Contemporary Political Socialization

Chapter 5: Contemporary Political Socialization


Political socialization performs a valuable function. It helps a society communicate its political heritage to new generations. We want children to understand the storied history of the United States, both its strengths and shortcomings. We want them to appreciate the importance of freedom, tolerance, and duty to country, as well as the importance of civic engagement. Other countries also convey their political lineage to young members of society, emphasizing distinctive national norms and values. Democratic societies in particular seek to nurture four virtues in citizens: knowledge of the political system; loyalty to democratic principles; adherence to traditions like voting; and identification with citizenship. Two themes weave their way through the socialization of political attitudes: continuity and change.


You would not find as many children who harbored such uniformly positive attitudes today. On television and the Internet kids are exposed to sordid problems of society, as well as the lascivious acts of politicians and harsh criticisms of the president by the opposition party.

Impact of Televised “Backstage” Portrayals

In the political arena, a news media that for years resisted revealing the “backstage” private behaviors of public officials has changed its tune. Eighteenth century newspaper readers never knew that Thomas Jefferson suffered from rheumatism and migraine headaches. Nineteenth century news aficionados had no idea that Abraham Lincoln may have suffered from depression. Twentieth century radio and TV connoisseurs barely knew that Franklin Delano Roosevelt was paralyzed or had no inkling that John F. Kennedy enjoyed multiple affairs (Meyrowitz, 1986). Over the ensuing decades, the distinction between public and private blurred, as it became increasingly permissible to offer deeper access into the back regions of public officials’ lives.

Interpersonal Communication Dynamics

Family Communication, School, Media


Political socialization is a work in progress, with new media genres that socialize young people emerging in our digital culture. Activists have devised innovative websites in an effort to promote civic engagement and political participation. They have a mixed record of success (Bachen et al., 2008; Bennett, Wells, & Freelon, 2011; Xenos & Foot, 2008). Many sites fail to offer interactive learning opportunities to which young people are accustomed. On the other hand, social media can help stimulate political participation in events like presidential campaigns, protests, such as Occupy Wall Street (which was promoted through an email post), and partisan causes, spanning both sides of the abortion and gun debates. About a third of social media users have re-posted political content previously posted by someone else, employed social media to encourage other people to vote, and used social media to encourage others to take political action on an issue that they viewed as important. Young people are especially likely to use the tools of social media in these ways.

As positive as these developments are, it is likely that many of those who use social media for political purposes are already predisposed to get involved in politics. The apolitical social media users probably don’t use social media as tools for political engagement. In addition, social media, with its posts from like-minded political friends, is apt to reinforce the views that individuals already hold, rather than exposing them to new points of view.

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Socialization & Theories of the Process of Socialization

Elaborate the process of Socialization. Also comment on major theories of the process of Socialization.


–                  Definition

Socialization has Traditionally been the study of the process by which a human organism becomes a social being concerned with the rights and duties of self and others, with ethical and unethical behaviour, and so on.

Socialization is the process of social interaction through which people acquire personality and learn the way of life of their society. Socialization is the essential link between the individual and society- a link so vital that neither individual nor society could survive without it. It enables the individual to learn the norms, values, language, skills, beliefs, and other patterns of thought and action that are essential for social living. And it enables the society to reproduce itself socially as well as biologically, thus ensuring its continuity from generation to generation.

One of the most important outcomes of socialization is individual personality. In ordinary speech we use the word “personality” rather loosely to a person’s character or temperament, but sociological use of the term is both more broad and more precise. Personality refers to the fairly stable patterns of thought, feeling , and action that are typical of an individual.

Personality thus includes three main components: the cognitive component of thought, belief, perception, memory, and other intellectual capacities; the emotional component of love, hate, jealousy, sympathy, anger, pride, and other feelings; and the behavioural component of skills, aptitudes, competence, and other abilities.

Human Nature

For proper socialization process it is assumed that social order already exists. Secondly, the new unsocialized member must possess all the necessary biological endowments. Because socialization basically address normal interpersonal interaction and also assumes adequate genetic potential. It addresses the question, what is the basic nature of the human animal?

Tabula Rasa View of Socialization

Tabula Rasa framework explains that infant is considered to be born a social rather than anti-social or pro-social, in this view the individual is seen much like a lump of unmolded clay having no predisposition that would lead him/her into one type of behaviour as opposed to another. This view maintains that socialization is the result of the social pressures in a given social system. Furthermore, it believes that the organism is molded by the society rather than having a hand in his/her own social creation. This view tends the individual as being passive, only responding to stimuli imposed upon him/her own social creation. This view tends the individual as being passive, only responding to stimuli imposed upon him/her from the environment. Thus differences in socialization outcomes are attributed not so much to differences in individual characteristics but rather to differences in the nature of social order.

