Why Political Identity is Important?

If we talk about ‘identity’, according to Bikhu Parekh, the identity of a thing consist in those constitutive features that defines it as this thing or this kind of thing rather than some other, and distinguish it from others. Stated differently, the question of identity asks what make a thing, rather something else and without which it, would be no longer the same thing. Bikhu Parekh also shows the identity of an individual as ‘what makes him’, who he views and ‘who is him’, and the result why he is a person and not like anyone else.

Samuel Huntington in ‘Who are we’ used the same question like Parekh in order to make his opinions more plausible. He saw, with his Burkean Conservatism perspective, the core of American identity which created by the Anglo-Protestant Society in the East Coast, is eroding by the arrival of large number of Spanish-speaking people from Mexico. For him, because America was never simply a truly ethnic nation, and such civic nations are unsustainable, the presense of Mexican and another latin immigrant in American soil, it is advancing Hispanization throughout America and its multiculturalism which for centuries lead by Anglo-Saxon (Germanic) virtues.

Actually, It is make sense from Political History perspective, because America under the leadership of President James K Polk, ultimately defeated Mexico’s poorly-armed troops in some of the most destructive warfare ever witnessed to that time . After that, by the terms of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, Mexico was forced to cede of its territories like California and a large area comprising roughly half of New Mexico, most of Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado to America , as a war trophy.

So, if America become Mexicanized after Mexican immigration are leading toward the demographic reconquista, the status of America as a victor in that war become meaningless. It means, America lost its precious element of their identity. This case also proved what Amartya Sen mention in his book, Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny, ‘ Identity can be source of warmth as well as terror and violence, identity could lead to other ways of classifying people, which can restrain the exploitation of a specifically aggressive use of one particular categorization’ .

We can see, the power to tap into our tremendous potential comes from our identity. Every country as a home of its people wants to have a characteristic or identity that shows the distinctiveness or specificity of the nation or topography of the country itself, as well as the identity that can be used as a symbol of the peculiarities of the state or the nation. This identity, has two sides of a coin that can not be separated. first, identity of social life politic, and culture of the people who lived in particular region with the intention that the people in the area could have future goals, and outlook on life are similar, and if possible, the same, the perspective they manage life of the nation and the country’s identity as invert finally looking as an integral tool that characterizes the people who live in the area, which eventually will become a pride and raise self-esteem as a man with a certain identification.

For example, the area of Low Countries was sandwiched between French and Holy Roman Empire spheres of political influence. Its became a main factor which caused the formation of the Republic of Seventeen Netherland in that region and its unique institutional and ideological foundations were possible through a set of circumstances rare to Europe and the world. The ambiguity upon which the goverment of Republic had always rested is power of Staaten General as a Legislature always overlapping the leadership of Oranien-Nassau Clan as a hereditary ruler and symbol of unity.

Second, we also know together that the identity of a country that was built with the characteristics and peculiarities of human beings who inhabit the country, eventually will be the color of the nation itself when they look the problems and interests as a result of the interaction with another nations or countries who encircled themselves, that is to say, the behavior of a nation in dealing with other nations can not be separated from national identity itself, socio-economic conditions of the nation itself in the daily lives of those who should all be based on the identity of the countries that have jointly agreed and accepted as an identity and weltanschaung to solve any problems and build hope and their future goals are expected to bring the nation to its peak and a better life.

For example, Although Hungary was redrawn into the ambit of the Soviet Union after the failure of 1956 Revolution which resulting in Imre Nagy’s execution on charges of treason, Janos Kadar, as the country’s new leader, began liberalizing its politic and economy, introducing the so-called “Goulash Communism”. Janos Kadar effort to built a pragmatic regime of consumer-oriented and more decentralization prove that he want to make his own country as the ‘unique one’ in the Eastern Bloc, and it had a tremendous effect on Hungarian morale.

So basically, the identity of a nation or state can usually be identified from the philosophy or identity of its people.  Identity is highly needed  by every people and their nation, and very important especially for the nation with a plural society and heterogeneous cultural background. The identity is functional not only as an integrative symbol but it may help the society ultimately to reach a common interpretation and action, especially in political way.


Amartya Sen. Identity and Violence; The Illusion of Destiny. (New York: W.W. Norton, 2006).
Bikhu Parekh. A New Politic of Identity : Political Principles for Independent World. (London : Palgrave Macmillan,2008).
Erwin Schmidl & Laszlo Ritter. The Hungarian Revolution of 1956. (Oxford : Osprey Publisher,2006).
Frits van Oostrom. The Netherlands in a Nutshell: Highlights from Dutch History and Culture. (Amesterdam :Amsterdam University Press, 2009).
Herbert Rowe. The Princes of Orange: The Stadholders in the Dutch Republic. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1990).
Jason Porterfield. The Treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo, 1848: A Primary Source Examination of the Treaty that Ended the Mexican-American War. (New York : The Rosen Publishing Group, 2006).
Michael Burawoy & Janos Lukacs. The Radiant Past: Ideology and Reality in Hungary’s Road to Capitalism. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992).
Robert Merry. A Country of Vast Designs: James K. Polk, the Mexican War and the Conquest of the American Continent. (New York : Simon & Schuster,2009).
Samuel Huntington. Who are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity. (New York : Simon & Schuster,2004).

Hanafi Wibowo

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