Stone’s Critique of Economic, Social, Political Inequality

Subject: Politics & Government
Pages: 3
Words: 591
Reading time:
2 min

One of the questions that dominate the political theory is who has better chances to seize power in society and whether all people can have access to power in one capacity or another. Over the last few decades, the political field has seen the formation of two opposing theories: structuralist determinism and pluralism. Structuralists pondered that political elites were largely consisting of and serving the interests of the wealthy. It would not be a far reach to say that at times, it does not even matter all that much who becomes elected because every time, the same group of privileged individuals will be appeased by the decision.

On the contrary, pluralists offered a rather optimistic perspective. By drawing on the assumption that even the wealthy and powerful do not always share the same interests, it is possible that there could be a pluralism of opinion in the higher-order layers of society. Therefore, following this logic, people had the leverage to propagate their needs and interests. In his article, Stone rejects both approaches to understanding power as he sees significant faults in each. The author pays a great deal of attention to pluralism in particular as to him, its logic of thought seems to have been on the right track initially but then became increasingly misguided.

First, Stone points out that pluralism captures one important characteristic of today’s society: it is becoming extremely fragmented. There is no absolute distinction between what Marxists would refer to as classes or the leaders and the followers. Further, political leadership does not have a permanent nature, with which Stone seems to agree. It is not a given that a particular group of people will retain their positions indefinitely. In summation, pluralism does reflect some of the modern tendencies, but only as long as it relies on generalizations. Stone’s critique of pluralism lies in his rejection of the idealistic worldview that this approach operates upon. Firstly, the researcher does not believe that universal suffrage has made people omnipotent.

In his article, Stone refers to Dahl and his statement that voting rights turn politics into an open and penetrable process. The author counters this view by arguing that, in actuality, even in the most democratic countries, voters do not have a chance to oversee the entirety of the political mechanisms. The most they can do is to impact some of the public policies. Secondly, Counter is against the pluralist idea that politics happen on the same plane. The author claims that almost any political process is complex enough to include and engage many levels of society. Due to this complexity, the simplistic pluralist analysis is rendered nigh on impossible. It becomes extremely difficult to single out forces and counterforces as well as explain the relationships between them.

The urban regime theory put forward by Stone himself seeks to address the aforementioned gaps. Simply put, the main idea behind the theory lies in the equality of the opportunity but inequality of the outcome. It is true that formally, nothing prevents any citizen from stepping forward and advancing him- or herself to gain power and followers. In reality, however, any regime has multiple thresholds in place that impede upward mobility. Stone explains that access to the political mechanism is contingent on the resources that a person has at their disposal. Those resources, be it finances, time, or connections, are unequally distributed, which proves the point that pluralist equality is a myth.