Pluralistic Society: Definition & Examples

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  • 0:04 E Pluribus Unum
  • 1:28 Political Parties
  • 3:04 Interest Groups
  • 3:35 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Erin Krcatovich

Erin teaches undergraduate and graduate classes in Political Science, Public Policy, and Public Administration and has a PhD in Political Science.

In this lesson, we will learn about pluralism and how this concept helps us understand society. We will define the concept and then explore some examples.

E Pluribus Unum

Do you belong to any clubs or groups? Have you ever joined a local soccer team, participated in a Model UN program, or helped fundraise for your child's school? These are all ways that we are a part of a pluralistic society.

In the United States, our motto is e pluribus unum, which is Latin for ''out of many, one.'' We are a nation built on many different groups, people, and interests. We fundamentally disagree on the role government should play in our personal lives, whether it involves regulating businesses, our bodies, our children, or our deaths. We organize ourselves into groups that help us make sense of our political beliefs. As an outsider, French historian Alexis de Tocqueville observed American democracy and remarked that ''Americans of all ages, all stations of life, and all types of disposition are forever forming associations.'' This preference for group activity is uniquely central to American culture. We like to organize ourselves into social groups, sports teams, book clubs, churches and so on.

Alexis de Tocqueville
Tocqueville

American society is a modern-day example of pluralism. In a pluralistic society, power is held by multiple groups who compete for control of decision-making organizations. Next, we'll compare the two main types of these powerful groups in the United States: political parties and interest groups.

Political Parties

In the earliest days of the United States, Federalists and Anti-Federalists were the first major political groups to arise. Federalists supported the newly-written Constitution and tried to get it ratified, writing about it in a well-known series of essays coined The Federalist Papers. Anti-Federalists opposed it, because it did not protect individuals against the abuse of power by the government. They wanted to add a Bill of Rights. This disagreement led to the creation of the first ten Amendments to the Constitution. Even in this disagreement, the most famous Federalist, James Madison, cautioned against creating factions, or divisions between groups of Americans. He worried that by fighting against each other, these groups would hurt the new nation's success and security.

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