Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Political Science And Oligarchy

Majoritarian Pluralism has been the dominant framework in political science.  It assumes that organized interests influence political decisions but ordinary citizens also play an important role.  Politics is viewed as a tug- of- war between organized interests and ordinary citizens that is mediated by electoral democracy.  This article is by a political scientist who operates within the Majoritarian Pluralism framework.  He reports on a study which provides quantitative evidence in support of a framework which assumes that monied interests have a greater influence on politics than ordinary citizens.  The implication is that political scientists may need to reconsider the dominance of the Majoritarian Pluralism framework.

I am not very familiar with the discipline of political science but it reminds me of what has happened in economics.  The distribution of income has not been an important topic in economics.  The focus in macroeconomics has been on the dynamics of growth and the development of mathematical models which rely upon macroeconomic assumptions about how the factors of production interact.  In many of these models, income distribution does not matter, and it is assumed that most government interventions will not have a positive effect on the business cycle.  It would appear that political science and economics suffer from a common problem.  The dominant frameworks in these disciplines shape research efforts, and professional career paths, in directions that fail to describe the real world of political economy.  One should not expect either of these disciplines to assist citizens in understanding the political economy.  It has been excluded by the choice of the dominant frameworks.  Furthermore, one wonders how helpful political science will be if it adapts an alternative framework that attempts to quantify what seems obvious about the role of elites in the political economy. What kind of democracy do we have when no candidate can run for important offices without raising huge sums from elites to run very expensive campaigns?  The first election than any candidate must win is the race for campaign contributions.  What happens next is also importantly influenced by the media which focuses more on the horse race than it does upon clarifying the real issues.  The media has adopted a framework which is more like reporting on sporting events. In essence the media must be understood as a business.  Revenue is dependent upon audience size and advertising.  Its hard to build a large audience, and attract advertisers without understanding the market.  There is not a large market for abstract content and information which runs counter to common belief systems.

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