Administration and Interest Groups

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Bezes distinguishes the "political roles" of the administration. Public administration can influence not only the content of public policies, but also when decisions are made and put on the agenda ("framing") and thus ensure that a political decision has to be taken. Public policy can have a very strong influence on decision-making (expertise, asymmetry of information). Bezes also distinguishes between the intermediation power of interests ("capture") and public policy networks, but also the implemented power ("implementation deficits") and the resources of action (and resistance).

Interest groups: definition, strategies and action directories[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

In its broadest sense, an interest group is defined as an entity seeking to represent the interests of a specific section of society in the public sphere, including the media, public opinion, etc. It is defined as an entity that seeks to represent the interests of a specific section of society in the public sphere. In a closer understanding, an interest group will seek to defend a cause, but with the public authorities. In this case, we are talking about lobbying, a lobby group as an incorporated organization that seeks to influence the public authorities in a way that is favourable to its interests.

A distinction must be made between interest groups and political parties, even if there are Labour, agrarian, green, car, etc. parties. The interest group does not present candidates for election, it defends sectoral interests of a part of the population or a cause that is limited, it does not defend the public good and the general interest, but rather special interests, the interest group is not intended to compromise between different interests; on the other hand, the interest group will seek to have an impact in a given sector, it is not responsible for coordinating with other areas of public policy. There may be significant differences between interest groups and political parties, but this does not prevent interest groups from becoming partly political.

There are three components of an interest group:

  • interest: Braud distinguishes between identity groups where a particular category of the population and groups rather attached to the defence of a cause is defended. There is as much typology as there are forms of interest that can be defended;
  • Organised entity: has resources, structures and is professionalised;
  • Various repertoires of action to influence public authorities: interest groups can mobilize different repertoires of actions and strategies to try to influence the public authorities which will depend on the existing opportunity structure and therefore the interest group will determine its repertoire and strategy of action according to position in the political system as well as opportunities in the political system. Depending on the context, the interest group will choose the type of strategy to advance or promote the interests it defends. For Charles Tilly in Big Structures, Large Processes, and Huge Comparisons (1984):"Every population has a limited repertoire of collective actions, i. e. means of acting together on the basis of shared interests".

In The Interest Groups 2006, Grossman and Saurugger distinguish action directories from interest groups. Action directories are the means (or strategies) that interest groups use to advance or defend their interests. They presuppose the mobilization of different resources (financial, cognitive, organizational, legal, temporal, etc.). These resources can be applied to different action directories. Rather, resources are intended to act from within, in particular the first two categories where public authorities have to negotiate with the powers of interest in order to take decisions, there is consultation with interest groups, and the other categories are aimed at putting pressure on decision-makers:

  • Negotiation (institutionalized) and consultation (informal): lobbying;
  • the use of (objective) expertise and the provision of arguments: it is a means of complementing the representative democracy which makes room for a certain number of points of view, so hearing interest groups makes it possible to hear other points of view;
  • protest: mobilization of supporters of the cause, the media, public opinion;
  • judicialisation: the courts take decisions that appear to be synonymous with defending the general interest and which are binding on public authorities. It is possible to appeal to different courts to have the courts contradict the action taken by the public authorities;
  • politicization: transformation into a political part.

On the one hand, there is an internal strategy with a privileged relationship with the government and public administration and an attempt is made to influence interest. On the other hand, there are external strategies. Interest groups have a number of strategic resources.

For Grossman and Saurugger these strategies can be:

