Pluralism refers to a society, system of government, or organization that has different groups that keep their identities while existing with other groups or a more dominant group. Rather than just one group, subgroup or culture dictating how things go, pluralism recognizes a larger number of competing interest groups that share the power. Pluralism serves as a model of democracy, where different groups can voice their opinions and ideas. Expand your knowledge by exploring some pluralist democracy examples, as well as other illustrations of pluralism.
Simply put, pluralism exists when multiple groups seek to influence policies, practices and other factors that impact daily life.
- A pluralistic company or organization involves employees or members in decision-making rather than having management dictate all decisions.
- A pluralistic democracy is one in which democratic elections are held and separation of powers exists, so that no one person or political party has too much control.
- A pluralistic society is one in which people don’t have to give up their cultural backgrounds and identifies in order to be a part of the group.
There are many examples of pluralism in everyday life throughout locations and organizations around the world.
Countries that welcome immigrants are often referred to as melting pots where people of different cultural backgrounds have come to live but are able to keep alive their own cultural traditions.
- Many cities in the United States have areas referred to as Little Italy or Chinatown where people from those countries keep their cultural traditions.
- JoAnne's parents are from Lebanon, and though JoAnne has grown up in the United States, she embraces her Lebanese roots. She has lived in Lebanon and often cooks traditional Lebanese meals.
- Born and raised in Mexico, Flor came to the United States as a teenager. She was eager to learn English and to adapt to the culture around her, but she also continued to celebrate the traditions she grew up with and passed them on to her children.
- Olga's family came to the United States from Czechoslovakia, and though she and her siblings learned English at school, they maintained their native language at home.
- In India, Hindus and Hindi-speaking people are the majority, but people of other backgrounds, religions and languages also live there.
- Teresa grew up in China but came to New York as a child. It is important to her that her son learns about his heritage, so he attends Chinese school every Saturday.
Not all cultural groups of people in a particular country or other geographic location relocated there from another country. In a pluralistic society, many subcultures exist, each with their own beliefs and practices.
- Amish people live alongside those who are not Amish, but travel by horse and buggy, do not have electricity, and have established stores, schools and other organizations that are used by members of the Amish community.
- Native American tribes have separate governments, religions, schools, and communities in which they practice and live out their traditions and histories.
- Because it is so close to the Mexican border, Tucson exhibits many influences of Mexican culture even though it is not in Mexico.
- Indonesia is a pluralistic society, where people of different backgrounds (religion, caste, culture, language, ethnicity) live side by side.
- The city of Bethlehem in the Middle East exhibits pluralism when families of Christian, Muslim and Jewish faiths desire to live peacefully in the midst of the fighting around them.
- Historically, when one country occupied another, a pluralistic society developed if the people native to the country were allowed to continue their traditions alongside the traditions and practices of the occupying country.
Some countries are theocracies, which means that citizens don’t have freedom of religion. However, in countries where the government isn’t allowed to establish official religions, which is the case with pluralistic democracies, there is not a single, dominant religious belief.
- In a pluralistic democracy where there is no establishment of religion, people are free to practice any religion they want or choose to practice no religion at all. New religions can be formed and practiced.
- Couples of differing religious faiths may decide to celebrate the practices of both of their religions.
- In ancient Rome, people worshipped many gods and were left to their own religious practices if they were not considered threats to the Roman rulers.
- When Britain occupied India, both British Christian and Indian Hindu traditions were practiced side by side.
- In the United States many religions and denominations within religions are practiced side by side, with each group allowed to voice their concerns and thoughts.
Decisions that are made according to the principles of democracy are pluralistic in nature, including passing new laws or amending existing laws. Prior to a law being passed in a country with democracy, various groups have an opportunity to speak up and lobby for their point of view. This is an exercise in pluralism.
Even though there are elected legislators in each state within the United States, for example, there are limits to what they can change without a vote of the people.
- When considering new environmental regulations, environmental groups, business and industry, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can all be heard.
- When a regulatory agency, such as the Department of Labor (DOL) wants to update regulations, a call for a comment period is required before changes can be made.
Pluralism isn’t limited to geographic areas, society as a whole or politics. Some businesses and other organizations have embraced a pluralistic approach to operations. Rather than maintaining an old-school centralized structure, employees or members are consulted and listened to regarding important decisions.
- Labor unions and employers share in meeting the needs of employees within organizations where certain employees are represented by a union.
- Companies seeking to gain competitive advantage through innovation use a participative approach, encouraging employees to contribute ideas and to speak up with suggestions.
- The director of a nonprofit organization is required to seek approval from the board of directors before making major changes or decisions.
- A volunteer organization holds elections for officers and directors so all members have a change to be considered for office and to vote for who the representatives will be.
Each of these are different types of pluralism that exist, allowing multiple entities to share their beliefs and power. Now that you’ve learned some basic information about pluralism and pluralist democracies, this is a great time to further explore democracy. Get started by learning about the different types of democracy.