Pluralism; an Old but New Phenomenon in Socio-political Processes


Associate Professor in the Faculty of Social Sciences, University of Tehran, Iran


This paper presents pluralism as a historical process. The term pluralism frequently appears not only in the field of political philosophy but also in social sciences. In one sense, the growing literature is stimulating and enriching, nevertheless the abundance of material attempting to explain the various interpretations of pluralist theory can be convoluted and overwhelming. Despite the constant usage of the term, its definition is much more complex. An attempt, here, is made to analyze and present some of the notable features of the pluralist debate and theoretical and methodological implications. The objective is to determine whether this phenomenon can be characterized as new, old or cyclically repeating. It is argued that aspects of pluralism, which are characteristic for pluralism in the present, appeared in remote past and they repeat in human history cyclically, and, consequently underlining that no single version of pluralism offers a wholly accurate description of the modern world. It is concluded that, for all the apparent weaknesses, pluralism has given us greater insight into the socio- political systems of modern democracies. Although no longer considered the potent display of equality as originally put forth, the pluralist stress on the role power of many pressure groups has been central to the survival of pluralism as a relevant theory for liberal democracies. Until Marxist and elitist interpretations of the sources and nature of power allow for greater influence of the multiplicity of interest groups, pluralist theory will continue to prevail as an important theory of the study of politics and socio-cultural issues in modern world.