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Political Negotiation


Disciplines > Negotiation > Negotiation Styles > Political Negotiation

Favors and back-scratching | Skeletons and blackmail | See also


In politics, both national and local, negotiation can be a brutal career-changing affair. Whilst some negotiation takes a friendly and collaborative approach, many exchanges are based on personal and political gains. Perhaps more than other methods, political negotiation makes most use of social power.

Favors and back-scratching

A common scenario in the political arena occurs where one person has some legislation which they want to get approved. In order pass this, they first have to get a majority of their own party to back the proposal. Whilst many may agree, they may also see this as an opportunity to ratchet up the points they are owed or demand a particular concession.

Political parties are typified by an inner circle (and maybe more circles with circles). Currying favor with those higher up in the party who have greater influence and power is a normal route to advancement. 'Old boy' networks of people who went to the same schools or belong the same societies may abound, as will a social web of real and convenient friendships.

Negotiations are integral to the fabric of daily political life and their effects ripple outwards into the future. To be a politician is to navigate treacherous shoals and clearer waters of the history and effects of negotiations by many other people as well as yourself.

Skeletons and blackmail

Politicians live on their public persona and anything that might besmirch their squeaky-clean image can be not only damaging but finish their career in very short order. Stories from a mis-spent youth can come back to haunt politicians later in life, for example with questions as to whether they experimented with drugs. Sexual adventures are also a wonderful hunting ground for opponents and journalists.

Negotiations that were used in the past to climb the political ladder may also prove unwise at a later date. A classic here is allowing political influence from major sponsors. If a person or company contributes funds to your party, they may well believe that you owe them something in return, which they will one day call in -- and may threaten to expose the politician if the obligation is not returned as requested.

An effect of all this is that much energy is spent in covering up any career-limiting history, which itself then becomes even more corrupt. The net result is that many people in the political arena have something to hide, leading to the stalemate of a tacit agreement to not expose others if they do not expose you.

When a new person appears on the scene, this can lead to a flurry of research into their background and a determined seduction of them in order to bring them into the fold of safe corruption.

Of course the extent to which this happens is unlikely to be universal -- but we are also unlikely to ever find out that which is well-hidden. There are politicians who, against currents of subtle corruption, maintain their integrity throughout their careers, which may be limited as a result of their refusal to compromise on their ideals.

See also

Politics, Power


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