Skip to content
June 4, 2013 / C H Thompson

Difference between pressure groups and NSMs

Before reading through the content below it’ll be useful to hear a radio debate on 1 December 2014 between two downloadpressure groups – John Glen is Conservative MP for Salisbury and Ralph Smyth is Senior Transport Campaigner for the Campaign to Protect Rural England you’ll have to decide which is/or both are the ‘outside’ or ‘inside’ pressure group. It’ll also be useful to consider what the agenda is and who set it.

Definition of a pressure group:

A pressure group is an organization which seeks as one of its functions to influence the formulation and implementation of public policy’ (Grant 2000) or

‘The field of organized groups possessing both formal structure and real common interests in so far as they influence the decisions of public bodies’ (W J M Mackenzie)

Difference between pressure group and new social movement: (power point difference between NSMs and PGs) NSMS:-

  1. In contrast to Mackenzie’s definition may not have a formal structure and are usually united by ideas not interests.
  2. Represent people with an outsider orientation
  3. Seek to change elements in the existing power structure
  4. Often use direct action methods
  5. Opposed to conventional power politics
  6. Do not want to influence state, want to act in civil society
  7. Loosely defined organisational structure
  8. Either lack clearly defined leadership or have charismatic leader
  9. Often left of centre, lifestyle politics, but note petrol protests

Therefore: ‘The new social movement literature has little space for reform-oriented single issue pressure groups which merely seek to change their bit of the world, and are reasonably comfortable with the state of society and politics as they find them – surely the operating rationale of so many voluntary organisations?’ (McKay and Hilton, 2009)

For example:

  • Feminism one of the important social movements (impact on changing consciousness, family level, still few women legislators)
  • Many of its goals require political action
  • Pressure groups spring from NSMs

There’s more details here on new social movements

Difference between pressure group and political party?

  • Political parties want to win control of government, pressure groups don’t
  • Political parties are broad coalitions that have to aggregate interests, pressure groups often have single issue campaigns

Pressure groups (illustrate pluralist perspectives of power) exist to:


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: