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  A concept that has two distinct meanings:

(a) A descriptive term signifying cultural diversity in a society (which may then be referred to as a plural society), the three most common criteria for division being race, language and religion. Since cultural diversity is often associated with social conflict, Dahl terms this conflictual pluralism, which has been a major theme in cultural and social geography (Clarke et al., 1984) and political geography (Kliot and Waterman, 1983). Today much of what went under the rubric of pluralism is studied as difference.(b) A theory of power in society associated with the work of Robert Dahl, which he has termed organizational pluralism. The theory asserts that power is diffused and balanced in modern societies so that there is no one group or class able to dominate decision-making in government. A high degree of consensus is assumed such that \'conflicts\' are not fundamental but can be dealt with pragmatically in the political marketplace. Decisions are ultimately legitimized through the electoral process. The institutions of the state take on the role of umpire, adjudicating among competing interest groups. The theory was applied by Dahl (1961) to an urban area in order to disprove the conclusion of community power studies that American cities were run by local elites. The debate surrounding this study has been important for urban geography. The major attempt to refute pluralism is still that of Miliband (1969), who argues that the theory takes as resolved the major questions concerning the nature of political power in capitalist society. He reasserts class domination of the state and sets out to show that pluralism \'far from providing a guide to reality, constitutes a profound obfuscation of it\'. Lukes (1974) provides a theoretical discussion of power in which pluralism is designated a \'one-dimensional view\' because it is limited to considering observable behaviour as a study of decision-making. Today, the pluralist theory of power is best viewed as one of political science\'s major contributions to the \'optimistic\' American social science which dominated world social studies in the period 1945-70 (Taylor, 1996, ch. 3).(PJT) References Clarke, C., Ley, D. and Peach, C., eds, 1984: Geography and ethnic pIuralism. London. George Allen and Unwin. Dahl, R.A. 1961: Who governs? New Haven: Yale University Press. Kliot, N. and Waterman, S., eds, 1983: Pluralism and political geography. London: Croom Helm. New York: St. Martin\'s Press. Lukes, S. 1974: Power: a radical view. London: Macmillan. Miliband, R. 1969: The state in capitalist society. London: Quartet. Taylor, P.J. 1996: The way the modern world works: world hegemony to world impasse. Chichester: Wiley.



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