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Breaking the traditional style of Finnish civic activity.

In this article, "the basic idea is to introduce the idea of style as an approach to (political) activity and, especially, as an alternative practice to ideological activity."

Using the example of animal-rights activism, the author posits something "decidedly new" in Finnish civic activity, which traditionally has been channelled through institutions: Finnish movements have been state-oriented, with demands being addressed to the government, and have emphasized knowledge-based rationality as the measure for competent activity. The author categorically rejects "the notion that, in politics, style is anything more than a superficial curtain, behind which the true contents of politicking can be found," and argues that the traditional style of activity has changed recently toward one called action. The most essential dimension of this action style is unpredictability. Choosing this style means making a (political) judgment, situation by situation. The repertoire of collective activity has enlarged, and actors are now ready to act in the most radical and surprising style.

KEYWORDS: civic activity, style, political judgment rational behavior, animal rights


The prevailing mode of Finnish civic activity is often called "institution influencing." Finnish movements have been state-oriented; that is, demands have been addressed to the government. The Finnish political system has provided an institutionalized outlet for protest and new kinds of corporativist negotiation and handling mechanisms. Thus, the protests have lost their edge and have been channeled into the existing political parties.

Institutionalized means have ruled Finnish politics. The Finnish state machinery has always been very open to demands and quite effective in integrating protests. Youth organizations, for instance, were granted state financing, and the participation of young people was directed to the youth and child organizations of the political parties. Here, too, the state-centered Finnish model of interest promotion was realized: Demands were addressed to the state and they were handled with neocorporativist methods. This is how the bulk of Finnish youth movements were institutionalized and neutralized. (1)

A belief in the power of education has been typical of Finnish movements, too. The collective action of the Finnish Association for Nature Conservation, for instance, is today closely connected with the tradition of national culture and emphasizes knowledge-based rationality as the measure for competent activity. Enlightenment, education, and schooling are the mainstay of the national tradition. An emphasis on "rational and organized behavior based on knowledge" can be discerned in all of the activities of the association's local branches. (2) The measure for credibility is intellectual competence: "Public argumentation ought to be based on intellectual and scientific competence." (3)

Following this national set of codes has given prestige to the association, "even a kind of semiofficial status." (4) When its magazine Suomen Luonto [Finnish nature] editorialized on strikes against fur farms, it emphasized traditional, moderate means of activity as appropriate and fitting. It distinguished itself from the animal-rights movement by accusing it of terrorism, stressing that "great steps forward usually take years of day-to-day drudgery; thorough investigation, submitting complaints, arranging seminars, lobbying, writing articles, work in associations." (5) In this way, it associated itself with the traditional approach of Finnish civic activity, which clearly differs from the idea of contentious politics. (6)

In this article, the aim is to introduce the idea of style as an approach to (political) activity and, especially, as an alternative practice to ideological activity. Further, I apply the idea of style to Finnish civic activity and argue that it has stepped into a new phase since the mid-1990s. To put it briefly, unpredictability is characteristic of present-day styles of activity, not the institution influencing that has often domesticated Finnish civic movements. Actors are ready to act in the most radical and surprising styles; that is to say, contingency has also become an inseparable dimension of Finnish society.

I examine the changing Finnish civic activity by comparing two cases. The first case is the Committee of 100, from the 1960s, representing the traditional mode. The second is Rights for Animals, from the 1990s, representing the transnational animal-rights movement in Finland. Its actions have been exceptional, and since the mid-1990s it has carried out the kinds of illegal strikes very seldom witnessed before in Finland. The strikes of the animal-rights movement have made the citizens, the media, and researchers think--sometimes with apprehension--about whether terrorism has made its way into Finland, too--a new style of civic activity having arrived in the country to stay.

I answer the following questions: What is specific in the Finnish version of the animal-rights movement? and what is its relation to other, more traditional Finnish civic activities? I also try to answer the question of whether the activity of Rights for Animals is a symptom or an example of some deeper and profound trend of change, of the weakening or even collapse of an integrating state. Or is it just that a singular and separate phenomenon has merely given a jolt to traditional, routinized collective activity?

Style as an Approach to Activity

The concept of style of activity is an alternative to or an additional perspective on the institution-oriented study of the functions and functioning of the political system. The problem in the institution-oriented approach has been the inability or unwillingness to recognize and specify forms of activity such as different extra-parliamentary movements or political divisions outside the parties. Style is restricted expressly to activity, which makes it a concept--one that is somehow more specific and precise than is the concept of identity. Style is explicitly a standpoint on concrete activity, and it is for this reason that I categorically reject the notion that, in politics, style is anything more than a superficial curtain, behind which the true contents of politicking can be found. (7) Instead of focusing on this curtain, attention must be paid to the form-with-content of any activity. (8)

With that remark, I want only to make a clear distinction between "politics of image" and "politics of style" as a tool of analysis. The latter pays attention to the wholeness of form and content, whereas the approach of "politics of image" concentrates too much on the actor's external personal character. Of course, style is also a personal quality, but in that case the actor has to have a distinct profile of substance in his/her activities. However, in this article my research interest is collective style.

The approach of style is needed because actions have become small-scale, and the emphasis has been on pointing out the problems. Solving incessantly emerging problems has become the guiding factor in people's activities and norm basis. People today are increasingly focused on adapting to situations and social systems: Questions of societal unity have therefore become questions of secondary interest to them. This is connected to a decreasing belief in ideologies and the lack of great Utopias. This kind of activity is well suited to an era in which things are not easily conceptualized dichotomously and in which no clear solutions can be seen on the horizon of expectation. Activity has become a mere message; activity just shows and provokes. (9) For this reason, style has become an essential element of any activity.