  • internal and cooperative: expertise is a key resource for a part of the population that has knowledge that brings information that can be used for political decision-making. Representativeness means that the interest group represents a particular group with the capacity to mobilize a group in favour of or against a political decision. He practically has veto power. If the public administration or political authorities know that they cannot reconcile the favours of a particular interest group, they risk facing a referendum. This is a cooperative strategy with the public administration. There is a risk of capture which means that the public administration no longer risks working for the general interest, but for a specific group. From the interest group's point of view, there is the issue of limiting freedom of expression (the requirement of discretion and confidentiality) because there is somewhere a duty of discretion. If the interest group and a partner and interlocutor in political decision-making, the interest group has a duty of discretion not to criticize the decision taken by the public authorities. There is also the confidentiality test. The risk would be that of being muzzled, the interest group becomes a partner, but it can no longer be an opponent, there is a risk of limiting the freedom of expression. It is a case of a diffuse exchange relationship. The administration will receive information and expertise and the interest group will have access to decision-making processes. It is difficult to measure the equivalence of the exchange. This internal and cooperative strategy is not a measurable exchange, but it is something much more based on a diffuse and non-quantifiable relationship of trust between interest groups and public administration. Many interest groups favour this strategy, which has a strong impact on public authorities.
  • external: mobilization of external actors outside the political sphere ("outside lobbying") is often considered as a last resort decision or a complementary strategy. If the interest group refuses or acknowledges that it is not going to use external strategies, this means that it is linked to the internal and cooperative strategy. Very often interest groups will play on both. This can take different forms such as litigation, protest, protest, demonstrations, violence, etc.

Pluralism vs. neocorporatism[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Pluralist model of democracy: interest groups are seen as positive and natural[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

David B. Truman in The Governmental Process, published in 1951, interprets interest groups as the organization of conscious citizens who, by advocating their claims, contribute to informing decision makers and, in so doing, to improving the quality of legislation.

According to Schmitter, in Still the century of corporatism? published in 1979, the pluralistic model is a "system of interest representation in which constituent units are organized into a non-specific number of multiple, voluntary, competing categories, which are not hierarchically organised and self-determined (as regards the type or nature of interests), which are not specifically authorised or recognised, subsidised, created by the State and which do not exercise a monopoly of the activity within their respective categories ". In this model, access to the political decision-making process must be open to all interest groups, there is no need for conditions of representativeness to be associated with the political process, which means that there is no favouritism on the part of the State towards a particular interest group, It will integrate all the interest groups, on the other hand, there is no hierarchy in the interest groups and no interest group has a monopoly on a given topic, all the interest groups are called upon to give their point of view. The ideal at the heart of this pluralistic model is an ideal of competition between points of view and this democratic discussion between all points of view and interest groups will lead to the best possible decision. There is no risk of capture and no privileges. Peters in The politics of bureaucracy published in 2001 speaks of pluralistic ideals, namely "self-regulating universe of pressure groups formulating public policy" as a condition of the public interest statement to the opposition of the notion of capture that subverts public policy into private policy, the critics have focused on two postulates:

  • equality of interest groups;
  • everyone's interest in "public policy"

First major critic of the pluralist vision: the phenomenon of capture and neo-corporatist practices[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

For Lowi, in American Business, Public Policy, Case-Studies, and Political Theory, published in 1964, the pluralistic model is effectively limited, as there is the appearance of the "iron triangle" in the political decision-making process between certain interest groups, government agencies and congressional commissions. All three types of actors had a specific vision of what politics was by monopolizing the decision. In The Theory of Economic Regulation published in 1971, Stigler shows that government agencies have been captured from government administration and public policy by certain interest groups.

In Liberal corporatism and party government published in 1982, Lehmbruch and Schmitter developed a model opposed to the pluralistic model, which is the neo-corporatist model based on mutual recognition and developed exchanges between the state and certain interest groups. Access is not given to everyone and is limited. The conditions of representativeness and expertise are important for the selection and selection of the relevant interest group. The conditions of representativeness and expertise are important and not all interest groups cover these conditions, so we will integrate the most relevant interest groups. It is a model that is justified by privileged collaboration, but it is because they are more representative and because they have more expertise. There is a hierarchy of actors with more powerful interest groups than others, so that some interest groups may have a monopoly on a given issue. Political power recognises that a particular interest group has a monopoly on a particular issue. There is no open and democratic discussion, but a much more framed discussion and a much more closed circle to try to find solutions between actors who knew each other. It is not a denial of democracy, but to recognize the superiority of certain groups by virtue of criteria that have legitimacy.

