chapter  1
Pages 24

The list of interest groups, voluntary associations, intermediary organizations, social movements and civic associations in modern societies is virtually endless, and includes such divergent forms of cooperation as trade unions, business and professional organizations, welfare and charity organizations, service clubs, community associations, churches, sports, social and leisure clubs, scientific, educational, youth, health and cultural organizations, as well as political parties. The terminology used to label distinct groups of citizens in society already suggests important differences between the presumed roles and functions of

these groups. If we start with a macro-perspective,1 terms such as ‘intermediary organizations’ and ‘interest groups’ are frequently used. These phrases refer to the place these groups occupy in decision-making processes. As collective entities they try to influence politics, and many conventional groups like trade unions or business organizations are well integrated into institutionalized decision-making procedures. As interest groups they represent the collective interests of their supporters, or try to attain broader goals. As intermediary organizations they establish a link between different spheres of society such as, for instance, the commercial or religious sector on the one hand and the political sector on the other. A macro-perspective tends to emphasize the relevance of interest groups for the (dis)integration of distinct parts or spheres of social systems. System integration is realized when organizations successfully mediate between citizens and the state or between distinct groups.2