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  • Cited by 3
  • Print publication year: 2003
  • Online publication date: June 2012

14 - Organized Interest Groups and Policy Networks


What's thy interest in this sad wrack? How came it? Who is it? What art thou?

– William Shakespeare (1609, “Cymbeline,” Act IV, Scene II)


The organizational promotion of specific interests in public policy-making processes constitutes an important phenomenon of stateoriented politics. Theoretical and empirical analyses of interest groups are divided among two major themes. The first considers the formation and maintenance of organized interests groups, and the second theme considers their role and impact on public policy making. The latter investigates the patterns of relationships among governmental agencies and interest organizations, how interest groups and coalitions gain access to public policy makers, and the extent to which they exert advantageous influence over policy decisions.

We review fundamental elements of prior studies of organized interest groups and consider some relevant topics for advancing research in this area. We begin with basic conceptual issues in defining organized interest groups. We continue with an exposition of the main foundational approaches to investigating interest groups. Next, we briefly review some issues in the internal development of interest groups: organizational formation, resource mobilization, governance, and collective interest definition. We also briefly scrutinize policy research institutes, a particular and underanalyzed variety of interest organization. The following section investigates policy network approaches to examining the macrolevel dynamics of organized interest group efforts to influence public policies, especially by networking with other interest organizations. We then discuss the interest group systems of the European Union (EU) and the United States. We conclude with some suggestions for advancing the research agenda of interest organization studies.

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