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Critically examine the concept of mobilisation of bias Introduction The concept of mobilisation of bias has played a very important

role in the analysis of public policy, policy process itself and agenda-setting. According to Dewey, Public policy focuses on the public and its problems. It is concerned with how issues and problems come to be defined and constructed and how they are placed on the political and policy agenda (Parsons, 1995, XV). Since mobilisation of bias plays a very important role in the setting of agenda (Hogwood and Gunn, 1984, 71) and consequently in the designing of policies to tackle the various problem of a given society, it is understandable the fact that it had attracted a lot of attention from various schools of thoughts. The concept of mobilization of bias is firstly used by Schattschneider and it describes the process which enlightening one problem in society, by shadowing others which might be equally or even more important than it. Latter on the concept is taken and further developed by Bachrach and Baratz, who based on it, developed the concept of non-decision. The paper seeks to engage in a wide analysis of competing arguments of the concepts of power, conflict over interests, decision and non-decision ultimately arguing in favour of Luke conceptualization on such concepts. The paper argues that while mobilisation of bias has brought a new dimension in analysing the distribution of power and conflicts between different groups in a society, it still fails to give a full picture on the values and interests and conflicts of such society. While, the concept of mobilisation of bias tells about covert conflict, it doesnt tell anything on the latent conflict, which cannot be observed because people are not even aware that it exist. They are not aware, as Luke points out, because their values, ideas and interests are shaped by the society in which they were born. The paper will start with a brief description on the work of Dahl with regard to the distribution of power and representation of interests in society. It will follow with the presentation of the concept of mobilisation of bias. And finally it will conclude with the perspective provided by Lukes and Gramsci who provides a deeper analysis with regard to the conflicts and distribution of power in society.

Mobilisation of bias Mobilisation of bias is a term used for the first time by Schattschneider in his book The Semisovereign people. The concept of mobilization of bias was taken later by Bachrach and Baratz in a series of articles and books that followed the publication of Robert Dahls Who Governs? Their theory emerged as a critique to the pluralist approach to public policy. Dahl claimed that public policy was the outcome of a free competition between ideas and interests and that power was widely distributed in society. In his study in New Haven, he noticed that In an open pluralistic system, where movement into the political stratum is easy, the stratum embodies many of the most widely shared values and goals in the society [and] any dissatisfied group ...finds a spokesman in the political stratum (1966, 91, 93). Dahl reached in this conclusion by investigating how decisions on key issues were taken. According to him power is widely distributed in society and no particular group has more power than others. In his article The concept of Power, Dahl defines power as something like this: A has power over B to the extent that he can get B to do something that B would not otherwise do (1957, 202-203). Although, Bachrach and Baratz developed their concept of mobilisation of bias based on Schattschneider, they have a different approach from him. Schattschenider comments on the mobilization of bias as follows: All forms of political organization have a bias in favour of the exploitation of some kinds of conflict and the suppression of others because organization is the mobilization of bias. Some issues are organized into politics while others are organized out (1975, 71). Therefore, according to him the politics is organized around conflicts which are made known by the different organizations, being those political parties or pressure groups, which value a specific issue more than others, and consequently have a bias on that issue. Consequently, the public get to know only those issues, problems, conflicts which have been able to penetrate through the various organizations. Thus, It is not necessarily true that people with the greatest needs participate in politics most actively whosoever decides what the game is about will also decide who gets in the game (1975, 105). For example the communist party claims the representation of the interests of the working class, thus it makes possible that the concerns of such class are made public, but at the same time it makes possible that only those who fall into such category will have a voice in the public discourse, policy and agenda-setting. It creates a conflict based on class division. This is but one example. Indeed the existing political parties and pressure groups tell about the conflicts present in society. These are conflicts which

