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Resources and agendas: combining Walker’s insights with new data sources to chart a path ahead

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Interest Groups & Advocacy (2021) 10:85–90
Resources andagendas: combining Walker’s insights
withnew data sources tochart apath ahead
JesseM.Crosson1· AlexanderC.Furnas2 · GeoreyM.Lorenz3
Accepted: 4 February 2021 / Published online: 23 February 2021
© The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited part of Springer Nature 2021
One of the central projects of Mobilizing Interest Groups in America was to chart
the course that interests take to overcome the collective action problems inherent to
founding and maintaining a group to be active in politics. Importantly, Walker found
that interests’ pathways to organization and maintenance are dependent on the avail-
ability of a natural or existing membership base or the interests’ access to patronage
or other resources. Put differently, an interest’s path to mobilization is largely a func-
tion of its “niche in the constituency and policy communities of which it is a part.”
(Walker 1991, 9). This implies that not all pathways to organization are equally
available to all interests. For example, citizens groups are disproportionately reliant
on patronage from individual donors and foundations.
Not only are not all paths open to all interests, but, consequentially, the manner
by which interest groups originate and maintain themselves structures the rest of a
group’s actions and strategy: “the choice of political strategies is intimately con-
nected to the group’s prospects for organizational maintenance” (Walker 1991,
106).f Groups that rely more on patronage, for example, are much more likely to
pursue “outside” strategies of influence. Because Walker’s analysis implies that the
nature of an interest itself may dictate both its path towards organizational represen-
tation and the subsequent strategies and tactics the organization ultimately pursues,
he describes a system with serious inherent representational inequalities if some
types of activities are more effective than others.
In this essay we explore how contemporary data sources and methods might be
brought to bear in assessing these fundamental representational questions. We pro-
pose a forward-looking research agenda—using data and tools which have become
available since Walker’s work—that incorporates his core insights regarding the
political economy of interest representation. Using these tools can allow scholars
* Alexander C. Furnas
1 Trinity University, SanAntonio, USA
2 Center forScience ofScience andInnovation, Kellogg School ofManagement, Northwestern
University, Evanston, USA
3 Department ofPolitical Science, University ofNebraska-Lincoln, Lincoln, USA
Content courtesy of Springer Nature, terms of use apply. Rights reserved.
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