Psychology and Politics
A Social Identity Perspective
By Alexa Ispas
Psychology Press – 2013 – 132 pages
Psychology Press – 2013 – 132 pages
What makes us divide the world into ‘us’ and ‘them’? How can we exert social influence over others? When does a peaceful protest turn into a riot? Why are some politicians heroes one day and villains the next? Where do we find the resources to resist authoritarian regimes?
Taking these questions as a starting point, the book examines political conduct from a social identity perspective. Supported by over two decades of empirical research, this perspective distinguishes between our personal identity, which is prevalent when we think of ourselves as individuals, and our social identity, which comes to the fore when we think of ourselves as members of groups. The social identity perspective argues that our political behaviour is largely governed by our social identity, and discusses the implications this has for politics, particularly for social influence, crowd events, leadership, and authoritarian regimes.
Accessible and engaging, the content covers a wide range of political topics, such as the way in which categorizing ourselves into groups influences how we perceive the social world, the implications of categorization for social influence, the development of crowd events, the dynamics of leadership, and the mechanisms underlying obedience under authoritarian regimes. The book will appeal to advanced undergraduate and postgraduate students across a range of disciplines, as well as to political activists and leaders.
In this highly readable and engaging book, Alexa Ispas teases out the implications of classic studies in social psychology for enhancing our understanding of major topics in politics: influence and persuasion, crowd behaviour, leadership, and the psychology of authoritarian regimes. Based on a distinctive social identity perspective, her analysis provides an insightful and original contribution to the burgeoning field of political psychology. – Peter Bull, Department of Psychology, University of York, UK
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It offers one of the most lucid, accessible, incisive, and appealing introductions to social identity theory currently available. - John Jost, Department of Psychology, New York University, USA
This book greatly expands the application of social identity theory to political psychology. Social identity theory is used to reinterpret findings on obedience to authority, crowd behavior, and leadership providing a unique and intriguing perspective on these topics. Many of the case studies in the book, such as Mahatma Gandhi’s use of civil disobedience, are important cases that have not received much attention in political psychology. The book is well-designed for the classroom and would be an excellent addition to courses in political psychology. – Martha Cottam, Department of Political Science, Washington State University, USA
All in all, Psychology and Politics: a Social Identity Perspective is a well balanced and clear overview which combines theory, applications, and case studies, relying on works published mainly during the last four decades (with the obvious exception of the contested works by Le Bon from the 19th Century). This concise book would be instructive for advanced undergraduates, either in social psychology, political science, cognitive science, or almost any field in-between such as political psychology. – Yves Laberge, LSE Review of Books
Alexa Ispas completed her PhD at the University of Edinburgh. She has worked on research projects at the University of Melbourne, the Australian National University, Cardiff University, and the University of St Andrews. Alexa has also worked as a social researcher for the Scottish Government.