An Explanation of the Hyperpluralist Theory


Pluralism is defined as having a centralized power within a local, regional, or national government, but allowing special-interest groups to be able to influence that power in some way. Hyperpluralist theory takes that idea to the next level. It is a theory where the special-interest groups are so strong in their influence that the centralized government is weakened because of it.

Competing factions negotiate and compromise within the scope of pluralism, which means there is an agreement which occurs at some point in time. Hyperpluralism has the competing factions pull the government in completely opposite directions, which greatly reduces the ability to negotiate and compromise. This results in a lack of action, gridlock, and minimal progress on any issue of substance.

The Hyperpluralist theory is arguably what is currently being practiced within the US government on multiple levels and even within certain socioeconomic groups within the population.

Does Hyperpluralist Theory Affect Elitism in Government?

Elitism is either the attitude or the belief that there is a select group of people who should have or are given more influence and authority over others because of their government training, experience, or family lineage. In some countries, elitism may also include having a higher than average intellect, a higher financial net worth, or general popularity.

It means that the power of the government is generally concentrated into the hands of a few people – or potentially even one. Those who believe in elitism often look at pluralism as the best form of government because it consolidates individual powers, but still forces the need to negotiate and compromise from time to time.

The Fundamentals of Hyperpluralist Theory

Pluralism rose to power as a political theory in the 1950s and 1960s in the United States, gaining traction in the idea that there are certain rights and freedoms that everyone should be able to enjoy. Pluralist place an emphasis on civil rights, having at least two parties in a governmental system, and having society support the freedom of expression, organization, and protest.

Hyperpluralism also believes in these components of society, but does not look for compromise or negotiation. Hyperpluralism theory says that the rights of a specific group of individuals is more important than other individuals and lobbies without the desire of compromise to expand those rights. It supports a 2+ government party system, but believes that their party of preference is right and any other political party is wrong.

The right to organize and protest is something that hyperpluralists wish to protect, but should be reserved for their desire to protest and no one else should be allowed such an opportunity.

Is Hyperpluralism a Theory That Is Too Simple?

The issue with pluralism and Hyperpluralism is that pressure is placed politically on the government in order to benefit a specific group or class. In the US, this was often done on behalf of corporations, with the results intended to promote corporate power. In order to counter this shift toward the corporate world, a form of neo-pluralism and neo-Hyperpluralism developed in the 1970s to support a more diversified culture.

Yet even with a shift away from corporate power and influence, Hyperpluralism still creates societal issues when it is the primary theory being implemented for governing and lobbying.

  • It creates an uneven distribution of socioeconomic power.
  • It allows for certain groups to receive more choices or possibilities than other groups, which limits the power and political options for those who have reduced choice.
  • It promotes a growing gap between those who have wealth and influence (the wealthy class, elitists, etc.) and those who have little wealth and influence (those on welfare, in poverty, etc.).

Why Is Hyperpluralist Theory Implemented?

There are two groups of people who generally support Hyperpluralist theory: those who have power and influence, and those who want to have power and influence one day.

At the core of this theory is the idea of competition. Having a competitive atmosphere within the political environment is what pluralism promotes as a way to create compromise and beneficial negotiations for all. Hyperpluralism does not create compromise or negotiation opportunities because the different special interest groups do not start on an equal playing field.

Imagine a wealthy school funded with millions of dollars in private donations is competing against an urban inner-city school with high dropout rates for new resources. Hyperpluralism theory demands both schools compete for those resources. Which one is more likely to win?

To summarize an explanation of the Hyperpluralist theory, it promotes competition between groups, but expects a personal perspective to always be correct.