A fundamental question that may be asked about a political, economic or social system is whether it is responsive to the wishes or opinions of the members of the society and, if so, whether it can aggregate the conflicting notions of these individuals in a way which is somehow rational. More particularly, is it the case, for the kind of configuration of preferences that one might expect, that the underlying decision process gives rise to a set of outcomes which is natural and stable, and more importantly, “small” with respect to the set of all possible outcomes? If so, then it may be possible to develop a theoretical or “causal” account of the relationship between the nature of the decision process, along with the pattern of preferences, and the behavior of the social system under examination. For example, microeconomic theory is concerned with the analysis of a method of preference aggregation through the market which results, under certain conditions at least, in a particular distribution of prices for commodities and labor, and thus income. The motivation for this venture is to mimic to a degree the ability of some disciplines in natural science to develop causal models which tie initial conditions of the physioal system to a small set of predioted outcomes. The theory of democratic pluralism is to a large extent based on the assumption that the initial conditions of the political system are causally related to the essential properties of the system. That is to say it is assumed that the interaction of cross-cutting interest groups in a democracy leads to an “equilibrium” outcome that is natural in the sense of balancing the divergent interests of the members of the society. One aspect of course of this theoretical assumption is that it provides a method of legitimating the consequences of political decision making.
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