Political socialization may be defined as that process whereby society develops attitudes and feelings towards politics in each of its members. Political socialization, in other words, is political upbringing. Each of us has a political upbringing. Therefore, while we look at social causes in general we also need to look at our individual political upbringing – our individual political socialization. In looking at individual political socialization, we distinguish between two levels: primary and secondary.

Primary political socialization takes place through relationships or processes that are relatively informal, unstructured, and unorganized. The first agent is the family or, more broadly, the household unit. The family or household unit is extremely important in our political upbringing on at least two different levels. The first is that it is within the family that we are exposed for the first time to political loyalties and to political hostilities. Without knowing it, a child is able to sense where the loyalties of adults lie, which leader, which party they support or reject. This applies not only to political parties and political leaders but very early the household unit begins to pass on an attitude towards the country. The first exposure of the child to loyalty or unconcern or indifference is through the parents or guardian. This attachment is the first level in which political socialization operates within the family or household group. The second level derives from the fact that the child is first exposed to authority and to power in the household. This exposure begins to form attitudes, responses to authority in general and not only household authority in particular. Attitudes of deference to authority within the household have implications for how the child deals with other authority. Therefore, we can immediately see what happens to primary political socialization if there is no authority at all in the household unit. If there is no authority at all, then there is no upbringing on how to deal with


We must understand how important the family and the household is to our individual political upbringing. the symbolism of the national flag. Usually members of a peer group share relatively equal status. It is a powerful source of political upbringing. The more there is breakdown. Increasingly peer groups can be found in the community. The peer group socializes new members to conform to its ways of thinking and acting.26 An Introduction to Politics authority and invariably what that means is a rejection. for example through teaching the national anthem. The second primary agency of socialization is what we call the peer group. a non-acceptance of any authority. erosion and decay. the national pledge and national heroes. particularly in the inner-city community. The first agency is the school or educational institution (primary and secondary schools). SECONDARY POLITICAL SOCIALIZATION Secondary political socialization takes place through mechanisms that are more formal. Hence the more families break down. The corner group or “crew”. In every country in the world children begin to learn in the school system those symbols to which they are expected to attach themselves – symbols of nationhood. and of governmental and national authority. which can be found in inner-city communities in the Caribbean or anywhere else in the world. Peer groups are clustered around a particular location. is a peer group with a big influence on collective behaviour and collective ways of relating to authority. and ties to one another are relatively close compared to ties to other people. This is a group of individuals who frequently interact with each other. These affect us politically in two different ways. the more authority in the home disappears. they may also qualify as secondary sources of political socialization (described below). and more organized. and they are important sources of mutual reinforcement –in either negative or positive ways. the more there will be children having children. It is the first organized effort to inculcate or to transmit politically relevant consciousness. more structured. the less socialization that each child experiences in how to relate to authority and how to manage authority. the . The gang is a very important peer group and to the extent that some gangs are more organized than others. Globally family structures and household authorities are being eroded for many different reasons. so that political socialization in the home is being negatively affected. not only to the child's political loyalties and hostilities but also to forming attitudes to authority. Of course. The more parental authority is absent because the parent is compelled to work around the clock or to emigrate. 1.

Religion and the religious institution are more often than not the source of morality. Therefore. Persons in that movement were inculcated with extreme Islamic views and loyalties in educational institutions set up in Pakistan with the mass migration from Afghanistan into Pakistan of millions of Afghan people. For example. where the church or Christian religion is ineffective people will not be effectively socialized into the creeds and the values of Christianity. Conversely. where it has a great impact. religious beliefs and religious organizations play a significant role in socialization. If the church and religious teaching are effective. How they relate to you as a child and you in turn relate to them as authority figures impacts on the development of your attitude towards authority. how people view politics and how people behave politically. The school is also our second exposure to authority. the success or otherwise of the religious institution is going to affect the attitudes or values of people in a particular country. The second agency is the church or other religious institution. it will socialize people into the creeds of Christianity. The Taliban got their name from schools in Pakistan for refugee children from neighbouring Afghanistan. it is not irrelevant to note that the term Taliban (designation of the ruling authority in Afghanistan in the 1990s) comes from the word talib which means student. It will socialize people to be their “brother’s keeper” and it will socialize people into honesty. not just in religious terms but more broadly as well. 2. in countries that are predominantly Christian in their religious persuasion. For example. This has an impact on politics. in the states where the government upholds Islam. particularly against Western authority and any other authority that did not accept their extreme version of Islam. In every society. the religious institution not only becomes a source of political . In a predominantly Christian country where the church is effective. socialization by the religious institution is of importance in determining the values and attitudes as well as the behaviour of people.Political Socialization 27 nature of that attachment and the extent of that transmission of political loyalties will vary from country to country. principal. This point becomes more important when the religious institution is part of the government. it means that the degree of corruption and the degree of dishonesty would likely be that much less. In that context. The young were put into schools where they were taught ideologies of hate. the Ten Commandments are obviously the major set of rules defining what is right and what is wrong. It is the main origin of our ideas about right and about wrong because often religions have rules that define what is sin and what is virtue. and administrator are authorities to whom each child has to relate. The schoolteacher. Therefore.

When you look at the agents of socialization that we have identified. can be stoned to death. it is also a crime for which the punishment is often to chop off your hand because it is their interpretation of the Koran (the holy book of Islam). Indeed. “Is it appropriate or correct to some extent or is all of it correct?” The fourth agency is the political party. One reason for this is that the media has much wider reach and political parties for many reasons no longer have the confidence and trust of the people as they did in the past. according to their interpretation of the Koran. For example. in the world today the mass media is clearly a more influential socializing agency than the political party. Without your realizing it. He keeps saying it over and over and you keep hearing it over and over. because of political socialization. In concluding. in more recent times. then the secondary ones. television. much of it takes place unconsciously. To summarize. In Saudi Arabia. it is not only a sin. Political parties in almost every country in the world today are major secondary institutions of political socialization. this influences your attitudes even if you have not consciously analysed the statement and asked. Some are clearly more important than others. Talk shows are very important in forming people’s attitudes and influencing their values. cinema. talk shows. One example is Wilmot Perkins’ description of the politics of scarce benefits. you can begin to recognize that each one of us has been subjected to a political upbringing. Most of you can recite this by heart. and the origin of punishment. if you steal. newspapers. The political party explicitly tries to socialize members to uphold and to support the party almost regardless of what it does. The third agency is the mass media: radio. and. you are able to recite certain sayings from memory. As a result of the influence of popular talk shows. political culture and political behaviour are changing although aspects of them persist. If a woman commits adultery in Afghanistan. These changes are occurring largely because of the impact of social forces and. even when we may not have been fully aware of it. the primary ones first. . not all the socializing agencies have the same influences. The religious institution is not only a source of upbringing in terms of values but also where it is married to the state religion is also the source of law and punishment. because in and through the political party the leadership tries to develop certain attitudes and to strengthen certain hostilities. at the individual level. that woman.28 An Introduction to Politics socialization but also a source of laws.

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