The Not-So-Special Interests
Interest Groups, Public Representation, and American Governance
Stanford University Press 2012
Matt Grossmann, Assistant Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University, has authored the recently released book, The Not-So-Special Interests: Interest Groups, Public Representation, and American Governance (Stanford University Press, 2012). The book challenges scholarly and conventional notions of how interest groups influence the policy process. Grossman argues that the focus of political scientists on collective-action and free riding, which has dominated the field for decades, has overlooked the significant contributions of David Truman. In fact, Grossman argues, the few good predictions that Olson made were in general the same ones made by Truman.
The approach of the book is empirical and includes many statistical models, but the writing is clear and accessible to non-academics. It seeks to answer the question of why certain advocacy organizations are so visible in public debates, by foregrounding the prominence of Jews, lawyers, and gun owners. In one of the more interesting cases, Grossmann follows the formation and evolution of the AARP as the leading voice for seniors in Washington, and why conservative opposition groups have failed to challenge their influence over key policy issues. Grossman ends by offering a theory of Institutionalized Pluralism to explain the system of advocacy in the US today.