In defense of pluralism : policy disagreement and its media coverage


In defense of pluralism : policy disagreement and its media coverage

Éric Montpetit

(Cambridge studies in comparative public policy / general editors, M. Ramesh, Xun Wu, Michael Howlett)

Cambridge University Press, 2016

  • : hardback

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Includes bibliographical references and index

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The work of early pluralist thinkers, from Arthur Bentley to Robert Dahl, inspired much optimism about democracy. They argued that democracy was functioning well, despite disagreements arising among the diversity of interests represented in policy-making processes. Yet it is unlikely that anyone paying attention to news coverage today would share such optimism. The media portray current policy-making processes as intractably polarized, devoid of any opportunity to move forward and adopt essential policy changes. This book aims to revive our long-lost sense of optimism about policy-making and democracy. Through original research into biotechnology policy-making in North America and Europe, Eric Montpetit shows that the depiction of policy-making offered by early pluralist thinkers is not so far off the present reality. Today's policy decision-making process - complete with disagreement among the participants - is consistent with what might be expected in a pluralist society, in sharp contrast with the negative image projected by the media.


  • 1. Introduction: shouts, shoes, and insults
  • 2. Disagreement and tone in the media
  • 3. Frames, metaphors and disagreement in the media
  • 4. Measuring disagreement among policy actors
  • 5. Do contentious actors stall policy?
  • 6. Who disagrees with whom and why?
  • 7. Appreciating the pluralist politics of policy-making
  • Appendix.

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