Hyperpluralism: Definition, Theory & Examples

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  • 0:00 Hyperpluralism: What & How
  • 2:27 Examples of Hyperpluralism
  • 4:21 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: David White
Through this lesson you will learn what defines hyperpluralism, come to understand some of the ways that it is applied in political discussions, and explore examples of hyperpluralism in practice.

Hyperpluralism: What & How?

In North American countries, such as the United States and Canada, the collective culture has often been explained using the metaphor of the 'melting pot.' This metaphor is used to describe the ways in which different cultures come together in one nation to form a single culture. Generally speaking, this kind of diversity is perceived to be a good thing, but when it comes to governing large countries, diversity can become problematic.

When a country is comprised of people from different ethnicities and cultures who contribute to the whole, it's what's known as a pluralistic nation. The United States, for example, is considered a pluralistic nation because its citizens come from a variety of different racial and ethnic backgrounds, speak different languages, and practice different religions. Though many people consider this to be a positive aspect of American culture, it has, at times, been problematic in terms of governing the country.

In contrast to pluralism, hyperpluralism is an American political theory asserting that when a group becomes too diverse in its make up (i.e. race and ethnicity, beliefs and practices, etc.) and some groups possess greater power and influence than others, it's no longer governable as a collective. The fundamental argument of hyperpluralism is that when a government attempts to represent or meet the needs of too many different groups, they inevitably end up favoring one group over another, which disrupts democracy.

In the case of hyperpluralism it's important to elaborate on what is meant by a group. When the term 'group' is used in the context of hyperpluralism, it's not a reference to political parties or minority/majority opinions. Rather, it's a reference to much smaller groups like lobbyists for a particular issue or super PACs that represent a small number of people but get a lot of attention because they wield considerable influence.

In many ways the concept of hyperpluralism can be confusing because it's usually a matter of opinion or perspective. For example, if someone were to feel that diversity in their country was a bad thing, they might say that the nation is hyperpluralistic because the government is focusing too much on one group, while another group is largely ignored. On the other hand, someone who sees diversity as something favorable might appreciate that their government is addressing the needs of others as much as their own, and therefore would not use the term hyperpluralism to describe the same scenario.

Examples of Hyperpluralism

Though it's hard to find concrete examples, the present state of the U.S. Congress might be a good example of hyperpluralism at work. Because each member of congress is attempting to satisfy the demands of many different groups, such as lobbyists, special interest groups, super PACs, etc., some have claimed that they're too focused on individual groups rather than the entire population and therefore are unable to get anything done.

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