What Is Hyperpluralism?

The political theory of hyperpluralism holds that special-interest groups have become too numerous and influential in politics, either causing or contributing to government gridlock. It is an extension of the pluralism theory, which is the view that while power is centralized in the government, special-interest groups are able to influence that power.

In a pluralistic model of government, special-interest groups such as women’s rights organizations and workers’ unions are able to pool their individual political power in the form of votes and money. This collective power can then be used to influence key politicians, encouraging them to legislate in a way favorable to the special-interest group.

In a hyperpluralistic model, however, too many special-interest groups are competing for political power. When so many special-interest groups are seeking a voice, conflicts arise in the things they want. For example, a number of strong anti-abortion groups seek a voice in the government, but they are countered by an equally powerful pro-choice lobby. Because their desires are exactly opposite and neither group is willing to compromise, the only choice elected officials have if they want to prevent either side from moving against them politically is to do nothing. As a result, neither side gets what it wants.

When there are too many special-interest conflicts, government can be effectively paralyzed. Government becomes weaker, and democracy is threatened because the true public preference cannot be implemented.