interest groups

A valuable element of democracy is the ability and willingness of citizens to organize on their own behalf, and to seek to influence legislatures, government agencies, and public opinion . Citizens so organized are often termed interest groups (a label which can also be synonymous with the terms pressure group , lobby, party, political action committee, and social movement ).
Interest groups are voluntary associations with specific and narrowly defined goals, which may be moderate or radical, local or international in scope. Professional and trade associations work as interest groups, as do activist groups like the ecology movement. Interest groups may represent one segment of the public (such as pensioners or students), or they may represent a value (for example anti-abortion), at which point they shade into ideological or moral crusades .
From the democratic point of view, the limitation of interest groups is that they tend to represent mainly the wealthier and better-educated sections of the public, leaving the poor and minorities largely unrepresented. In Washington DC, for example, some 11,000 interest-group organizations compete for the attention of 535 legislators. Almost all these organizations represent business, financial, and professional interests.

Dictionary of sociology. 2013.

Look at other dictionaries:

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