Interest Groups and the Revitalization of Democracy: Are We Expecting Too Much?

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  2. Professor William Maloney
Author(s)Maloney WA
Publication type Article
ISSN (print)0034-4893
ISSN (electronic)1749-4001
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This article assesses the 'participatory contribution' that (large-scale/professionalised) public interest groups make to democracy. To what extent should we realistically expect these interest groups to meaningfully involve large numbers of citizens directly in the democratic process? To what extent are these organisations part of the democratic problem outlined by Hay, Stoker and Williamson in this volume? This article discusses three main factors that drive the limited involvement opportunities offered by many public interest groups. First, group push and supporter pull effects; secondly, patronage and thirdly the increasing professionalization of the policymaking process: all contribute to placing citizens in the role of interested spectator - financing much of the action, but not taking an active part. The article concludes by highlighting some potentially democratically redeeming feature of public interest groups.
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