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Cover Comparative Politics

14. Interest Groups  

Roland Erne

This chapter examines the role that interest groups play in political systems across time and space. Many scholars define interest groups as voluntary organizations that appeal to government but do not participate in elections. In a comparative context, however, this formal definition is problematic as the form of interest representation varies across countries. An alternative suggestion is to distinguish ‘public’ and ‘private interest groups’, but the term ‘public interest’ is problematic because of its contentious nature. The chapter begins with a review of different definitions of interest groups and the problems associated with each. It then considers the legacies of competing theoretical traditions in the field, namely republicanism, pluralism, and neocorporatism. It also discusses the role of interest associations in practice, distinguishing different types of action that are available to different groups, including direct lobbying, political exchange, contentious politics, and private interest government.

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Cover Comparative Politics

18. Political Participation  

Herbert Kitschelt and Philipp Rehm

This chapter examines four fundamental questions relating to political participation. First, it considers different modes of political participation such as social movements, interest groups, and political parties. Second, it analyses the determinants of political participation, focusing in particular on the paradox of collective action. Third, it explains political participation at the macro-level in order to identify which contextual conditions are conducive to participation and the role of economic affluence in political participation. Finally, the chapter discusses political participation at the micro-level. It shows that both formal associations and informal social networks, configured around family and friendship ties, supplement individual capacities to engage in political participation or compensate for weak capacities, so as to boost an individual’s probability to become politically active.