In particular, the concept of style could eventually contribute to the study of new ways of carrying out message-like activities. The background supposition is that styles have an essential, maybe even independent role in the birth and emergence of new forms of activity. Indeed, civic activism may be a consequence of reactions to prevailing styles and a will to act "in another style." This is a question about a clear distinction--a certain kind of profiling of oneself that is typical to a style-conscious activity. The standpoint of style (including its form-with-content) is needed in research because the mainstream research orientations are powerless or unwilling to tackle events in contesting political systems. One must study how contentious activity is performed.

Actors are forced to worry about their long-term credibility. In other words, they have to create for themselves a more or less permanent general style in order to convince different audiences. I call this the infrastructure of style. This must not, however, be understood as a factor determining activity, as an "independent cause variable." The infrastructure of style may present itself, for instance, in an actor's identification with an alternate or marginal cultural practice. When doing this, the actor only chooses the vague overall outlines of future activity, and not yet the style of activity in any specific future situations. Identifying oneself with the marginal, the values of the labor movement or national traditions is a kind of basic choice, one that provides a chance to act in countless different styles in different situations. One of the criteria for identifying a style is the way in which an actor defines him/herself in relation to others.

Nowadays, a central way of constructing an infrastructure of style is the production of expectations. This is one of the ways to profilize, and the question here is, how do political actors see the future horizon? (10) In this sense, attention must be paid to whether present problems will be dramatically exacerbated in the future or whether new, serious problems or downright catastrophes will emerge. One object of study in analyzing nuances of style is the schedule envisaged for solving problems of this kind. There is the reformist "normal policy" adopted by traditional parties, which methodically, step by step, tries to achieve the objectives set. Then we have the policy of immediate change, with the demand for a radical change on the spot. If the future is said to contain problems that urgently call for solutions, expectations can be seen as images of threat, as abstract foes against whom we must fight together as effectively as possible.

When analyzing the production of expectation, attention must be paid also to how each actor tries to conquer the future. In trying to do this, the actors present the most appealing and hope-inspiring expectations for the future. With these, political actors aim at distinguishing themselves from others in their basic orientation. There is also a struggle over which of them can best control the future; that is, over whose expectations are the most convincing.

When observing styles, one cannot concentrate only on the infrastructure. One must also pay attention to the changing situations with which activity is connected. Style has a different meaning in different situations. From this point of view, style does not determine action in any detailed way; instead, it is an element that makes politicking unpredictable in an interesting fashion. This is because style not only refers to the actions of those who have adopted it, but also to the reactions of other political actors who find themselves confronted with that action. When dealing with style, there is also the question of how we react to the styles of other actors. Because the actor has to take into account how other actors think about themselves and each different situation, none of the actions of any actor follows a straightforward strategy fixed carefully in advance. The style of action and the eventual reactions and consequences it may have must thus be observed--"on the way," as it were--over and over again. This means that choosing a style also implies making a political judgment.

The notion of judgment is connected expressly with different situations, and this makes activity contingent. Those making a political judgment cannot define in advance what is going to happen; instead, they have to think over their own actions and the actions of others in each separate case--every time. The judging actor cannot act conservatively; she/he cannot fall back on solid prejudices but must continuously cope with new surprising situations. When the actor relying rigidly on ideologies follows and adheres to her/his doctrine, faithfully and without questioning, as if it were an order, the actor is not in charge of her/his deeds personally. Close to the perspective of Hannah Arendt, this kind of an automatic following of doctrines and orders and routinized and ritualized carrying out in general can be called political behavior. Naturally, there is a difference from action here.

By action, Arendt refers to starting something new--launching a process never seen before. This is the very aim of civic movements. Man's ability to act means expecting the unexpected from him/her, and this is why it is always directed against certainty. When taking to action, men create something that at the time seems quite unlikely. The nature of action is to break down all barriers. (11) Taking to action is for Arendt an example of events characterized by breaking routine processes. These kinds of events are miracles in a way. (12) Consequently, action as such, distinct from routinized behavior following cultural conventions, is something exceptional. Hence, action differs from activity, which I regard as an umbrella concept describing the various activities of civic actors. (13)

At its core, action and judgment is problem-oriented in the same way as a text or political thinking is an answer to a problem. (14) Acting politically is a result of a context-sensitive judgment. In this reflective judging process, the actors decide on their styles of activity; that is to say, judge what would be the most sensible way to act in certain situations. What is needed here is an ability to see each problematic situation from one's own viewpoint and those of all others involved. (15) Political actors judge how different parties possibly take to each situation and what style would be advantageous for them in this situation.

The actor must be able to judge the style of his/her choice--the one that suits the situation. The dimension of style of judgment expresses itself in the form of activity and the skill in justifying it. A permanent and general dimension of style, in turn, is displayed by the convincing and building up of credibility. Grounds change constantly from case to case, whereas, through attempts to convince, political actors aim at ensuring a lasting credibility for themselves.

There is reason to make distinctions between the intensities of styles. In conventional and institutionalized ways of politicking, the style aspect is not recognized even if it is there. In the framework of an automated and uniform code of style, the style intensity is low. For example, an intensive quality of style is a natural part of all action in the sense that Arendt uses the word.

Style intensity is especially accentuated in extraordinary situations. One way of identifying different styles is contained in Carl Schmitt's criterion for what is political: the distinction between friends and enemies and its degree of intensity. (16) When political actors define enemies, from which they want to distinguish themselves, they do it in unconventional and eye-catching ways. Pointing out and constructing adversaries or enemies is an intensive way of profiling oneself. This means that one way of recognizing styles is to ask if political actors construct friend/enemy relationships and, if so, how do they do it? One can elaborate this and ask how' do they see the enemy or object they will clearly denounce and distinguish themselves from, and what style of activity they thereby form for themselves. Here, too, we face the problem of stability and changeability of style, because a friend/enemy distinction and its intensity is a dynamic phenomenon.

The Forced Pluralism of the 1960s

An important contribution to the discussion of problems in the Finnish political system in the 1960s was Finnish sociologist Erik Allardt's Yhteiskunnan rakenne ja sosiaalinen paine [The structure of the society and the social pressure]. Allardt's work was explicitly "a speech for society"; it was an "ideological guideline to a Finland going through a crisis." (17) In the beginning of the 1960s, the Finnish national culture weakened clearly, making room for Allardt's theory. With it, one could, as if scientifically and in an objective and rational vein, break up the unified national culture at the same time as promoting pluralism and permissiveness. (18)

The problem to which Allardt sought a solution is the dissolution caused by division of labor. He wanted to concentrate on "those structural pressures that emerge when a society becomes industrialized and the division of labor dissolute." (19) How can one retain the cohesion of society when an accelerating division of labor is dissolving it? The problem of keeping the society together had been extremely delicate in Finland since the 1918 civil war. This had also to do with the exceptionally high support for Communism and the location of the country, neighboring the Soviet Union. The people had to be unified because of an external threat. (20) The national unification took place through allowing (cultural) difference, and this was done, in practice, by controlling it.

Allardt leans on Ralf Dahiendorf's theory of regulated conflicts, and like his mentor he stresses that conflicts must be tolerated and, at the same time, be controlled ones. Allardt demanded that the basic antagonisms in Finnish society must be alleviated. With regard to this alleviation, he considered the policy of keeping the Communists barred from government to be very detrimental. When this had been done, the poorest and weakest part of society, in terms of social status, had been kept on the political sidelines. (21)

By appropriating Communism, Allardt aimed at rationalizing--and taming--it A sensible, detached, and scientific attitude toward the Communists meant that they should have been regarded as an organized pressure group and equal to the other Finns. At the same time, one could regulate relations to them, and they too, would regulate their relations to others. In Allardt's view, conflicts should by no means be eradicated or removed, but, instead, uncontrolled conflicts should be turned into controlled ones. Uncontrolled conflicts can eventually lead to explosions in society. After the mid-1960s there was an effort to make the Finnish political system a national, organic whole. This logic of functioning of the Finnish political system in the 1960s has aptly been called "forced pluralism." (22) The effect of Allardt's theory, providing a general background model of organizing civic activity, as an integral element of political system, was obvious.

The idea of forced pluralism is very compatible with Zygmunt Bauman's theorizing. Bauman argues that a spontaneous, independent, and unexpected action has not been desirable from the view of the system. Instead, it was branded as something destabilizing or antisocial, something that had to be tamed or weeded out. Attention was particularly paid to machineries promoting order and maintaining structure and to increasing predictability and controlling ways of action. (23)

From Traditional Attitudes to Rational Activity

The Committee of 100 warned to distinguish itself from traditional Finnish political attitudes. In other words, it attacked the pressure of conformity. It professed to fight "for a wider intellectual room to move in" in order to get out from "the stuffy national cul-de-sac and an escapist small state myth." (24) The main target was the army, "where authoritarianism, totalitarianism, and mistrust against neighboring-peoples crystallize." (25) According to the activists, the army also promoted chauvinism and condoned sadism and militarism; the army raises professional killers who obey without questioning their orders. The Committee of 100 demanded the obliteration of the doctrine of the fatherland into obsolescence. It saw itself as representing "a new era" (26) and a way of thinking that was not suppressing different opinions and even let openly pacifist people keep their jobs. The Committee of 100 wanted to break down the wall of silence of ultraconservative values with positive attitudes toward war hidden behind them. (27)

Another concrete target of criticism was "Henkisen maanpuolustuksen suunnittelukunta" [Council for fostering psychological national defense; hereafter CFPND] and the ideology of mental defense it advocated. Even though attitudes toward CFPND were highly skeptical, clearly positive aspects in its activities were also discerned. The fear in The Committee of 100 was that CFPND's talk about "constructing society" might lead to exaggeration. A persistent attempt at unanimity and cohesion "can be detrimental if they are not limited and if it is not pointed out exactly over what unanimity ought to be reached." (28) This is what Allardt meant with creating organic national integration, and the CFPND accepted this notion.

It was important for the Committee of 100 to draw up "as rational a program as possible." It was to contain guidelines whereby Finnish circumstances were taken into account. (29) The support of President Urho Kekkonen was important to this program. Although the Committee of 100 attacked conservative attitudes, strong features of the tradition of Finnish civic activity remained, which the British-based mother organization at times found hard to understand. (30) President Kekkonen's aim was to reduce the pressure of uniformity. Moreover, he wanted to open an opportunity structure by offering tactical support to cultural radicalism and the Left in general. He preferred integration through persuasion, rather than force based on discrimination.

Because there was high regard for rationality within the Committee of 100, it firmly believed in scientific research. The activists in the Committee of 100 criticized the commonplace and popular conceptions prevalent at the time and demanded erudite deliberation of "laws governing behavior" and "knowledge tested in reality." (31) The Committee believed that tested knowledge could be used to make political impact. When mystical forces are brushed aside and room is made for knowledge, laws governing phenomena can be discovered and, thereby, events can be controlled. A belief in rational enlightenment seems to have been strong. Research can replace "obscure myths about the inevitability of wars with tested knowledge." It can also "view problems rationally" and thus remove the ballast of emotions. (32) At the time, this kind of rational style of activity (33) was seen as a significant step forward. It seems that there was not the slightest doubt within the movement about the possibilities of problem solving. The movement can full well be regarded as actors with a mindset of deeply rooted enlightenment optimism. In other words, the horizon of expectation was filled with positive opportunities.

Due to the Committee of 100 being convinced of the possibility of rational political behavior, it aspired to a cooperation between nations, to a rational dialogue. Peace research tried to find out how people could assume attitudes and practices promoting wider cooperation. (34) This policy of cooperation was linked, in Allardt's terms, with the reduction of the pressure of uniformity, making attitudes more tolerant.

Style of Demonstrations

The Committee of 100 also changed the style of demonstrations when organizing its first event in 1964. The demonstration itself was markedly relaxed, because taking up pacifism in the first place was provocative enough. Introducing demonstrations was something new in itself: They were regarded as one of the forms of activities of modern politics. A demonstration appeared as the new generation's form of having an influence on problems. Characteristic of the style of the Committee of 100 was its pacifist nature--peaceful marches along the lines of foreign, mainly British, models. (35) In short, the Committee of 100 gave itself a profile and created an infrastructure of style by introducing to the Finnish political arena something unusual. Eventually, the number of demonstrations grew and they became more defiant. Their intensity of style became stronger.

The year 1968 marked the high point of demonstrations: There were 184 of them. Of the demonstrations held between 1964 and 1970, an overwhelming majority were marches and mass meetings. The themes were the same as in other countries; for example, Vietnam and solidarity with Third World peoples. In Finland, too, students were the avant-garde. International influences could be noticed in actual demonstrations. For example, slogans were shouted in a new way, and the demonstrators would sit in the streets.

Even if the style of demonstrations changed, they remained decidedly Finnish. It was important to maintain order and avoid open conflicts. Finnish activists shunned them. In the Committee of 100, the so-called marching faction became a minority, while the majority supported a research-oriented line, favoring rational argumentation and research. With their demonstrations, the Committee tried to disseminate information not available elsewhere. (36) Nonactivism was conspicuous and there were modest instances of violence only in a few cases. (37) Thus the Committee of 100 moored its activities in the action logic of the Finnish political system of the 1960s, a rational politics of sorts, solving problems through scientific knowledge. Even if its sharpest critique was aimed at the main bastion of the national culture, the army and its values, the argumentation on the other hand stressed nonalignment, rationality, permissiveness, scientificness, and realism.

The activists of the the Committee of 100 wanted to make trouble, but in a sensible way. In the same spirit, a host of linchpins supported the demonstrations; indeed the ministry of the interior even established a commission to draw up a "Demonstration Guide." (38) Discipline and peacefulness have been characteristic of Finnish demonstrations, which differed greatly from other, violent demonstration cultures. (39) It has been said that in Finnish demonstrations, order is almost sacred, (40) and that their significance in the repertoire of collective activity is clearly lesser than in South and Central Europe. (41)

The Committee of 100 was a kind of a model to be followed by new organizations. It too assumed the traditional Finnish form of organization; namely, a formal association. Finnish collective action has, for decades, organized itself in associations. A formal association has been the organizational model for all significant social movements. This holds true for Communists as well as for the Greens and other, more moderate movements. Nowhere else in the world is there a more comprehensive register of associations than in Finland. In practice, the formal associations have created a certain kind of infrastructure of style for collective action. This style has been nonactivist, shunning violence, law-abiding, and based on formal rules. It has also often smothered the spontaneous will and needs of the members. (42)

Problems Experienced by Animal-Rights Activists

The activists of Rights for Animals stress specific problems to which they seek solutions through actions. In this empirical case in particular, it is essential to examine the ways in which and through which the problems are presented. At the constitutive meeting of Rights for Animals, the participants were unanimous that the position of animals had not been discussed enough; that it was not getting enough publicity; that "it was not considered a problem at all." (43)

The animal-rights movement regards the commercial exploitation of animals as "mass production": animals are increasingly only a means to promote economic growth. (44) There is an oft-repeated claim that animals are treated like machines and not as sentient beings. Above all, the animal-rights movement wants to intervene in intensified industrial agriculture, especially fur farming, which is the main target of Finnish animal-rights activists, who cite its "scope, cruelty, futility, and lust for money." (45) For example, one activist has stated that the most acute problem is "intensified production and objectification of animals." (46) According to this activist, there is a deeply rooted conception in our society of animals as means of production, research resource, or private property. (47) The animal-rights movement defined the treatment of animals as an important problem. It revived the dormant issue, and at the same time defined the style with which it wanted to publicize the problem.

Taking to action and the style of action are crucially affected by the degree of intensity with which problems are experienced. Values are also a factor explaining chic activity. The "supervalue" cherished by the animal-rights movement is the unjust treatment of animals. Animal rights are connected to the grand narrative of justice. In a way they are seen as an expansion of general justice and equality. Rights were first given to slaves, then to women and children; now it is the animals' turn. (48) The driving force behind the will to act has been a strong sensitivity to injustice and a fierce determination to lessen the suffering of animals.

The intensity of experience explains the attempt to carry out style-intensive action from the very beginning. Indeed, one activist has said that Rights for Animals has used "radical means and hard demands"; with "unrelenting long-term exposure" to its cause, it tries to make the society take notice of the unjust treatment of animals. (49)

From the very beginning, the movement has deliberately tried to act exceptionally, never thinking that this would please everybody. A style-intensive action does not even aim at pleasing a universal audience. A deliberate audacity belongs to a new beginning, along with "strong questioning of the exploitation of animals." (50) This is a way to launch a discussion about the social status of animals and make the mistreatment of animals a topic of the day. Essential here is the way problems are brought into attention. It is one of the ways of profiling oneself.

Intensity of style is also a reaction to the hegemonic atmosphere in society. The "principal enemy" of the movement is neoliberalism "running loose in our country with resounding success." (51) One of the most essential questions raised by the animal-rights movement and other new movements for change are those of "understanding and criticizing industrialization, questioning an instrumentalizing and dominating attitude." (52) One activist who has carried out illegal strikes has commented that "sabotage strikes are a direct answer to the contemporary economy-centered society, where everything is measured in money." (53) The intensive utilization of animals is, according the movement, an immediate consequence of economic greed.

The animal-rights activists seem to think that in a specific question such as the treatment of animals, broader societal problems are manifest; namely the problems of present-day culture as a whole. When the animal-rights movement is seen as a part of a broader movement of change, the question is not one of a single-issue movement--not just one, separate problem. The utilization and exploitation of animals is seen as a microworld, as an example of broader problems--first of all, of the supremacy of the transnational economy.

The infrastructure of the style is partly a reaction to the society's hegemonic atmosphere. According to the movement, the present one-dimensional situation (i.e., intolerant, economy-centered ambience, favoring hard values) cannot be countered by soft means only. (54) One can claim that the style of the animal-rights movement is an indication or a consequence of exacerbated social confrontations. Judgment of the enemy--something different, strange, and insensitive--also affects the choice of styles of action. The sharpening of the antagonism between friends and enemies emerges in the tendency of trying to exclude new movements from the political-opportunity structure with the intention of suppressing and stifling them by denying communication. In a more tolerant atmosphere, the animal-rights movement would act in a more moderate, low-key style.

Traditional animal-protection organizations are also regarded as problems. For their part, Rights for Animals wanted to distinguish the organization from other actors involved in animal-protection issues. Hence, the question: From what has the animal-rights movement tried to break loose? By using the terms animal movement and animal-rights movement, Rights for Animals wants to distinguish itself from what is termed the animal-protection movement, by which it means the traditional work for the benefit of animals that has been carried on for decades. (55) The word work perhaps best describes the area that the animal-rights movement means when it defines traditional animal protection. In the animal-rights movement's view, the animal-protection organizations act routinely, in the same way as government officials. They use the strategy of policy, instead of politicking and politicizing. (56) Animal-protection organizations mainly occupy themselves in work groups set up by the government, lobby in the parliament, or collaborate with the representatives of the animal industry; however, they do not jeopardize their position with radical action. (57) Characteristic of this kind of the bureaucratic style of the animal-protection organizations are the factors of cooperation and influence within institutional structures.

In the eyes of the animal-rights movement, the style of the traditional animal-protection organizations means, above all, an emphasis on a certain kind of professionalism; in other words, merely disseminating expertise. An effort to attain professional-expert status has not, by a long way, been considered enough for the new animal movement. The new animal movement has also wanted to denounce and dismiss the schedule of activity of the traditional animal-protection movement, one of shaping legislation gradually and the low-key, moderate spreading of information. (58) According to the animal-rights movement, animal-protection organizations are engaged in reformist normal politics, reshaping legislation and engaging in low-key education. The animal movement calls the infrastructure of style of animal-protection groups "the quiet and passive approach." (59) Moreover, some of the traditional organizations have agreed to compromises of such magnitude that the animal-rights movement can under no circumstances accept them.

Official "Truth" Versus Alternative "Truths"

Activists in the animal-rights movement have spent much effort and energy in order to persuade the public about how cruelly animals are being treated. One such activist who has been involved in illegal action says that 99 percent of his time has been spent on legal campaigning. He says he gathers information, discusses, organizes, informs, demonstrates, and negotiates. (60) The belief in the power of disseminating information is extremely firm. With this, there is the implication of "changing the world in the most fundamental sense." (61) The action of the animal-rights movement is based expressly on knowledge, not on emotion. This gives added value to the action. Enlightenment optimism is another driving force behind the animal-rights movement.

I maintain that the educational campaigns of the movement differs from the traditional ideal of educating people with the aim of teaching rational political behavior. The animal-rights movement tries, for instance, to shake unwarranted and prevalent public complacency by distributing its material. The objective is to make people question the way things are. (62) The aim is to stir up action. The purpose of that, too, is to present counterinformation to hegemonic "truths," claims that are portrayed as the only valid information availaible. This kind of style is typical to civic activity. Argumentation based on knowledge is essential in constructing the movement and creating a counterpower.

Defying the "official truth" is perhaps one of the most important tasks of civic movements. They have ever increasingly and thoroughly tried to produce alternative "truths" and have done it thoroughly. This kind of "politics of competence" (63) and divergent argumentation between specialists in different fields can often pose a serious challenge to the assurances of bureaucrats and corporate leaders, to which it is often said there is no alternative. The civic movements have undermined the dogmatic belief in technology and science and their neutrality. The movements operating more and more in global surroundings disseminate risk-exposing and risk-predicting information. In other words, they spread new enlightenments, in a pluralized sense.

Another enlightenment yearned for by Ulrich Beck, that was aimed at helping us perceive the dangers of the first industrialized civilization, (64) in fact expands with the globalization of the civic movements. Movements spreading new enlightenments also politicize the world society in a novel way. Because of risk conflicts, areas of decision making that earlier were unpoliticized become politicized.

In short, movements such Rights for Animals have succeeded in bringing another style of politicking to the side of the scientistic or rationalistic approach. A competition of this kind between styles has served to problematize and give significance to things politicizing them in the process. This means that civic action is political by definition. The accentuation of expertise and knowledge in styles of civic action is, in my view, a feature in wider trends of change: Politics appears more and more like a quiz of sorts.

Judging the Style of Action Instead of Ideology

There is a crucial difference between the animal-rights movement and an ideologist style of action that is dogged by compliance with ideologies and programs. Here the animal-rights movement wants to distinguish itself from the radical, leftist student movement of the 1970s, which rather than being considered as an ideal by the new movements seems rather to be a cautionary example. (65) Hands cannot be tied in advance, and it is not possible to commit oneself to exact visions or utopias of the future. If action is continuous and change permanent, the potential futures also change from situation to situation. The stance of animal-rights movements and other newer movements toward ideologies is decidedly skeptical.

The animal-rights movement and other recent movements don't want to seek guidelines from any one great ideology in order to save the world. They do admit to adhering to wider societal models and being ideological, but they avoid making any doctrine into a dogmatic structure. Regarding this, one activist says that "creating a great unified ideology is not considered to be even needed" (66) and that "due to the small size of the units, there is no need for a unified or strict ideology." (67) The animal-rights movement shuns ideologies because, in practice, applying an ideology in its original form is almost impossible.

The inevitable consequence of abandoning the ideologistic style of activity--or rather, behavior--is a proclivity to judge one's style over and over again. Breaking loose from ideologism enables style to be judged from situation to situation. The animal-rights movement tries to react fast, constantly fine-tuning and honing ways of efficiently acting even though this is difficult because of another central principle--the idea of listening to the opinions of the members as much as possible. The constant rejudgment of one's own style of action is evident in descriptions of fur campaigns that incessantly assume new forms. Within the movement, extreme care is sometimes taken when choosing appropriate ways of acting: At times they are not planned at all. (68)

Due to the incessant rejudgment, the future of the animal-rights movement's repertoire of styles of action cannot be defined in advance with any precision. In this respect, it differs perhaps most from the mainstream of earlier Finnish movements and starts something decidedly new in Finnish civic activity. The movement seeks tools of change, moving "in a quite different direction" than earlier movements. (69) The animal-rights movement acts in the here and now, without clinging to historical authorities such as the student movement of the 1970s. A large variety of tactics is characteristic of the animal-rights movement. Different people with different backgrounds are involved and "they use the most varied means." (70)

The new unpredictable style of action manifests most clearly in the sabotage strikes of the illegal faction of the animal-rights movement. Each strike is meant to surprise: The strike "breaks the routine of the exploiter of animals, the humdrum ordinariness of his work." (71) The illegal faction openly admits to having assumed a new style of action, the purpose of which is to cause fear. The animal industry can "never be sure when, by whom, and from what direction the next blow will come." (72) The illegal faction almost swears that in the future the animal industry must prepare itself for a sustained uncertainty. Sabotage has become an "eternal obstacle" to the animal industry, and "the threat of sabotage is an inseparable part of it--now and in the future." (73)

In the editorial of a special issue in Muutoksen kevat [Spring of Change] focusing on the animal-rights movement, the contextual ability to judge various situations is deemed indispensable because "fixed plans only tie down our creativity, the chances to change." (74) A skilful political actor cannot persistently cling to (ideological) visions that are ready-made in advance. In another article of the magazine it is stressed that a sense of situation and an art of tactics are called for in all societal action. In order to prevent the movement from petrifying and to ensure the wisdom of the actions, one's views ought to be checked time after time. Indeed, the starting point of the animal-rights movement seems to be implying that "acting in the world in general is always contextual." (75) In this situation, ideologies cannot be guidelines for action: One must always keep in mind the versatility of acting in the world and must be able to change the ways of action when facing problems. (76)

Because of the lack of a "grand ideological plan," the animal-rights movement has only a chosen direction--that is to say, it has defined the infrastructure of a style of action and is prepared to "adjust the course at regular intervals." Connected to this is the objective of "arriving at the destination in a reasonable time." The animal-rights movement, however, calls for "immediate changes on the spot." (77) When instantaneous measures are demanded, one must judge what is sensible to propose and how it is to be done in each case. Often the animal-rights movement has chosen an intensive way of action, one that does not shy away from conflicts. In other words, it has included contentious politics in its repertoire.

This kind of conflict-oriented action has been defended by the magazine Muutoksen Kevat. One of its basic tenets is that an ecological movement for change "has to be political." (78) Moreover, to animal-rights activists it is self-evident that personal choices and working in the movements are political. Acknowledging what is political is clearly a new feature in the history of Finnish alternative movements. The novelty in veganism, for instance, is its "political nature." (79) Furthermore, illegal direct action is viewed as political, and this makes it different from ordinary crime or vandalism. Its motive is political and the strikes are directed at "politically charged targets," "their aim being ... openly political." (80) This, too, is evidence of how the young activists have become alienated from the traditional concept of politics as a sector in a society and how they politicize every question imaginable.

Muutoksen kevat holds the view that denying differences and political controversies is quite impossible. According to the magazine, the driving force behind the movement for change is a new kind of politics--action that creates something new. An action-oriented style can also be regarded as a different conception of politics that does not identify itself only with parties, public institutions, and representation in the traditional fashion. What is essential in this alternative politics and action-oriented style is that people do indeed act themselves, not through their representatives. This mode can be regarded as subpolitics, as defined by Ulrich Beck. (81)

It is always difficult to make general or broad conclusions from single cases. However, I dare to argue that the case of Rights for Animals tells much about the tendencies of the recent Finnish civic activity and its context. In my view, this and other of the newest action movements represent a new phase in the history of Finnish civic activity.

The material analyzed here clearly provides more support to the argument that the animal-rights movement has a new kind of logic and style of action. The newest, perhaps the most essential, dimension of the animal-rights movement and other new actors is the unpredictable style of action. They have a very loose infrastructure of style or they do not have a permanent or durable infrastructure of style at all; nevertheless, their styles of action change situationailly. It is much more difficult to predict their action than it was to predict the activity of traditional political organizations in the political world of Left and Right. When action becomes unpredictable its intensity of style also grows. The activists are ready to act in a more exceptional way than before.

Rights for Animals acts in a society that is no longer an organic and balanced whole, unified in its values. Previously it was much easier to say how civic movements will act, but things have changed since the mid-1990s. The potential of repertoire of collective activity has clearly enlarged. Actors are ready to act in the most radical and surprising style; that is to say, contingency has also become an inseparable dimension of Finnish society. The style of the animal-rights movement is an expression of deep mistrust and an unwillingness to cooperate with policies purported to promote the general interests of the society. Traditional political barriers have blurred and a new kind of politicization has appeared.

The context in which civic movements act is thoroughly new. The animal-rights movement, for instance, regards the division between Right and Left as obsolete--outdated. It has adapted to a new societal situation--"the fragmentation of contemporary world of ideas." (82) This contributes to one of the essential features of the animal-rights movement; namely, the refusal to commit to predefined styles of action and the endeavor to experiment with the most varied styles of action. A clear division between left and right used to make action predictable, unambiguous, thus simple. In the classic protest era, the 1960s, problems seemed solvable and transparent. The distinction between friend and foe meant that objectives were clearly in sight and that problems could be solved. However, the horizon of expectation has changed fundamentally since those days. Today activists see the future prospects as such a threat that their realization must be prevented. The threat hidden in the future is a problem that must be hindered. At the moment, a deep mistrust exists, and there is an acute sense of complexity that makes earlier protests look naive. (83)

The activists of the newest movements want to change the traditional Finnish culture of collective action through institution influence. A question concerning the future of civic activity now forces its way to the surface: To where is future civic activity going to direct its attention, and what kinds of styles will it generate? Conceivably, civic movements will attack concrete manifestations of the neoliberal market economy--for example, the large-scale industrialization of agriculture.

Here again we can see the broadening meaning of contingency: the targets and styles of Finnish civic activity will probably change in more unpredictable ways in the future. Obviously, harmonizing models of participation will be developed as a counter to possible radicalism--models to supervise or control spontaneous protests. The Finnish government has prepared for possible spontaneous protests in a wholly different way: A special military unit for controlling the masses was founded in 1994, with the task of policing new kinds of protests.

It is easy to agree with Zygmunt Bauman's theory that structures have crumbled and that the politics of actors has become the focus of attention. The modern state is unable to neutralize or control social protests. In the context of the Finnish political system, this means that the logic of functioning of the political system created in the 1960s has been depleted. In the nation-state, politics was supposed to be the sole prerogative of the state. Now national and supranational organs have eroded the state's singular right to politics. The domains of politics, as defined by the state, have become diffuse, and new questions and topics have become politicized. This kind of fragmentation manifests in innumerable new political actors and an emergence of new objects of political struggles. (84)


(1.) Martti Siisiainen, Suomalainen protesti ja yhdistykset [The Finnish protest and associations] (Helsinki: Tutkijaliitto, 1990).

(2.) Esa Konttinen, Ymparistokansalaisuuden kylasepat [Blacksmiths of environmental citizenship] (Jyvaskyla: SoPhi, 1999), p. 211.

(3.) Ibid., p. 199.

(4.) Ibid., p. 200.

(5.) Juhani Laurila, "Terrorismi ei edista elainten oikeuksia" [Terrorism does not contribute to the rights of animals], Suomen Luonto [Nature of Finland] 55 (1996): 1.

(6.) See Sidnew Tarrow, Power in Movement: Social Movements and Contentious Politics (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1998), and Charles Tilly and Sidney Tarrow, Contentions Politics (London: Paradigm, 2007).

(7.) Cf. John Nelson, Tropes of Politics: Science, Theory, Rhetoric, Action (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1998), pp. 169-171.

(8.) Pertti Lappalainen, Poliittisen tyylin tailo [Art of political style] (Tampere: Vastapaino, 2002).

(9.) Risto Alapuro, Alymysto Venajan varjossa [Intelligentsia in the shadow of Russia] (Helsinki: Hanki ja jaa, 1997), p. 51; Erik Allard, "Makrososiologiska forandringarna och politik i dages Europa" [Macro sociological changes in Europe today], Sosiologia [Sociology] 31 (1994): 1-10.

(10.) Reinhart Koselleck, Futures Past (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1985).

(11.) Hannah Arendt, The Human. Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), pp. 178-190.

(12.) Hannah Arendt, Between Past and Future (Cleveland: Meridian Books, 1961), pp. 168-170.

(13.) See Pertti Lappalaincn, "The Internet as a Forum for Multiple Styles of Political Activities," in Tapio Hayhtio and Jarmo Rinne, eds., Net Working/Networking: Citizen Initialed Internet Politics (Tampere: Tamperc University Press, 2008), pp. 227-253.

(14.) Cf. R. G. Collingwood, An Autobiography (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 1939), chapter 5.

(15.) Arendt, Between Past and Future, pp. 168-170.

(16.) Carl Schmitt, Der Begriff des Politischen (Berlin: Duncker & Humboldt, 1932/1963).

(17.) Klaus Makela, "1960-luku: Yhteiskunnan rakenne ja sosiaalinen paine," [The structure of society and social pressure], Sosiologia [Sociology] 29 (1992): 8-14, at 188.

(18.) Alapuro, Alymysto Venajan varjossa [Intelligentsia], p. 112.

(19.) Erik Allardt, Yhteiskunnan rakenne ja sosisaalinen paine [The structure of society and social pressure] (Helsinki: WSOY, 1964).

(20.) Alapuro, Alymysto Venajan varjossa [Intelligentsia], p. 114.

(21.) Erik Allardt, "Suomalaisen yhteiskunnan perusvastakohtaisuudet" [The fundamental controversies of Finnish society], in Kuusi paivaa kansalaisajattelua [Six days of civic thinking], Henkisen maanpuolustuksen suunnittelukunnan julkaisuja [Publications of the Council for Fostering Psychological National Defense], 2 (1964): 17-31, at 30.

(22.) Alapuro, Alymysto Venajan- varjossa [Intelligentsia].

(23.) Zygmunt Bauman, Postmodernin lumo [Spell of postmodernism] (Tampere: Vastapaino, 1996), p. 196.

(24.) Committee of 100, Bulletin 4 (1964), p, 1.

(25.) Pekka Peltola, "Sadankomitea, jarkeen vetoava rauhanjarjesto" [The Committee of 100: A peace organization appealing to reason], in Ilkka Taipale, ed., Ydinasioita [Nucleus issues] (Hameenlinna: Tajo, 1966), pp. 105-113, at 109.

(26.) Ibid., p. 105.

(27.) Ibid., pp. 108-109.

