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Interest Groups

Module Code: POU44081

Module Name: Interest Groups 2019-20

  • ECTS Weighting: 5
  • Semester/Term Taught: Semester 1
  • Contact Hours: One 90-minute seminar per week
  • Module Personnel: Lecturer - Dr. Michele Crepaz
  • Office Hours: TBA

Learning Outcomes

In fresh year courses offered by the Department of Political Science, students are provided with a theoretical foundation in a broad range of functional areas. This final year course provides the broader, interdisciplinary contextual framework for considering the environment of political organisations and the issues that may impinge on these organisations directly and indirectly.

More precisely, at the end of the course, student will have a detailed understanding of the role of interest groups in domestic and EU level politics. Students will, first of all, have the tools to critically analyse the latest developments in interest group politics. Secondly, they will be able to assess cutting edge research on the topic of interest groups. Finally, with the use of the analytical tools provided in class, students will attempt independent research in the field of interest group politics. Beyond the lecture contents, this course will allow students to improve: their research design skills; their effective writing skills; their applied methodological skills; and their academic and practical presentation skills.


Module Learning Aims

At the end of the course, student will have a detailed understanding of:

  • The role or interest groups in political processes and various policy fields.
  • The importance of such roles in processes of national politics, Europeanization and globalization.
  • The practice of interest representation of different types of actors, such as business interest associations, firms and social movement organizations.
  • Activities such as advocacy, mobilization strategies and lobbying.
  • The benefits of interest representation for contemporary democracies.
  • The risks associated with interest representation in contemporary democracy (e.g. corruption).
  • The interplay between state and organised interests and the role of regulation.



Module Content

This course brings together students interested in the interaction between non-state actors, such as organised interests, and policymakers. Contemporary governments are currently witnessing an unparalleled structure of interdependence between interest groups and policymakers, which increasingly defines political systems across the globe. We differentiate the types of actors such as business interest associations, professional associations, firms and social movement organizations. These have found different ways to organise and represent their interests, such as protest, lobbying, policy monitoring, and mobilization. This course seeks to explain the role of interest groups in political systems, across interest group type and mobilization strategy. This is a relevant topic for students interested in the study of politics given that the number of non-state actors active in modern day democratic systems has exploded over the past decades. Brussels is believed to host 30,000 lobbyists active in EU policy-making, with almost 12,000 interest groups registered in the Joint Transparency Register of the European Union. Despite the size of European lobbying industry, the US is still the largest lobbying environment of the world with more than 50,000 active lobbyists across all states, 11,000 lobbyists in DC only with a surprising lobbying expenditure of $3.42 billion in 2018.

Many have suggested that this ever-growing involvement of non-state actors in the day-to-day practices of policymakers has a corrupting effect on decision-making process. The term ‘lobbying’ has been in fact for decades associated to corruption and undue influence. Lobbying is in reality a highly professionalised activity that is important for policymakers and scholars do not fail to stress its importance in the political process. We will explore benefits and dangers associated to their activity.

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Recommended Reading List

The course is structured around a set of seminars that focus on interactive discussion of the assigned materials and media coverage of contemporary news events while blending with some lecture materials. Given the seminar format, students are expected to keep up-to-date with the readings and topical issues in the arena. The reading list includes required material to be discussed during the weekly seminars and provides additional recommended materials that may be of particular use for the larger written assignments. There are three to four required readings each week. These readings are available electronically, through the TCD library ( However, some of the key readings will be made available on BLACKBOARD.

A complete list of the readings is available on the course syllabus, which will be available for students enrolled in the course.

In addition, here are some resources that you should regularly consult


Governments and IOs

Media and NGOs

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Assessment Details (TBC)

The course is examined by continuous assessment. There is no exam! Students are required to submit five short response papers (worth 20% of the total grade); produce one short Group Assignment (in the form of a response paper worth 20% of the total grade); and submit an end of the year research paper (worth 60% of the total grade). Details are available on the course syllabus and will be discussed in class in due course.


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