1. People and Politics


Sociologists have called people "social animals." This expression may not do justice to all animals, since many of them thrive best in crowds, but it does characterize a basic feature of human society and their historical development.

Human social development has been related to sustained families and kinship formation, which is not typical of other "animals." Anthropologists have shown that subsistence and survival have been among reasons for the development of early social structures.

The capability of the human race to divide work not only in the sphere of economic activities but also in social and political activities, has been a major engine for more complex social organisations and structures. Tribal communities, city-states, feudal societies, autocracies, nation states, socialist regimes and parliamentary democracies have been amongst milestones throughout the long history of political development.

How different are these forms of local, regional and national political structures and society? They have always been different with one common denominator - in each social formation they have been and still are the products of an ongoing competition for political power. The struggle for power - meaning the competition between social groups for positions and leadership in society - is the core of political activities and processes, simply called politics.

Politics can be defined as a struggle for power between different interests, social groups and classes in society with the use of power for given interests and aims.

Politics also has other definitions such as ".... the management of our common tasks" or "... controlling public conflicts or governing (management) of an organized society".

Modern concept sees politics as a process, as a totality of activities, which always are related to the conflict. Although politics does require, and often is cooperation, its typical feature is conflicting views about goals and often also about means (e.g. Berndtson 1992). 

The connection between conflict and cooperation requires more attention and understanding than is often the case. It is true that conflicts are very often the direct cause for political interventions. Constructive solving or the compromise of issues requires cooperation of the parties involved in the conflict. Cooperation is also needed when a new policy or element has been put in place and is being implemented.

On the other hand, a spark of a conflict where compromise is not possible may create a fire that burns the whole forest. One probable reason for conflict to grow is the lack of prior cooperation between parties. Cooperative attitudes and nurturing rational co-existence and concern is needed in politics, so that the uncontrolled social fires can be prevented. Paloheimo and Wiberg (1997) point out:

"Politics is managing public matters in ways which promote the goals of the actors. It is both conflict and cooperation."

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