Lobbying the state or the market? A study of civil society organisations' strategic behaviour
Civil society organisations’ (CSOs’) political advocacy is commonly acknowledged to be an important part of pluralist political systems, as groups representing diverse interests present their perspectives and expertise to policymakers to shape policy. While the literature has often implied that CSOs are resource-poor and thus constrained to protesting in the street or petitioning policymakers from outside, it is increasingly clear that CSOs can use a range of advocacy strategies during their campaigns.
The interest group literature has split these strategies into ‘inside’ and ‘outside’ strategies – targeting decision-makers directly or going through the public – but has largely ignored strategies with other targets, including those that target actors in the private sector. In contrast, the literature on social movements has explored these market-oriented strategies, but often remains limited to more confrontational strategies and overlooks more ‘inside’ strategies, or direct contacts with companies.
This dissertation combines these two perspectives to uncover the reasons why CSOs choose among and combine their advocacy strategies to use inside and outside strategies in the state and the market. It consists of three cumulative sections, which each examine a different choice and builds up to a better understanding of CSOs’ strategic choices. Theoretically, this research builds upon lobbying theories of inside and outside strategies and the political opportunity structures approach from social movement studies. Methodologically, this dissertation combines exploratory case studies (chapters 3 and 4) with fuzzy-set qualitative comparative analysis (QCA) used for measurement and analytical purposes (chapters 6 and 7). It examines a total of 28 different CSO campaigns.
The first section aims to answer the question of how and why CSOs combine inside and outside lobbying in their campaigns towards the state. The emphasis on combining strategies towards the state only is important to investigate how each type of strategy works and under which conditions they may be used together. Chapters 2 and 3 find that while combining strategies may be risky due to their very different logics, outside strategies can also be key for groups to get policymakers to listen to their demands, particularly for groups with less structural power.
The second section answers the question of why CSOs use indirect lobbying strategies in their campaigns. These ‘indirect strategies’, where groups target their advocacy at the market to influence public policy, or vice versa, bring market strategies into the picture. Chapters 4 and 5 highlight the two types of indirect lobbying – regulatory and surrogate politics. They find that indirect strategies are often used because a more direct route is blocked, but they also have certain benefits for groups, particularly for public mobilisation, which can also explain why groups use these strategies. Chapter 5 also develops a novel conceptual framework to examine CSOs’ advocacy action in both the state and the market.
The final section turns to the central question of this research: why do CSOs combine lobbying towards state and market actors in their campaigns? Here, I examine how these strategies are combined when CSOs lobby on one particular issue over a specific period of time. Chapters 6 and 7 build upon the work in previous chapters to examine this question. They find that there are differences between the way groups use strategies in the state and in the market: inside strategies are the ‘core’ of state campaigns, while outside strategies are more important in the market. There are two types of campaigns that use market strategies: those targeting only the market, and those where groups use market strategies to supplement their state lobbying and encourage public mobilisation. Structural factors were the main reason why groups used market strategies in their campaigns, and resources allowed groups to combine strategies when institutional structures were less open.
By examining the range of strategies that CSOs can take when lobbying for policy change, this dissertation highlights the similarities and differences between strategies in the state and the market, and makes the case for including both in our studies of political advocacy. The findings shed a generally positive light on the representation of citizens and the inclusion of CSOs in the political system: most of the groups studied here did not turn to the market or use outside strategies purely because they were excluded from traditional avenues of representation, but rather as a conscious choice to increase public mobilisation or because of beliefs about the best way to create change. They are not necessarily an indication that CSOs are disadvantaged, but rather reflect the creative advocacy strategies used by CSOs in their attempts to shape public policy.