Pluralism was reaction against the traditional theory of sovereignty which assigns supreme and unquestionable power to the sovereign. Pluralist do not accept the argument that the state alone has the right to the monopoly of power.
The validity of monoistic or absolutist theory of sovereignty was first challenged by German Jurist Von Gierke (1844-1921). According to Gierke three factors were responsible for the change in monistic theory.
(1) By 19th Century there was fundamental change in the nature and the functions of State. It was no longer a Police State, rather service to the citizens became dominant functions of the state. This requires the co-operation between various institutions and the State to realise the goal of welfare.
(2) Secondly, the International Co-operation increased in many fields. The process of International co-operation began in the last quarter of the 19th Century and continued during the 20th Century. This has logically limited the external aspect of the sovereignty. ,
(3) Today, there are number of associations and social groups fulfilling man’s needs. They all have claim over the individual. Therefore, State alone cannot claim priority over other social institutions and groups. Many of these associations have their own legal entity. For example, there are religious associations or political parties, which claim the first attention of a citizen. Certain religious sects claim priority over the State. Gierke and Maitland th’ought that each social group has a personality and will of its own. Figgs also agrees with them.
Pluralistic theory was put forward and supported by Gierke, Maitland, Durkheim, Figgs, Barker, Lindsay and Maclver. The Central argument of the pluralistic theory is that state is but one association among several other associations. There are other associations such as Church, Trade Union organisations, Employees Associations, Political parties and groups; even professional organisations share certain degree of power and influence over their members within the society. These associations were not created by the State, rather they are natural to man. They also operate in specific areas and are independent of the State. Therefore, they should have functional freedom and state cannot dominate or dictate them. Pluralist thus advocate autonomy for professional, political, economic and religious organisations, Pluralist further argue that these social organisations, compete for man’s allegiance. They argue that state alone cannot command the individual. Pluralist also emphasise the need to study the actual process of modem life and danger arising out of too much interference of the state.
Evaluations of Pluralist Theory
Pluralist criticism of absolutist theory of Sovereignty is valid to a large extent. It cannot be denied that different social, cultural, religious associations perform valuable services, and the state would be well advised not to interfere in their work. Pluralist suffer from inner contradictions; while advocating decentralisation of state power, they actually assigned more power and functions to the State. Laski was a relentless pluralist. He modified his view in later period and criticised the pluralist. In particular Laski wanted State action to defend and protect the common man from the capitalist exploitation. Further, with the emergence of the concept of Welfare State, the political thinkers began to demand greater state action in defence of weaker sections of the society. Modern State was also called upon to check economic crimes, and malpractices prevailing within several social associations. Modern State is also required to extend protection to the individual from group violence, or social injustice. For example, there are many evil social customs which torment the individual. State therefore is required to enact laws to protect the individual from these evil customs. Similarly, to save the institutions of Family, the state is required to enact marriage law. Today, we see greater state action in defence of individual liberty and freedom. With the emergence of Welfare state, the state has entered every aspect of man’s life. Modern period has witnessed great expansion in the state activities. There is hardly any aspect of man’s life which is outside the sphere of influence of the state.
Power and influence of social associations may prevail over its members, however, in the ultimate analysis the state will assert its authority. We have seen, how fundamentalist and terrorist organisations even challenged the authority of the Indian state in Punjab. But ultimately the Republic of India brought the terrorist outgits to their knees. Besides, if a state fails to assert its authority, it has in effect lost all claim to sovereign power : Occasions arise in the life of a society when the state power collapses, and total anarchy and lawlessness prevails.
Today, nations such as the former Soviet Union and even India to some extent, which are experiencing multiple pulls of allegiance, are all the more in need of central controlling, guiding and regulating sovereign power of the state.