By Patrick Dunleavy

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Extra resources for Theories of the State: The politics of liberal democracy

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Logical positivists believed that all statements could be exhaustively classified into three types - those which are true by definition (logical statements or tautologies); empirically verifiable statements, capable of being tested against observations of the real world (positive or scientific statements); and 'meaningless' statements, which are neither true by definition nor empirically verifiable. Persuaded by these doctrines, pluralists claimed that most of what had passed for political science in the past consisted of ethical statements which could not be resolved into matters of definition or of fact and were therefore 'meaningless'.

Pluralists emphasize that these institutional arrangements alone cannot guarantee acceptable results. On the contrary, the US Constitution has benefited minorities in ways which allowed them to obstruct majorities, and provided mechanisms which supported the oppression of a minority of blacks by the white majority. In addition, the balance of powers between the institutions of representative government has varied within very broad limits, and in ways which do not appear to have been dictated by constitutional provisions.

It also implies that it will be difficult to keep people participating in an interest group unless it is genuinely addressing issues of significance to members, and the leadership can show members some evidence that their voluntary participation is worthwhile. Consequently pluralists are optimistic that even large interest groups are more internally democratic or consensual organizations than political parties. Because members have direct experience of the issues around which the group is mobilizing, they do not depend on leaders for information or evaluations - as they have to when politicians formulate national programmes.

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