126.96.36.199 Forming Pressure Groups
People can increase their influence by banding together to put moral pressure upon politicians to behave differently. Niall Ferguson, in his book Empire, wrote that the campaign at the end of the 18th century for the abolition of slavery was “one of the first great extra-Parliamentary agitations”:
“When 11,000 people in Manchester alone – two thirds of the male population – signed a petition calling for an end to the trade, it amounted to a call for an ethical foreign policy, a call so widespread that the government did not dare ignore it. …..
This was the birth of a new kind of politics, the politics of the pressure group. Thanks to the work of zealous activists armed only with pens, paper and moral indignation, Britain had turned against slavery. Even more remarkably, the slave trade had been abolished in the face of determined opposition from some powerful vested interests.” [p. 118]
The political impact of pressure groups, or interest groups, is described later (6.4.4).
There are several moral issues which command sufficient public interest for groups to be formed. The formation of ‘Green’ movements in several countries is a notable example (188.8.131.52). The pressure group Extinction Rebellion became prominent in 2019 with some high-profile protests, which were intended to increase public awareness of the need to mitigate climate change; the group’s methods drew criticism, though, and made people angry.
This page is intended to form part of Edition 4 of the Patterns of Power series of books. An archived copy of it is held at https://www.patternsofpower.org/edition04/4342.htm