Culture and Values

Topics: United Kingdom, Culture, England Pages: 5 (1663 words) Published: September 21, 2012
Evaluate the claim that British identity is defined by shared values.

The claim has been made that Britishness is defined by shared values and the aim of this assignment is to evaluate said claim. This assignment will also identify different factors that may define British identity along with examining whether shared values are the only criteria as well as discussing the role place, culture and imagined others play in defining Britishness.

Blunkett (2005 p. 4) and Phillips (2007, p. 42) similarly argued Britishness is not defined on an exclusive ethnic basis, but rather by shared values. Blunkett used institutions – N.H.S., B.B.C., and O.U. – as examples of Britain’s shared values of tolerance, openness and liberty. Likewise Phillips states the shared values of tolerance and egalitarianism to define Britishness; however Phillips argues these values are symbolised in ways people behave to each other rather than in institutions. Blunkett’s shared values of liberty and tolerance somewhat overlap with Phillips’ values of tolerance and egalitarianism, and such values can be contrasted, for instance the increasing inequalities of income and wealth in Britain since the 1980s (Equalities Review, 2007) alongside such groups as in women, ethnic minorities, the disabled, and so on being discriminated against in the labour market (Burney, 2005). Each account of Britishness is part of a larger political debate that attempts to influence and persuade others to a particular view in the contexts of a ‘diverse society’ (Clarke, 2009, p.221-4).

The relationship between national identity and multiple forms of social difference, for example racial, ethnic and cultural differences including gender, sexuality and class differences, namely diversity, has been central to the debate in defining Britishness. There are those who say diversity has gone ‘too far’ undermining what ‘keeps us together’, namely solidarity, which is the connectedness of diverse social groups. For Goodhart (2004) the concept diversity refers to two different, although related factors; firstly there is value diversity which refers to the different values of diverse cultures, and secondly there is ethnic diversity which is the product of different phases of migration that creates “stranger citizens who we must share with”, these ‘stranger citizens’ imply commonwealth immigrants from the West Indies and Asia in the 1950s and 1960s, including asylum-seekers from Europe, Africa and the greater middle east in the late 1990s. In this view Goodhart’s use of the word “we” includes the British people and the use of the term “stranger citizens (or them)” excludes those who are not British. Although the use of words such as we, us, our and the opposites they, them, and their are very mundane parts of communication they are the words of nationalism which are the basis for constructing national identities (Billig, 1995, p. 71), in addition these words of nationalism construct imagined communities which are the imagined connections between individuals within a nation, and the creation of a shared past that links them (Anderson 1983) which are constructed through symbols such as national territories, flags and the linguistics of communicating collective identities etc. Comparably Billig (1995) used the concept banal nationalism which refers to the mundane practices that assume and reinforce a nation’s imagined community, for example the use of such terms as in the prime minister, the weather, our team and so on. Both concepts talk about national identities as imagined communities which are constructed through mundane practices (Clarke, 2009, p.225-30).

Britishness has been defined relationally excluding other people and places, one example is through racial thinking - being part of the ‘British race’- which is strongly connected to European colonialism (Gilroy 2001), where European imperial rule provided the vocabulary for racist rhetoric, for example going native and the white...
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