line -->
  • Thursday, February 03, 2005


    Symbolic Politics

    One of the hallmarks of modern life in the US is lack of time. Most people don't have time to engage in full political life. By full political life I mean gaining knowledge of issues, discussing them in their community, becoming aware of the range of options and solutions available, etc. This leads to what I call symbolic politics. I'm sure other names have been given to the same phenomenon. I define symbolic politics as the process whereby people draw their political views from a symbolic range rather than specific details of groups or issues. This is a form of shorthand in thought and identity. (Note this is different from identity politics.)

    An example would be if I spoke of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). Many people who have heard of the ACLU will have an immediate response to the name itself, pro or con. The attitude of some conservative commentators toward the ACLU will affect their listeners' opinions. Often that immediate negative response means it will be difficult for the person to hear any information about the ACLU. So what happens is "Rush Limbaugh hates the ACLU therefore I hate the ACLU." The actual details of what the ACLU stands for are immaterial to this opinion.

    This leads to clusters of opinion depending on which groups a person percieves themselves to be a part. Instead of a thought out series of opinions on subjects or groups, there is a kind of circular domino effect depending on a few primary group identifications. One matrix might be liking NASCAR, Rush Limbaugh, and the National Rifle Association (NRA) . These are the primary interests and groups. There is then an associative secondary level of likes and dislikes stemming from opinions or information gained from the primary groups.

    This is a greatly simplified way of looking at this concept and there are plenty of exceptions. I just thought this was worth fleshing out.

    << Home

    This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?