(28.) Jaakko Blomberg, "Henkinen maanpuolustus" [Psychological national defense], in Ilkka Taipale, ed., Ydinasioita [Nucleus Issues] (Hameen-linna: Tajo, 1966), pp. 98-104, at 103.

(29.) Peltola, Sadankomitea [Committee of 100], pp- 109-112.

(30.) Alapuro, Alymysto Venajan varjossa [Intelligentsia], p. 44.

(31.) Kalevi Kivisto, Tutkimuksella kohti rauhaa [Researching toward peace], in Ilkka Taipale, ed., Ydinasioita, [Nucleus issues] (Hameenlinna: Tajo, 1966), pp. 45-52, at 45-46.

(32.) Ibid., p. 51.

(33.) Michael Oakeshott, Rationalism in Politics and Other Essays (London: Methuen, 1962).

(34.) Kivisio, Tutkimuksella kohti rauhaa [Researching toward peace], pp. 47-48.

(35.) Alapuro, Alymysto Venajan varjossa [Intelligentsia], p. 53.

(36.) Ibid., pp. 43-44.

(37.) Siisiainen. Suomalainen protesti ja yhdistykset [Finnish protest], p. 65.

(38.) Alapuro, Alymysto venajan varjossa [Intelligentsia], pp. 120-121.

(39.) Konttinen, Ymparistokansalaisuuden kylasepat [Blacksmiths], p. 135.

(40.) Alapuro, Alymysto Venajan varjossa [Intelligentsia], p. 52

(41.) Ibid., p. 54.

(42.) Siisiainen, Suomalainen protesti ja yhdistykset [Finnish protest], pp. 219-220.

(43.) Salla Tuomivaara, 1st part, in Salla Tuomivaara and Joni Purmonen, Ulos hakeista! Kaksi nakokulmaa uuden elainlukkeen sisalta [Out of the cages] Two standpoints from the animal-rights movement] (Helsinki: Tammi, 1998), pp. 23-214, at 29.

(44.) Ibid., p. 54.

(45.) Ibid., p. 134.

(46.) Joni Purmonen, 2d part, in Tuomivaara and Purmonen, Ulos hakeista! [Out of the cages!], pp. 215-321, at 215.

(47.) Ibid., p. 273.

(48.) Jaana Airaksinen, "Kansalaiset kovan paikan edessa" [Citizens facing hard limes], Muuloksen kevat [Spring of change] 2 (1998): 12; Merja Lintunen, "Kanallakin on oikeus tehda mita se tahtoo--vegaanien ajatuksia elainten oikeuksista" [A chicken also has the right to do what it wants--Vegans' thoughts about rights of animals], Nuorisotkimus [Youth research] 16 (1998): 14-25, at 16-17.

(49.) Tuomivaara, 1st part, p. 161.

(50.) Ibid., p. 165.

(51.) Ibid., p. 46.

(52.) Ville Lahde, "Ymparistovallankumouksen Elainasialiike osana laajempaa muutosliiketta" [Foundations of environmental revolution: The animal-rights movement as part of broader movement of change], Muutoksen keval [Spring of change] 2 (1998): 14.

(53.) Purmonen, 2d part, p. 291.

(55.) Ibid., p. 15.

(56.) See Kari Palonen, "Four Times of Politics: Policy, Polity, Politicking, and Politicization," Alternatives 28, no. 2 (2003): 171-186.

(57.) Tuomivaara, 1st part, p. 29.

(58.) Ibid., p. 30.

(59.) Ibid., p. 31.

(60.) Purmonen, 2d part, p. 216.

(61.) Tuomivaara, 1st part, pp. 192-193.

(62.) Ibid., pp. 192-193.

(63.) Sakari Hanninen, "How to Combat Pollution by Words," Alternatives 17, no. 2 (1992): 209-229.

(64.) Ulrich Beck, What Is Globalisation? (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), p. 174.

(65.) Tuomivaara. 1st part, p. 121.

(66.) Ibid., p. 123.

(67.) Ibid., p. 121.

(68.) Ibid., pp. 130-137.

(69.) Ibid., p. 127.

(70.) Purmonen, 2d part, p. 217.

(71.) Ibid., p. 292.

(72.) Ibid., p. 234.

(73.) Ibid., p. 272.

(74.) Muutoksen kevat [Spring of change], 8 (1998).

(75.) Lahde. Ymparistovallankumouksen aatteelliset perusteet [Foundations], p. 14.

(76.) Ibid.

(77.) Tuomivaara, 1st part, p. 159.

(78.) Ville Lahde, "Muutoksen kevat ja ymparistovallankumous" [Spring of Change and the environ mental revolution], in Tuula Heima-Tirkkonen, Tarja Kallio-Tamminen, and Tove Selin, eds., Rnohonjuurista elamanpuuksi: Suomalainen elainoikeusliikehdinta [From grassroots to the Tree of Life: Finnish alternative movements] (Helsinki: Vihrea Sivistysliitto, 1996), pp. 118-152, at 151.

(79.) Tuomivaara, 1st pari, p. 94.

(80.) Purmonen, 2d part, pp. 232-233.

(81.) Ulrich Beck, The Re-invention of Polities: Rethinking Modernity in the Global Social Order (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1997).

(82.) Tuomivaara, 1st part, p. 121.

(83.) Alapuro, Alymysto Venajan varjossa [Intelligentsia], p. 49.

(84.) Bauman, Postmodernin lumo [Spell of postmodernism], p. 205; Beck, What Is Globalisation? pp. 92-93.

Pertti Lappalainen *

* Senior lecturer in the master's program, Civil Society and Civic Activity, Department of Social Sciences and Philosophy, University of Jyvaskyla, Finland. E-mail:
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Author:Lappalainen, Pertti
Publication:Alternatives: Global, Local, Political
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Date:Jan 1, 2010
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