Pluralism is the doctrine that some groups within a society possess important values independent of the approval or disapproval of such values by the state. It holds that the groups have a right to such values and that no theory of the powers of the state can rightfully capture those values for the state. In consequence, it proposes that its values be considered and weighed impartially in any general decisions that affect the whole society of which it forms a part. From this last claim rises the demand for representation. And with that demand for representation this chapter is concerned.
Pluralism, like other doctrines in political theory, may be extreme, moderate, or modest in its demands. It may proclaim the advent of a society independent of the state and formed around a set of autonomous groups; an example would be the syndicalist state where the state remains only as the representative council of industries. Pluralism may accept the traditional state in many ways but ask that it be constructed on a principle of group representation. In that case, a system looking to the revival of the positive features of the medieval representation of estates and guild organization is often advocated. Or pluralism may simply beg entrance into the older individualistic representation, offering as a reason for admission the opinion that group representation is a way of eliminating the uncontrolled pressure of interests, or that it is a way of arriving at more efficient political decisions, or that it is a protection for the creative aspects of society against the noncreative, destructive, and parasitic features of society.
But whether extreme, moderate, or modest, pluralism is essentially an affirmation of the sociological idea that men gravitate about fixed interests which may be concretely verified. And when these fixed interests are concretely verified, they may be allotted a relationship to other fixed interests of the same verifiable nature in order to constitute their representation. The resultant representation must then stand the test of practicability. It must make the society work better than before; it must do justice to the whole and to the individuals which compose the society.
The burden of proof, therefore, weighs heavily on the pluralists. They must first indicate that fixed interests exist, that they are inevitable, and that they deserve preservation. They must show that such fixed interests may be verified with enough precision to allow them to be cast into dies which will repeatedly stamp out acceptable social measures. They must then compose a combination of the dies which will avoid duplication, complexity, and prolixity, and will include all important parts of society. Finally, pluralism, the doctrine of the "several," must appease the sense of the "one" and the sense of the "many." The denial of the claims of either because of certain false tendencies which are present in them would undermine pluralism from the very beginning.
In so far as a greater degree of pluralistic arrangement is argued for a society, it must offer more complete satisfaction of the requirements just listed than does the existing arrangement. But under most conditions, and especially in America, the problem has been the more modest one of establishing pluralism as one of several ways of giving representation to diversity. Representation of groups as groups, it is contended, can be adjusted to prevailing representation by geographical constituencies, voluntary constituencies, constituencies of the whole (for example, presidency, governorship), and constituencies based on wealth, real property, education, or other generally defined, nonorganized criteria.
Pluralism might be considered only in so far as it concerned groups with a constitutional method of participating in the processes of a representative government, but pluralism in representation will be considered here as any actual participation in the processes of government by a group. This point of view permits comment on manifestly important pluralistic developments which would otherwise be excluded. However, it is still possible to insist on what may be regarded as the basic distinction between pluralistic representation and individualistic or monistic representation: the organized, associated, intact character of the groups. For the possession of such traits not only distinguishes pluralistic representation but gives it its value and defects. Accordingly, the chapter will consider both extra-constitutional group representation and constitutional group representation. The first deals with actual intrusions of groups into political affairs, the latter with the small amount of legal intrusion and some American ideas urging further legal extensions of group influence. Both will be treated under the categories of (a) the party system as pluralism, (b) professional representation, (c) business representation, (d) corporatism, and (e) administrative pluralism.