could be based on class belonging, ethnicity, gender and sexual orientation, environment etc. The consequence of this is that if a specific group is not organized based on a specific concern, and hasnt been able to participate in the policy design and agenda setting, it is as if the conflict doesnt exist at all. He comments that ...public opinion about specific issues does not necessarily govern the course of public policy (1975, 129-130), on the contrary it is the competitive political system with its conflicts already established which involves the people in politics. It is the nature of the conflict, established by the political leaders, which determines the nature of public involvement (1975, 126-138). This entails that if the political system is organized based on a conflict between ideologies (e.g. a conflict between the left and the right), than the people will participate in this political system either as members of the working class, or of the bourgeoisie, or middle class. It is important to emphasize that Schattschneider doesnt consider this as bad. And this is the difference between him and Bachrach and Baratz. Schattschneider argues that the existence of the political organizations makes possible the participation of the people in the decision making-making process: Democracy is a competitive political system in which competing leaders and organizations define the alternatives of public policy in such a way that the public can participate in the decision-making process (1975, 138). Bachrach and Baratz have another approach towards the mobilization of bias. The difference lays in that, Schattschneider havent taken in consideration the role of the power. In fact, Bachrach and Baratz built their theory as a critique to the pluralist conception of democracy. Therefore they elaborated the idea of power and how it influences the political agenda. They dont agree with the model of Dahl because, it doesnt take into account two facts. One is that power may confine the scope of decision making to relatively safe issues and the other one is that it doesnt provide criteria for distinguishing between key and non-key issues arising in the political arena (1962, 948). They comments that power is more than A making decisions which affect B; it is exercised also when A creates and reinforces social and political values and institutional practices that limit the scope of the political process to public considerations of only those issues which are comparatively innocuous to A(1962, 948). In doing so, B doesnt present, articulate or make known issues which might be detrimental to A. Thus As efforts are covert; they attempt to sustain values and rules of procedure, which dont allow detrimental issue to A, to become known to the public. Therefore, they conclude that ...to the extent that a person or group consciously or unconsciously creates or reinforces barriers

to the public airing of policy conflicts, that person or group has power (1962, 949). The process of not airing of policy conflicts, Bachrach and Baratz have labelled nondecision making. According to them, we have nondecision making when the status quo oriented persons and groups influence those community values and those political institutions...which tend to limit the scope of actual decision-making to safe issues (1962, 952). Thus nondecision-making is a process which aims at suppressing conflicts and preventing them from entering the political process (Ham and Hill, 1993, 67). Examples of the different forms of nondecision-making could be: 1) The use of force to prevent demands from entering the political process; 2) cooptation used to deter the emergence of issues; 3) rules and procedures could be used to deflect unwelcoming challenges (e.g. delaying them by referring to committees for detailed study or even labelling as unpatriotic or immoral); 4) reshaping of rules and procedures so that they could block demands which challenge the staus quo (Ham and Hill, 1993, 69). Finally, Bachrach and Baratz, comment that even though nondecision cannot be traced objectively, since it is not an event (indeed nothing has happened), still we can understand if there is a latent issue and efforts are made to leave it as such, i.e. if there is a case of mobilization of bias upon that latent issue (1963, 641). It is important to notice that the mobilisation of bias could be traced retrospectively by examining the key decisions in different periods. The emergence of new issues can tell that they have been suppressed previously. I will illustrate this by presenting the case of the Cameria community in Albania. The community is composed of Albanians who were expelled from Greece during the First World War. Since then, the recuperation of property lost in Greece has been one of the concerns of this community. The issue has been frozen during the Cold War and then regenerated again after the collapse the system. The community has been somehow successful in voicing its concern in media, but it never became part of government agenda. The situation changed with the change of the electoral system. The electoral code of Albania has been a first past the post system mixed with a proportional one. It always favoured the big parties and their coalitions. Therefore, the code was changed so that it could give opportunities to small communities and women. The new electoral code, approved in 2008 (http://www.cec.org.al/2004/eng/legjislacion/kodizgjedhor/Electoral%20Code.pdf), is regional proportional. Consequently, the Cameria community ,which tend to stay as community concentrating in few areas in the south of the country, was able to compose in these areas a considerable electorate which made possible for the community to have its own representatives

