What has the biggest influence on shaping your political ideology?

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Image Credit: Nick Youngson

We are all the product of a particular place and time. We have different upbringings, religious beliefs, economic situations, educational backgrounds and traditions. In the Middle Ages, “politics” was fused with religion and one would share allegiance to the king or lord of one’s parents. Today, nationalism, populism, globalism and all manner of political movements are sweeping the globe. People are reorganizing themselves, often in new ways, sometimes in tribal ways. Which factor generally has the biggest influence on shaping your political ideology? Let’s look at three different opinions:

Russell Kirk

This influential conservative political thinker believed that the greatest influence on our ideology was our openness to deal with reality as it really is rather than what we want it to be. Those who become more on the left are essentially those who fall in love with their own feelings, while those who gravitate to right-leaning ideas are more interested in accepting the hard realities of human imperfection and injustice and doing their best anyway to build a working system. Nonetheless, Kirk believed that “ideology” as a whole could go too far, giving the state too much power and leaving humanity adrift from more important questions of God, morality and community.

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Slavoj Zizek

Slovenian leftist academic believes that conscious ideologies are “unconscious fantasies” that structure our lives and make us of benefit to larger social and economic agendas. Zizek basically believes that ideology are justifications for the actions of the powerful and fantasies that people can engage in to make them believe their interests are aligned in some ways with those of the elite who control resources, money and power. Zizek believes most ideology is therefore formed by the powerful in order to control the weak and we have ideologies because of the culture or system we are raised in and indoctrinated into.

Natalie Jacewicz

Writer at The Cut believes that our parents and family background has the largest influence on our political beliefs. If you parents are liberal, you’re more likely to be liberal; if your parents are conservative, you’re more likely to be conservative, and so on. Everything from communism to libertarianism is encoded into family norms and how children are raised, making us most of all the product of a family and parental ideology that we eventually usually adopt in some way as our own. Psychology Today agrees, writing that most of our political views come from experiences in early childhood and the norms we grew up around.

Whoever may be closest to the truth, it’s certainly a debate worth having as we navigate an increasingly polarized world.

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