No. 2




Political Activity and Society

31 October 2000


RiTo No. 2, 2000

  • Ülo Vooglaid

    professor emeritus, Institute of Law, University of Tartu

The article discusses the peculiarities, factors and impacts of politics as a regulatory mechanism in society. The author explores the preconditions, risks and possibilities of politics as a voluntary and scientifically founded systematic activity.

He emphasises that politics obtains meaning and becomes understandable on the background of law, just like law becomes understandable only on the background of politics. Politics does not function alone and separately from the society, community, or family, i.e. the people who are simultaneously members of the society and representatives of the culture. Success in politics presumes cooperation. The article looks at the factors of conflicts and cooperation on different levels of social regulation.

The relationship of politics as a construction of thought and social practice is viewed, stressing that politics in any case is subjective. The author notes that information is the source of the actual power of politicians and analyses the struggles in the communication field. Functions of politics are also viewed. The author concludes that in politics only compromises are satisfactory. Both the formal and moral right are needed to participate in politics and therefore one should take care of the both in order to be active in politics. Formal law depends on the results of elections, moral law depends on competence, moral values and previous practice. The article also examines other preconditions for political activity: experience, use of energy, time and space, and relationships. Important preconditions of political activity are objectives, means, principles of operation and assessment criteria, priorities and prerogatives, feed-on and feedback. The author emphasises the need for scientific research both for guaranteeing feed-on and feedback.

It is all too easy to criticise everything that seems to be wrong. But not much can be concluded from such criticism. Something should, instead, be said about the causes and associations of the actual state of affairs or a situation (the existing condition as a problem), about the direction and intensity of its change, etc. For this, one needs knowledge (a) about the society as an institutional system, (b) about the functioning of the culture as a holographic system and the regularity of its change. The author specifies the terminology needed to discuss politics and notes that the object of politics is the thing at which it is aimed – the consciousness and/or subconsciousness of the people as a system of dispositions. The author considers to be the subject matter of politics everything with the help of which results (changing or substantiating something) are sought in political activity. He also looks at the preconditions for the development of political accountability.

On the basis of his personal experience as a politician and the studies of the society, the author draws the reader’s attention to numerous details that affect the possibility to behave morally, i.e. proceeding from idealistic principles, and to become remarkable or remain disgraceful. The author resigned from the Riigikogu on his own initiative because he did not think it possible to share responsibility with the people who, in his view, lacked moral right to participate in law-making. Analysing the virtues and reasons of unsatisfactory behaviour of Estonian politicians, the author stresses that within the framework of unacceptably obsolete paradigms it is impossible to achieve up-to-date results or results forerunning modernity. Concluding his article, the author recalls the Soviet time when deputies to the parliament were elected on the basis of quotas and a valid argument was a person’s activity in a field outside politics and law.

Full article in Estonian

Ülo Vooglaid, born 1935, historian, Doctor of philosophy University of Tartu (UT). Work: 1965-75 lecturer at the UT, scientific instructor of the laboratory of sociology that was closed down by the communist party with a scandal in 1975; 1978-87 Docent at the Institute for the Enhancement of Qualification of Managing Personnel and Specialists, 1987-89 member of the Supreme Council of the Soviet Union, 1991 adviser to the Chairman of the Presidium of the Supreme Council, 1992 head of the Government scientific department, 1991-92 member of the Estonian Congress and Constitutional Assembly; 1992-97 member of the VII and VIII Riigikogu,1995- member of the Government scientific and development committee; professor of the Pedagogical University and several private universities; chairman of the Scientific Council of the National Library.