An analysis of communal activity as a mode of political participation Essay

IntroductionTo answer the two part question the term communal activity must first be analyzed within the modes of political participation. With in-depth knowledge of the topic of communal activity the Palestine Solidarity Committee will be analyzed as structure out of government, and as a structure within the communal activity mode of political participation. The activity of the PSC will be examined and the impact of the group will be discussed. The impact of the PSC should highlight the functions of communal groups in political participation.

Communal activity.”Conventional wisdom indicates that the decline in political participation is a worldwide trend,” this statement taken from the question is proved to be wrong on a certain level. It is shown to be false by Russell Dalton who suggested that participation in citizen-initiated and policy-oriented forms of participation is increasing, including citizen action groups, communal participation and direct democracy methods, producing new challenges for the traditional institutions of representative democracy. (Norris: pg 4) From the statement it is clear that political participation is not decreasing but rather changing forms. The reasoning behind this shift is clarified by Ronald Inglehart’s belief that, “social trends in post post-industrial societies have fuelled a revolution in cultural values, especially among the younger generation of well-educated citizens, who have less interest in the old left-right issues of the economy and greater concern about the post-materialist agenda of quality of life issues, such as the environment, gender equality and human rights.” (Inglehart: pg 4).

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Importantly Inglehart also supports the idea that, “support for traditional hierarchical and bureaucratic organisations like parties and churches has declined, but the younger generation in affluent societies has become increasingly active in politics via new social movements and transnational advocacy networks……

publics have not become apathetic: quite the contrary, in the last two decades they have become markedly more likely to engage in elite-challenging forms of political participation.” (Norris: pg 5) The above statement is the foundation of why people are changing to communal activity.Communal activity is the working of a group within society. Dalton described communal activity to involve group effort to deal with social or community problems, ranging from issues of schools or roads to protecting the local environment. (Dalton: pg50) The difference between communal activity and other modes of political participation is based on the following criteria: “firstly, whether the act conveys information about the individual’s political preference and applies pressure for compliance; secondly, whether the act is directed toward a broad social outcome or a particular interest: thirdly, the potential degree of conflict involved in the activity; fourthly, the amount of effort required; and lastly the amount of effort required by the act.

” (Dalton: pg 41) Participation within a community group requires much effort from the individual, the result of this effort is a much different one from voting.Communal groups through their efforts are able to control both the means of action and the strategy focus of their activities. The result of communal groups deciding their means and strategy is that they can obtain a multiplicity of forms. (Dalton: pg 50) This variety is extremely positive for all communal activities. Communal activities are usually centred on the resolution of social and community problems, resolutions can include involvement in groups with open policies that incorporate many interrelated interests.

What makes communal activity so different to other modes of political participation is that it takes place outside of the electoral sphere and the focus is not placed on the supporter. (Dalton: pg 52) The result of not being placed in a formal structure is that initiative and political sophistication is needed to keep participation high.A second result of not being incorporated in a larger “governing” structure is that participants within the group define their own issue agenda, the methods of influencing policy makers, and the timing of influence.” (Dalton: pg52) The control of the framework of participation means that community groups can exert political pressure out of the bounds of the restricted participation contained by public campaigns; therefore power from the electoral sphere moves into the public’s control through communal activity. (Dalton: pg52) With more freedom and influence it is obvious why people are moving towards political participation through communal activity. From above, the institutions of communal activity can be understood, with the knowledge of what communal activity is focus can be applied to a South African example of communal participation, the Palestine Solidarity Committee.

The PSC as a political-communal group structure.”We, South Africans who lived for decades under rulers with a colonial mentality see Israeli occupation as a strange survival of colonialism in the 21st century. Only in Israel do we hear of ‘settlements’ and ‘settlers’. Only in Israel do soldiers and armed civilian groups take over hilltops, demolish homes, uproot trees and destroy crops, shell schools, churches and mosques, plunder water reserves, and block access to an indigenous population’s freedom of movement and right to earn a living.

These human rights violations were unacceptable in apartheid South Africa and are an affront to us in apartheid Israel.”(s.n.: PSC) This summarises the basis of the PSC’s ideals. The committee aims to influence the public into seeing the present horrifying situation in Israel.

The committee hopes South African people will realize the extent of Israel’s “Apartheid” through the experiences South Africans went through.The distinct aims of the PSC are the following ( from the declaration on internet site)We pledge ourselves to be part of a new International Anti-Apartheid movement against Israel and we support the demand for:1. Immediate and Urgent International Protection for the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.2. Dismantling of all Jewish Settlements in the Occupied Territories.3.

Withdrawal of all Israeli Troops from the Gaza Strip and the West Bank.4. The right of return and reparations for 4,5 million Palestinian refugees.5. The establishment of a sovereign independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.6.

The establishment of a secular democratic state in historic Palestine.The PSC as a group pledges to resolve the present social problems in Israel. What can be seen from the structure of the committee is that the objectives are decided from within the group and the committee is not incorporated in the electoral system.

The impact of the PSC’s activities is wide-spread. The affect on international politics is enormous, as the committee appeals to have an international focus to end the current dehumanizing activities that are occurring in Israel. With regards to South Africa the committee is pressurizing and influencing the public to support their cause. The result of public support is the influence on the government. Through pressure the state might send peace keepers or send funding for affected Palestinians.The influence of the PSC will determine the government’s actions to the current state of Israel. The group helps to create social awareness in the public and pleas to citizen’s to help other states which are currently experiencing situations similar to what South Africa experienced during Apartheid. The result of such a committee is that more people are encouraged to participate in international political clashes and local political clashes.

The group also encourages the individual to voice their opinion. The result is that people interested in the current social instability of Israel will participate in the committee. Therefore influence will shift from a governing party view to the publics view. The incorporation of individuals’ opinions into a group and striving to achieve a social objective can be viewed in the PSC’s pledges.ConclusionThe PSC is a perfect example of how a communal activity functions in South Africa today. The PSC displays how a group takes part within a political participation mode without being within the electoral system. The impact of such communal groups is immeasurable. Under Dalton’s findings the PSC is a communal group within political participation.

BibliographyDalton, R.1998. “Citizen Politics”.Inglehart, R. 1997. Modernization and Postmodernization: Cultural, Economic and Political Change in 43 Societies.

Princeton: Princeton University Press.Norris, P. 2002. Democratic Phoenix: Political Activism Wordwide.

Chapter 1-2. 2004. Declaration by South Africans Apartheid Israel.


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