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In political science, the view that in liberal democracies power is (or should be) dispersed among a variety of economic and ideological pressure groups and is not (or should not be) held by a single elite or group of elites. Pluralism assumes that diversity is beneficial to society and that the disparate functional or cultural groups of which society is composedincluding religious groups, trade unions, professional organizations, and ethnic minoritiesshould be autonomous. Pluralism was stressed most vigorously during the early 20th century by a group of English writers that included Frederic W. Maitland and Harold J. Laski; it was defended in the later 20th century by the American scholars Robert Dahl and David B. Truman.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on pluralism, visit Britannica.com.