in parliament and government (http://www.cec.org.al/2004/eng/zgjedhjeKuvend.htm). Thus the community can voice its problems and make them part of the political agenda. This example shows how rules and regulations can be used to keep interests of specific groups of the society outside the political agenda. Critique to Mobilisation of bias The approach of Bachrach and Barratz, although brought a deeper analysis on the perception of issues and problems of the community, has its weak points. The criticism is for both the methodology suggested to trace nondecions, as well as for the conclusions. Bachrach and Barratz criticized Dahl for the methodology used to see how power was distributed in society. But then, they made the same mistake. They limit the method of their analysis only to empirical evidence. They limit their observation only to empirical evidence of a conflict (Lukes, 2005, 22-23). Lukes observes that they have widen the concept of interest conceptualized by Dahl who considers as interests the policy preferences exhibited by the behaviour of all citizens who are assumed to be within the political system (2005, 24). While, for Bachrach and Baratz , interests are either part of political agenda, or when not part of it, are consciously articulated and observable (2005, 24). From this, follows the second criticism of Lukes. He argues that decisions are choices consciously and intentionally made by individuals between alternatives, whereas the bias of the system can be mobilized, recreated and reinforced in ways that are neither consciously chosen nor the intended result of particular individuals choices (2005, 25). Lukes comments that the bias of the system is sustained mainly by the values, ideology, culture, structure and institutions of a certain group. Consequently, the rest of the population is not even aware that its interests are shaped by others, that its interests are structured according to the values and beliefs of the society (Lukes, 2005, 26). Therefore there is no covert conflict. The conflict apparently does not exist. It does not exist because, those whose interests are neglected and marginalized are not even aware that such has happened and as consequence the conflict is not observable. Having said this, Luke provides another definition of power. He comments: A may exercise power over B by getting him to do what he does not want to do, but he also exercises power over him by influencing, shaping or determining his very wants (2006, 27). He considers this the third dimension of power in the three-dimensional view (2005, 25), where the first is the one presented by pluralists and the second is the one presented

by Bachrach and Baratz. He comments, that the problem of both pluralists and Bachrach and Baratz in conceptualizing power is that they suppose that it shows up only in cases of conflict. Luke sees as crucial point that the most effective and insidious use of power is to prevent such conflict from arising in the first place(2005, 27). Such power shapes peoples perceptions in such a way that they agree with the actual situation, order of things and their position in life. They do so, because they see this situation as unchangeable, as natural and because they cannot perceive an alternative to this situation (2005, 28). Conclusion The paper made a brief analysis on the concept of mobilisation of bias. It explored the thoughts of scholars who have indeed contributed a lot on the issue of understanding how values and interests of the different groups of the society are represented in the public sphere and whether and how they have become part of the political agenda. The mobilisation of bias has widened the perspectives of analysing the values and interests of the different groups of the society. These values and interests are not to be observed only empirically in the in the form of key decisions taken by a community. But they could be covert, due to power exercised by the dominant groups who would like to protect the status quo and consequently their dominance in the actual political situation. Therefore, they expressed a concern that interests of various groups in society could not be represented, because of power exercised to covert conflict. Barach and Baratz introduced the concept of non-decision, which is a decision taken by those who are aware of the problems but cannot voice them because of the power exercised by those who hold it. Nonetheless, the concept cannot give the full picture of the values, interests and conflicts of society. As Lukes observed, the dominant group/class would exercise power to keep conflicts latent. People are manipulated through the dominant values and ideologies of the society where they live and consequently they dont understand that their interests are not taken in consideration. Indeed, they are not even aware that such interests exist. Therefore this paper concludes that in order to understand properly the problems and interests of the various groups of population, so that better public policies are designed, it is important to explore power in all its three dimensions. Only in this way, students of public policy will have a better understanding of the problems and needs of the society and consequently provide all embracing policies.

Bibliography Bachrach, Peter and Baratz, Morton.S. (1962) Two faces of power, The American Political Science Review 56 (4): 947-952. Bachrach, Peter and Baratz, Morton.S. (1963) Decisions and Nondecisions: An Analytical Framework, The American Political Science Review 57 (3): 632-642. Dahl, Rober (1957) The Concept of Power, Behavioral Science, July: 201-215.

Dahl, Robert (1961) Who Governs?, New Haven: Yale University Press. Ham, Christopher and Hill, Michael (1993) The Policy Process in the Modern Capitalist State, (2nd ed.), London: Harvester Wheatsheaf. Hogwood, Brian W. and Gunn, Lewis A. (1984) Policy Analysis for the Real World, New York: Oxford University Press. Lukes, Steven (2005) Power A Radical View, (2nd ed.), UK: Palgrave. Parsons, Wayne (1995) Public Policy An introduction to the theory and practice of policy analysis, Aldershot: Eduard Elgar. Schattschneider, E.E. (1975) The Semisovereign People A realists View of Democracy in America, Hinsdale: The Dryden Press. The Central Elections Commission. Electoral Code. <http://www.cec.org.al/2004/eng/legjislacion/kodizgjedhor/Electoral%20Code.pdf> (20 Dec. 2009). The Central Elections Commission. Parliamentary Elections. <http://www.cec.org.al/2004/eng/zgjedhjeKuvend.htm> (20 Dec. 2009).