Politicians across the political spectrum have bemoaned a perceived lack of shared British values for some time, while, counter-intuitively, attempting to appeal to nationalist spirit with calls for ‘British jobs for British workers’ and muscular rhetoric about immigration.
However, the debate and the discourse around shared values can be alienating, restrictive and unhelpful. The obsession with ‘Britishness’ leads us to ask the wrong questions. If patriotism is to be a useful and dynamic virtue in the modern world then it must be updated and rethought, so that we reflect what people consider to be sources of pride rather than attempting to impose abstract and pre-formed concepts upon them.
This project will not attempt to develop a list of ‘shared values’ or to define the ‘feeling’ of Britishness. Those projects have been attempted and – whilst valuable – often lead to a rabbit-hole of vague notions around the rule of law and democracy. Instead, this project is focused on understanding ‘practical patriotism’. We will use innovative qualitative and quantitative methodologies to investigate and understand what the institutions, events, symbols and achievements are that inspire a sense of national pride in British people from all backgrounds. We will also look at how people understand their relationship to these totems and what participations or actions reinforce or demonstrate patriotism.
In order to understand what makes people ‘proud’ we must move away from the obsession and fetishisation of ‘British’ that has been cultivated by successive Governments. Instead, we need to allow people to express the things that make them feel proud and give them a sense of belonging – on their own terms. This project will use deliberative events, polling and longitudinal data analysis to understand what shared rituals, events and national moments have helped to develop those feelings in the past and might be used to promote belonging and pride – practical patriotism – in the future.
For more information about this project, get in touch with Max Wind-Cowie.
A Place for Pride is covered by BBC News Online
The Sunday Times reports on new report A Place for Pride