If politics arises out of disagreement and conflict, it is important to know something of the economic and social divisions in a country like the United Kingdom that can give rise to political differences. The population of the United Kingdom can be subdivided into numerous categories by statisticians and social scientists, and some of these divisions may have considerable political significance. Yet often it is not the (reasonably objective) categories into which people can be pigeon-holed that really matter in terms of political ideas and behaviour, but how people think about who they are — what is sometimes characterised as ‘identity politics’ (see Box 2.1). In this chapter we begin by looking at some of the relatively objective divisions within the United Kingdom, such as the distribution of the population by location, age and sex, but this inevitably merges into consideration of felt identities and distinctions, such as national and religious identities, ethnic differences, and gender relations.
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- Chapter 2