Pluralistic Democracy, Theory of

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Pluralistic Democracy, Theory of


a bourgeois reformist theory, according to which political power in the contemporary bourgeois state has become the “collective power” of many organizations and groups, such as entrepreneurs’ associations, the church, trade unions, political parties, and farmers’ organizations. As a result, according to the theory’s proponents, a universal, “plural” democracy is being established as a variety and specific form of “pure democracy.”

The rise of the theory of pluralistic democracy is associated with the increasing complexity of the political system under contemporary capitalism and with the sharpening of the class struggle. Under these conditions, the classical doctrine of the separation of powers has been replaced by the theory of institu-tionalism, which serves as the ideological basis for the theory of pluralistic democracy. Other sources of the theory of pluralistic democracy include bourgeois political scientists’ ideas concerning pressure groups and interest groups (A. Bentley), social reformist constructs about the “power of organizations” (K. Kautsky and J. Renard), and the “legal pluralism” of the American sociologist R. M. Maclver. Since World War II the most widely known adherents of the theory of pluralistic democracy have been G. Heckscher and S. Finer. The bourgeois reformist and right-wing socialist concepts of “countervailing forces,” the “diffusion of power,” and the splintering of sovereignty are related to the theory of pluralistic democracy.

In reality, the political power (dictatorship) of the monopolistic bourgeoisie is unitary, even though it is exercised through various channels (the power of the state, the influence of the bourgeois political parties, and the activities of entrepreneurs’ associations and the church). The struggle of the working class and other strata of the working people has some influence on the policies of the ruling circles, but under capitalism, working-class organizations never share in state power.

In its treatment of the socialist political system, the theory of pluralistic democracy shows an anticommunist bias. The theory, which is in general characterized by eclecticism, is an attempted criticism of historical materialism’s monistic conception of political power and the state.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.