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chapter 11 vocabulary terms

Interest group

organization of people with shared policy goals entering the policy process at several points to try to achieve those goals; pursues goals in many arenas.

Pluralist theory

theory of government and politics that emphasizes that politics is mainly a competition among groups, each one pressing for its own preferred politics.

Elite theory

theory of government and politics that contends that societies are divided among class lines and that an upper-class elite will rule, regardless of the formal niceties of governmental organization.

Hyperpluralist theory

theory of government and politics that contends that groups are so strong that governments are weakened; extreme, exaggerated, or perverted form of hyperpluralism.


network of groups within the American political system that exercise a great deal of control over specific policy areas; composed of interest group leaders interested in a particular policy, the government agency in charge of administering that policy, and the members of congressional committees and subcommittees handling that policy; also known as iron triangles.

Potential group

a group of people who might be interest group members because its members share some common interest; always larger than an actual group.

Actual group

part of the potential group consisting of members who actually join.

Collective good

something of value that cannot be withheld from a group member (money, tax write-offs, etc.).

Free-rider problem

problem faced by unions and other groups when people do not join a group because they can benefit from a group's activities without officially joining; bigger problem with larger groups.

Olson's law of large groups

principal stating that "the larger the group, the further it will fall short of providing an optimal amount of a collective good," according to Mancur Olson.

Selective benefits

goods that a group can restrict to those who pay its annual dues (information publications, travel discounts, etc.).

Single-issue groups

groups that have a narrow interest, tend to dislike compromise, and often draw membership from people new to politics.


"communication, by someone other than a citizen acting on their own behalf, directed to a governmental decision-maker with the hope of influencing their decision," according to Lester Milbrath.


direct group involvement in the electoral process; examples include groups funding campaigns, providing testimonies, and getting members to work for candidates.

Political action committees (PACs)

political funding vehicles created by the 1974 campaign finance reforms; can be created by a corporation, union, or some other interest group under the FEC, which meticulously monitors the ____________'s expenditures.

Amicus curiae briefs

legal briefs submitted by a "friend of the court" for the purpose of raising additional points of view and presenting information not contained in the briefs of the formal parties; attempt to influence a court's decision.

Class action suits

lawsuits permitting a small number of people to sue on behalf of all other people similarly situated.

Union shop

provision found in some collective bargaining agreements which requires all employees of a business to join the union within a short period, usually within 30 days, and remain members as a condition of employment.

Right-to-work law

state law forbidding the requirement that workers must join a union to hold their jobs; state-level versions of these laws were permitted by the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947.

Public interest lobbies

organizations that seek "a collective good, the achievement of which will not selectively and materially benefit the membership or activities of the organization," according to Jeffrey Berry.

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