The difficult altruism of interest groups
In the economic approach to interest groups as it derives from methodological individua¬lism and pluralistic group theory, the solidarity of participating actors is generally seen in terms of collective egoism. Given recent tendencies to sociocultural disaggregation and individual particularisms, there is certainly some interest in the microsociological analysis of such groups today. But the economic definition of solidary collective action does not take into account the ethical dimension of solidarity which can influence the group’s strategy, and which goes beyond pure interest representation. As can be demonstrated by the analysis of two French interest organisations – a trade union and a federation of health assurance cooperatives – such an ethical dimension is primarily due to the intervention of altruistic entrepreneurs. One bas, however, to consider the tension which exists betweens these activists and the more or less utilitaristic rank and file members.