Political Identity is a concept that shapes our interactions with the political world, and is something that cannot be avoided. It harbours our political leanings, whether it be Party Allegiances, or whether we choose to ascribe to a political or ideological framework, such as Marxism or Liberalism.
It is often defined as “the general ‘pattern of orientations’ to political objects such as parties, government and the constitution, expressed in beliefs, symbols and values.” – Andrew Heywood.
It is formed relatively early, but Is susceptible to change as different circumstances and environments develop around us. Our political identities are shaped initially by Primary Agents (Overt forces of persuasion, such as, but not limited to, your parents) and then by Secondary Agents (More subliminal influences such as peer groups).
Primary Agents suggest that the political world cannot be separated from our personal spheres, the best example of this being a Primary Agent, known as a ‘locating agent’ – the Family. It is, at least to begin with, your family that teaches you who to obey, who and what to value, as well as the area of your life you draw your religious, class (potentially) and gender position in society. It is here that your political identity begins to spread its roots.
But how far do our families’ impact our view of political discourse? Personally it seems that my family life had little to do with it, I cannot say I even know the parties my parents support, for example. For others though, they may be raised in a very party focused family, similar to the way someone may have been brought up in a family savagely proud of a premiership side. These foundations are of course very important, but it is in the structure, the skyscraper of opinions you construct as you grow as a person that nforms you of who you are politically.
Secondary Agents, your friends and colleagues, your peer groups and partners. This is where your views are challenged, changed and refined. It is only after you are asked,
“So why do you think that?”
“Why do you believe that?”
“Where do you ideas come from?”
Those questions that force you to stop and think, really think about why you believe so strongly in Liberal Democracy, or in the necessity of State intervention, that you can clearly define yourself as a political entity. Debate, being able to defend and convince others of your view point is an essential element in the development of an individual, a political group and ultimately a political identity.
So ask yourself , What defines you? What do you believe? But most importantly Why?