What is a Pressure Group_

What is a Pressure Group?

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Comparison of Pressure Groups and Political Parties Differences.

A pressure group refers to any interest group that has members with common interests and these members making joint efforts to pressurise the formal political system to pursue their interests. They seek to exert influence government from outside, rather than becoming a part of it.

 They do not make policy decisions, but rather try to influence those who happen to be the policy-makers.

Thus, pressure groups are essentially external to the government and sometimes known as the informal face of t politics. 

The members of a pressure group are united by either a shared belief in a particular cause or a common set of interests. People with different ideological and party preferences may thus work happily together as members of the same pressure group.

Comparison of Pressure Groups and Political Parties Differences

While the Pressure groups seek to exert influence, political parties seek to win power.

The members of a pressure group have shared interests and common causes. They may have different ideologies and party preferences despite being members of the same group.

The political parties are associations of individuals sharing common values and preferences.   Pressure groups are formed to solve their immediate problems.

Political parties are formed on ideological lines and they continuously engage in the mobilisation of the masses with the aim to capture the power and consolidate their position to attain or realise their ideological goals. While the pressure groups have narrow issue focus, most political parties have broad issue focus as well as a vision for the future. 

Pressure groups are relatively temporary than political parties. 

 Pressure groups remain confined to a select group of people, unlike political parties which engage in mass mobilization.

 Similarities

Both the pressure groups and political parties are the main media through which the public’s views and interests are channelled to the government. 

Both of them carry out the representation, facilitate political participation and contribute to the policy process.   In some circumstances, the political parties may act as a pressure group.

Types of Pressure Group

Although the pressure groups can be distinguished in a variety of ways (including local/national/transnational groups and temporary/ permanent groups), the most common distinctions are as follows: 

Interest and cause groups

Insider and outsider groups

Interest and cause groups

 Interest Groups

 The interest groups, also known as ‘sectional’, ‘protective’ or ‘functional groups’ are those groups which represent a particular section of the society such as workers, employers, consumers, ethnic or religious groups etc. 

The interest groups are primarily concerned to protect or advance the interests of their members. The membership is limited to people in a particular occupation, career or economic position. All the members are motivated by material self-interest.

 The examples of such interest groups are trade unions, business corporations, trade associations, professional bodies etc. Since they represent a particular section of the society, they are called sectional groups.

 Specific examples are FICCI, ASSOCHAM and India’s all-powerful IT trade association NASSCOM.

Cause Groups

 Cause groups also are known as ‘promotional’, ‘attitude’ or ‘issue’ groups. Cause groups are based on shared attitudes or values rather than the common interests of its members. They seek to advance specific cause or causes ranging from charity activities, poverty reduction, education and environment, human rights, peace etc. 

Thus, the cause groups seek to advance particular ideals or principles. The members may be from different sections or with different interests. The members of the cause groups are motivated by moral or altruistic concerns. Specific examples of such groups include the WWF, Amnesty International etc. 

 Some pressure groups may be having the features of both interest and cause groups. For example, Association for India’s Development (AID) promotes sustainable, equitable and just development by supporting grassroots organizations in India.

At the same time, it also has campaigned for some specific interests such as free Binayak Sen campaign etc.

Difference between interest groups and cause groups

 The interest groups defend interests while the cause groups promote the cause.

Interest groups have a closed membership, cause groups have open memberships

The interest groups are more related to the material concerns of the group, cause groups are related to moral concerns for the group. 

Interest groups are for members only, cause groups are for wider society. 

Insider Groups and outsider Groups Insider Groups

The insider groups are those groups which are consulted on a regular basis by the government. Thus, they operate ‘inside’ the decision-making process with a variety of degree, regularity and level of consultation.

Some of these groups become ultra-insider groups consulted at ministerial level in the executive. The outsider groups have no special links to the government.

They try to exert influence indirectly via the mass media or through public opinion campaigns.

 Thus the difference can be summarized as follows: 

Inside groups have access to policymakers, outside groups have no access.

The Function of Pressure Group

Representation

  Pressure groups provide an alternative to the formal representative process or the functional representation by providing a mouthpiece for groups and interests that are not adequately represented through the electoral process or by political parties.

 Political participation

Pressure groups can be called the informal face of politics. The insider, as well as outside groups; the cause as well as interest groups, seek to exert influence precisely by mobilizing popular support through activities such as petitions, marches, demonstrations and other forms of political protest. 

Such forms of political participation have been particularly attractive to young people.

Education

 Many pressure groups devote significant resources to carrying out research, maintaining websites, commenting on government policy and using high-profile academics, scientists and even celebrities to get their views across, with an emphasis to cultivate expert authority.

 Policy formulation

 Though the pressure groups themselves are not policy-makers, yet this does not prevent many of them from participating in the policy-making process.

Many pressure groups are a vital source of information and advice to the governments and therefore are regularly consulted in the process of policy formulation. 

The questions have always been raised on the influence of policy groups in policy formation.

For example, many times, only a small body of insider groups are involved in the policy formulation.


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