatist Interests in Government

5 min readโ€ขnovember 15, 2020

harrison-burnside

Harrison Burnside

kelly-cotton

Kelly Cotton


In this final topic of Unit 4, the focus turns to be able to describe pluralist and corporatist interest group systems, as we have completed our examination of social movements in Topic 4.5. The first key concept within this topic asks for you to define pluralist and corporatist interests, so let's start there.

Pluralist vs. Corporatist Systems

  • Pluralist systems promote competition among autonomous groups not linked to the state. This is a situation in which power is split among many groups that compete for the chance to influence the governmentโ€™s decision making.
  • Corporatist systems are systems in which the government controls access to policymaking by relying on state-sanctioned groups or single peak associations (SPAs) to represent labor, business, and agricultural sectors.
Let's explore this a bit more through the lens of a democratic nation, such as the United States. Pluralism is a key component of democracy. It allows a number of voices to be heard and influence policymaking, a key characteristic of democratization. In the United States, this takes the form of numerous interest groups through which American citizens are able to express their needs to the government. For example, in the US you have interest groups like the NRA, AARP, Sierra Club, etc. which allow multiple voices to tell the U.S. government what they desire whether it be the protection of 2nd Amendment rights, protection of social security, or protection of the environment ๐Ÿ”ซ
Meanwhile, corporatism in a democracy is much different ๐Ÿ—ณ๏ธ Unlike interest groups in a pluralist system that are spontaneous, in a corporatist system, interest group representation is institutionalized through recognition by the state. In other words, groups can only form if the state allows it. The second difference is that pluralist systems within democracies encourage voluntary discussion and autonomy of groups from the government, while corporatism is directly linked to the state and, therefore, does not possess that same level of autonomy from the state โ˜‘๏ธ
If a democracy moves towards corporatism in regards to its interest groups, this is also an indication that it is moving towards authoritarianism or more direct control over policymaking and the people. This is important because another key concept asks you to recognize that pluralism and corporatism are both systems of interest group representation. However, you need to know that the state retains more control over citizen input in a corporatist system than it does in a pluralist system because the existence of interest groups can only come through state approval!
The final key concept in this topic asks you to understand that the interest group systems can change over time, as represented by Mexicoโ€™s ๐Ÿ‡ฒ๐Ÿ‡ฝ moving from a corporatist system toward a pluralist system. So let's explore Mexicoโ€™s system in more detail. We have discussed before that Mexico was once much more authoritarian and has been moving towards democratization. As a result, we see Mexico moving from state control of interest groups through corporatism, which allows little to no influence of the people, to a pluralist system that allows more autonomy and influence on government by the people of the country.

Major Steps in Movement from Corporatism to Pluralist

These are the major steps of this movement:
  1. Mexico was once dominated by the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party), and, in order to maintain their control over the government, the PRI practiced state corporatism with the state mediating among different groups to ensure that no one group successfully challenged their power in the government.
    1. Remember the PRI won all presidential elections between 1929 and 1999, but PRI lost the 2000 Presidential election.
  2. The PRI formally divided interest groups into three sections: labor, peasants, and the middle class which each dominated by PRI-controlled groups.
  3. However, as other political parties, like PAN (the National Action Party), began to challenge and criticize the PRI and its power, PRIโ€™s control over interest groups began to fade. PAN won the presidency in 2000 and majorities in the legislature.
  4. As a result, Mexico is now in a period of transition. Is it a neo-corporatist state (where interests, not the government controls interest groups), or a pluralist system (independent interests have input, but donโ€™t control)?
  5. At this point, it is too early to tell because Mexico is very early into its transition to a more democratic system. Remember it is still considered an illiberal democracy (a democracy in which democratic structure is in place, but may not function democratically, or limit the civil society and civil liberties and rights of the people).
That concludes our examination of Unit 4 Party and Electoral Systems and Citizen Organizations. Let's review what we have learned in this unit. The first part of the unit is focused on electoral systems. At this juncture, you should be able to describe electoral systems and rules in each of the course countries. Remember that this is a comparative government course, so you need to be able to compare systems and rules.
You also need to be able to take what you have learned about systems and rules and explain how election rules serve different regime objectives regarding ballot access, election wins, and constituency accountability. In general, authoritarian regimes create election systems and rules to limit ballot access, control election wins, and often do not allow for much accountability to its constituencies.
Once we concluded our exploration of electoral systems, it was time to explore political parties which are a key part of election systems. Political parties organize candidates for the election system regardless of what that system looks like. You need to be able to describe characteristics of political party systems and party membership among the course countries. Much like with elections, be ready to compare systems between course countries.
The unit concludes with an examination of linkage institutions that connect the people to the elected officials, social movements, and interest groups. We began with an exploration of social movements which are large, unstructured movements that look to bring about sweeping social, political, and/or economic change. We then transitioned into an exploration of interest groups that are highly organized and can be structured in a pluralist system (many voices with autonomy from the government) or corporatist systems (government-controlled with little to no autonomy). It is now time to move onto our final unit of the course, Unit 5 Political and Economic Changes and Development.

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