In Schmitter's view, neo-corporatism is a "system of representation of interests in which constituent units are organized into a limited number of unique, mandatory, non-competitive, hierarchically organized and functionally differentiated categories, recognized or authorized (if not created) by the State which deliberately grants them a monopoly of representation within their respective categories". In Corporate lobbying in the European Union: towards a theory of access published in 2002, Bouwen proposes a current re-reading through the analytical grid of "exchange relationships" between government-guaranteed access to decision-making processes and expertise and representativeness/legitimacy ensured by interest groups. Not all interest groups are equal and it is normal to give more weight to those with more expertise and representativeness.

Second major criticism of the pluralist vision: the paradox of collective action[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Mancur Olson in The logic of collective action. Public goods and the theory of groups published in 1966 shows that interest and mobilization for public affairs is not self-evident. For Oslon, the larger a latent group is (and defends general and long-term interests), the less likely it is to succeed in organizing itself to promote the common interests of its members. The individual contribution to the group's success seems marginal, the individual reward to be expected from the group is reduced, the total organizational costs are high, although the average or marginal costs decrease due to economies of scale.

In most cases, the concessions where the benefits that will be obtained will be available to all workers, but not just to the unions. This is the paradox of collective action: no one will participate in a collective action in which everyone would have an interest in everyone participating (free riding or stowaway phenomenon) unless the group provides "selective incentives" including negative ones, such as the lack of legal protection for workers not affiliated to a trade union. There would not be any spontaneous interest in participating in public affairs and therefore we must create the conditions for this interest. Olson campaigns for selective incentives. The question is how to mobilize people to serve a cause if this interest in public affairs is not spontaneous. There is a pluralistic ideal and there are facts that show that this ideal is hard to implement.

As an intermediate synthesis[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Different criteria must be taken into account, such as the links between types of democratic regimes, types of public policies, emergence and types of interest groups, mobilised action directories, nature of the relations between interest groups and public administration in particular?

In Les groupes d' intérêt sous la Ve République published in 1983, Wilson attempts to make a proposed synthesis to propose a typology that will be refined by Offerlé in Sociologie des groupes d' intérêt published in 1994. Wilson and Offerlé distinguish three models: the pluralistic model, the neo-corporatist model and the protestor model. The first three categories are the most developed.

App1 Administration et groupes d’intérêt synthèse intermédiaire 1.png

Modes of interaction between administrations and interest groups: networks of public action[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Marsh and Rhodes propose to analyse the intermediation of interests between civil society (interest groups) and political power (administration) through the concept of "policy networks". It is not a totalizing vision, but an empirical tool. The idea is the disaggregation of actors (e. g. individual administrative services), their interests, resources, action directories, powers. Depending on the empirical cases to be analysed, the situations will be totally different. This model aims to empirically analyze the relationships between interest groups and public decision making.

For Atkinson and Coleman in Strong States and Weak States: Sectoral. Policy Networks in Advanced Capitalist Economies published in 1986,"Political networks can take variable forms and for this reason, their study requires a more nuanced categorization than the differentiation between weak or strong states or between pluralistic formulas and corporatists.

Marsh and Rhodes establish a fine typology of policy networks according to three criteria:

  • the stability of the composition of networks: are they always the same actors that dominate public decision-making processes over time or is there a fluid composition that has changed according to the political interests considered?
  • their exclusivity: do networks make it possible to integrate other actors or exclude all actors that have not been integrated into these networks?
  • the intensity of interdependencies in terms of resources to be exchanged: is there an exchange of resources between the actors, do the actors need each other to implement a given public policy, if this is the case, there is a form of interdependence. It is a process of self-sufficiency between the partners concerned.

Forms of networks (continuum) (according to Rhodes and Marsh, 1995:44)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Network Types Network characteristics
Public Policy Community Stability, highly selected limbs, vertical interdependence, limited horizontal articulation.
Professional network ibid. and serves the interests of a particular profession. This is a sectoral vision of community policy.
Intergovernmental Network Limited number of limbs, limited vertical interdependence, large horizontal articulation.
Producer network Number of fluctuating members, limited vertical interdependence, serves the interests of producers.
Thematic network Large and changing number of members, limited vertical interdependence.

An example: public action networks in Belgium (Varone and Schiffino, 2004)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

App1 réseau action publique belgique 1.png

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]