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Pluralism

Functionalists view the state as having arisen out of the basic needs of the social group. To protect themselves from oppressors, people formed a government and gave it the monopoly on violence. The risk is that the state can turn that force against its own citizens.

Therefore people must find a balance between having no government which would lead to anarchy, a condition of disorder and violence and having a government that protects them from violence, but that also may turn against them.

When functioning well the state is a balanced system that protects its citizens both from one another and from government. Functionalists say that pluralism, a diffusion of power among many special-interest groups, prevents any one group from gaining control of the government and using it to oppress the people. This system, known as checks and balances, was designed to ensure that no one branch of government dominates the others.

Our pluralist society has many groups such as women, men, racial–ethnic groups as well as broad categories as the rich, middle class and poor. No group dominates. Rather as each group pursues its own interests, other groups that are pursuing theirs balance it.

To attain their goals, groups must negotiate with one another and make compromises. This minimizes conflict. These groups have political muscle to flex at the polls; politicians try to design policies that please as many groups as they can. This according to functionalists makes the political system responsive to the people and no one-group rules.