Belonging

In the presentation of the Naziometroa 2023, belonging was the central theme of reflection. In the literal sense of the term, belonging implies that the individual belongs to a certain community. But nowadays, de facto, the individual can participate in different scales and communities, and, consequently, this affinity can be articulated around multiple axes of definition; language, nation, state, political organisation, gender, social class, mentality, culture, local residence, territory, age, sexual orientation and many other criteria can be at the basis of community building. Thus, individual bonds of belonging and shared identities can be varied, even overlapping in different layers or often blurring together to form complex webs.

The individual can participate in different scales and communities, and, consequently, this affinity can be articulated around multiple axes of definition; language, nation, state, political organisation, gender, social class, mentality, culture, local residence, territory, age, sexual orientation and many other criteria can be at the basis of community building.

In this sense, the way in which today’s youth see themselves as political actors is closely linked to the cultural aspect of citizenship. Indeed, political culture shows us how different collectives of young people understand the membership and involvement of the political community(ies) and how they represent themselves as a – political – community as a qualified and effective member or as an incapable member. Likewise, these representations condition citizenship identities, duties and rights towards the collective world, the forms that participation takes, the disadvantages and meanings that it can have, as well as the quality of community of reference acquired by the young collectives.

Of course, youth live under the influence of concrete social, political, economic and cultural frameworks and it is there that they create – or deny – possible links and commitments to political/political communities. In this sense, today’s individualised culture has had consequences for the political attitudes and practices of the younger generations. Extreme neoliberal individualisation has partly shifted the responsibility for organising life onto individuals. Moreover, in the context of global capitalism, the lack of effectiveness of political systems dependent on global markets in solving citizens’ problems has anchored in young people’s perceptions a lack of trust in hegemonic political institutions.

As a result, some sectors of youth have withdrawn from the political sphere. Others have re-politicised the spaces of everyday life and assigned political meaning to the activities that take place in them. Thus, the very culture of political participation has changed. Indeed, youth participation is increasingly based on individualised models. Participation is more sporadic, and is fundamentally configured around single-cause axes, where easily accessible initiatives and mobilisations are prioritised. This model has moved away, at least in part, from the mediation of traditional political organisations and conventional institutionalised civil society actors, combining sensitivity to global challenges with a powerful subjective dimension of engagement. Behind these practices, therefore, have emerged more fluid communities of interest and more shifting bonds of belonging among younger generations.

Youth participation is increasingly based on individualised models. Participation is more sporadic, and is fundamentally configured around single-cause axes, where easily accessible initiatives and mobilisations are prioritised.

In any case, in the Basque Country there is still a rich community land that has been woven for a long time from the urban world and nation building initiatives. In the stage of individualisation, the permanent regeneration of this soil as a space of resistance, power conflict and participation is of vital importance. Well, this community tradition offers adequate opportunities to build youth as political subjects. Studies have shown that youth raised in community spaces acquire values and skills that influence their later political involvement. These political skills can provide young people with tools to engage in participatory spaces at different scales of the political sphere, both in everyday and local life as well as in the institutional political sphere. At the same time, the ownership of this set of political tools could be decisive in sewing together at all times the bonds of belonging between the non-formal communities of proximity that young people create and the more institutionalised or organised political communities. If we imagine democratic politics as a bottom-up process, the input from institutional decision-making centres must be the interest and need rooted in everyday life. The implementation of this bridging work is a major challenge in today’s society.

Images: Berria, Gure Esku

Ane Larrinaga  Renteria

PhD in sociology and Proffesor at EHU/UPV

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