Political Theories


Leadership and power are among the utmost desires of most people who want to have influence on matters involving them. With leadership comes the power to influence major decisions taken, especially in state governments and large organizations.

There are a number of theories that have been formulated to explain sources, the reasons behind and the whole concept of power in governments. Some of these theories include the Pluralist Theory, the Elite and Class Theory and the Hyperpluralism Theory. This paper will discuss the basic ideas on which these three theories are grounded on. It will also define the dominant theory in the American political system with relevant examples.

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Political Theories

First and foremost, Pluralism suggests that political power is influenced by a group of people and organizations who have the resources and the means to alter political control. This theory holds that no one governs the people independently but that power comes from different people.

In most cases, these are the people who have vested interests in the way decisions are made in the government as this would affect their own organizations (Runciman, 1997). This theory talks of a situation where groups of individuals are always advocating for their own interests. In this setup, a loss or a win is bound to come to any of the groups, but none of them is always getting what they want.

The Elite and Class theory indicates that power in the government is possessed by a few prominent individuals who are considered to have all it takes to be at the helms of the government. The authority of these elite few is not affected by the democratic elections because they are holders of positions in crucial sectors like corporate boards and financial organizations (Bottomore, 1993).

The government is incapable of making a major decision without the approval of these few individuals. Such influence is based on the fact these elite individuals are in possession of authority over strategic political, financial and social organizations.

On the other hand, Hyperpluralism is an amplified form of pluralism that causes a negative influence on the government’s decisions and policies. In this setup, several groups of individuals with conflicting interests make demands on the government to adhere to their needs. In a bid to attend to all the conflicting requests, the government is caught in an awkward state of confusion thus leading to its subsequent weakening. In the long run, the government is caught in a gridlock where it is unable to act at all.

The Elite and Class Theory best exemplifies the current setup in the United States of America government (Schwartz, 1987). In fact, the elite minority have always had their way in America since time immemorial.

While Corporates and other non-governmental organizations teamed up to lobby for government attention on various issues, the elite were ever assured that their issues would be attended to by the government. As a matter of fact, those in government offices have in most cases been executing the demands of a small section of the American population who had much influence and authority.

For instance, the frequency by which the elite have been appointed to government positions hints at the influence of the power elite on the government. A recent study has revealed that a majority of positions in the cabinet are held by the upper class, irrespective of whether they are Republicans or Democrats.

In addition, they are these elite minority that are policy makers in the government. This is because they are further appointed to serve in crucial commissions of the president which formulate policies that are a highway to major decisions in the government.

Another example of the influence of the elite on the government is George W. Bush’s decision to overlook laws that were to regulate the ease of access of guns. It is believed that this decision was influenced by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA achieved this by financing a part of the then President Bush’s election campaign in 2000.

From the above, there are a number of political theories that attempt to describe the control of power within a government. Pluralism, Elite and Class and Hyperpluralism theories are just a few examples. Finally, the Elite and Class theory best describes the state of politics in the United States of America.


Bottomore, T. (1993). Elites and Society. London: Routledge.

Runciman, D. (1997). Pluralism and the personality of the state. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Schwartz, M. (1987) The Structure of Power in America: The corporate elite as a ruling class. New York: Holmes & Meier.


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