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Ambrose Bierce (1911) famously suggested that ‘politics’ referred to the ‘strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles’. As this chapter indicates, many authors agree with him, arguing that both politics and policy-making can be assimilated with the pursuit of interest. This is particularly the case for rational choice theorists, Marxists and Elitists, radical feminists, cleavage theorists, theorists of interest groups and of corporatism, and power resource theorists. However, these approaches differ substantially over how interests can be defined, and which group and/or individual interests are perceived as being likely to shape policy. In addition to these approaches, other perspectives on policy-making stress the fact that policies themselves can shape interests, and also that the pursuit of interests can be affected by the institutional and ideational context. A common problem for all of these approaches is the vagueness of the concept of interest itself, considered in detail in the next section.
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