The Active Participant View

This view tends that individual is active in his/her socialization process and it emphasizes factors possessed by the infant at birth that influence the initial social behaviour. It believes that the child never responds to the stimuli directly but acts towards stimuli on the basis of ascribed meanings. This view claims that socialization is the interactional process between characteristics of the environment and the individual characteristics. Therefore, socialization is not just the transmission of culture but the study of process of “becoming human”.

There is a controversy namely active versus passive, or nature-verses nurture. Who or what is responsible for socialization outcomes? Tabula Rasa view concludes that whatever differences occur are largely the result of environmental influences and the social order is ultimately responsible for the outcomes. On the other hand nearly all judicial systems are based upon the view that the individual is at least partly responsible for his/her own behaviour. Otherwise, justice rewards and punishments would be irrational.


Theories of Socialization:

Psychoanalytic Approach

This approach to socialization presents the view that the quality of the parent/child relationship is the central element in personality development. It delineates several psychosexual stages of development, and the processes of interaction during these stages occurring in the family are seen as basic to the child’s becoming socialized. These familiar interaction patterns are analyzed according to the quality of the emotional relationship, thus, the way the mother interacts with the child while toilet training, feeding, and so on, are seen as the social foundation out of which grow different personality characteristics. The formulation of the initial nature of the human organism as it moves through the stages of development places considerable emphasis upon the source of energy, namely the Id which is present at birth. The id needs immediate gratification; therefore, the id is the strongest at the earlier stages. As the child develops other dimensions of the intellectual processes, namely the ego and the superego functions, begin to appear. The primary function of the ego is reality formation and a channeling f the energies of the id into ways that will reduce tension, built upon the nature of reality (both social and physical). The child learns that it is more realistic to postpone immediate gratification and wait until the dinner is ready, because the organism will be better off in the long run i.e. the full meal will be prepared and hence the reward much better than a hastily prepared piece of bread demanded immediately.

         Social-learning Approach

Social-learning sees the child as learning what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour in any social setting because he or she is rewarded for some behaviour and not rewarded of others. Because of the child’s basic nature, he or she tends to repeat rewarded behaviours and does not repeat non-rewarded behaviours. Thus, rather than learning” general traits, the child learns which response is tied to a given stimuli. Learning, then, is seen basically as establishing links between stimuli and reinforcers. Reward and punishment are central in the stamping in or seaming out processes of connecting specific stimuli with specific reinforcers.

Symbolic-Cognitive Approach

Symbolic-interaction approach emphasizes that self and society (individual and the social order) cannot be understood as distinct entities. Society exists because of interrelated social institutions, each consisting of interrelated sets of roles. These roles define for the individual’s society’s expected behaviour for any person moving into a given role. Once the individual has move into a role and adopted as personally appropriate those behaviours ascribed by society, then it can be said he/she has become socialized. He/she can evaluate his or her own behaviour from society’s perspective and initiate behaviour toward other consonant with his or her view of self. According to this approach socialization is the outcome of the interaction between human organism and the social order. The child is progressing through related steps of development. The race of progress is determined by maturational potentials of the child as well as the characteristics of the social order. The child selectively and actively processes information according to his own stage of cognitive development.

According to Kohlberg (1973) model, there are three levels of moral development. Each level has two stages.

  1. 1.      Premoral level: (a) At stage 1, the child behaviour is primarily controlled by punishment, and behaviour centers around avoiding punishment, (b) At stage 2, the child -becomes aware of rewards and the behavour shifts to obtaining rewards. The ceiling of first level is ten years.

2 Conventional morality: It involves internationalization of expectations that others society – have of the child, (c) In stage 3, the child conforms to societal rules and norms of expectation of others, (d) During stage 4 the child internalized general standards behaviour and the sense of duty develops

3. Principled morality: (e) During stage 5, the individual behaves according to rational, agreed-upon standards but with the arguments that it should be changed, (t) In stage 6, the individual disobeys the order for the sake of justice and freedom. This approach has shown the necessity for understanding human organism as actor forming his/her own cognitive and symbolic view of the world a he/she becomes functioning member of the society.


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