Definitions, Examples and Factors Affecting Political Socialization


Definitions, Examples and Factors Affecting Political Socialization

Political socialization positions it as the process of transferring knowledge, beliefs, attitudes and general dispositions about politics, from one generation to the other, and that accumulates almost unconsciously through citizens and people’s interactions with social institutions such as the family, the religious houses, the schools, the tertiary institutions, the media, political parties and so on.

These institutions through which political socialization accumulates and transfers are, in social sciences called agencies of political socialization. This definition is borne of various ones given by various scholars in the discipline.


Table of Content 

After this article you should be able to:

1. Define political socialization from broader perspectives

2.  Highlight the various factors that determine political socialization

3. Examples of political socialization

Here we define political socialization from many scholarly perspectives and period and we equally provide some factors that determine it.


Definitions of Political Socialization

Beginning from the old, Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba define political socialization as a 'learning process by which the norms associated with the performance of political roles as well as fundamental political values and guiding standards of political behaviour are learned'. This is contained in their article entitled, 'The Comparative Study of Political Socialization'. Apart from this, Robert Levine asserts, the process of political socialization as involving the acquisition by an individual, of behavioral dispositions relevant to political groups, political systems and political processes.

Let us put other definitions in more direct forms.

Eric Rowe (1969): “political socialization is the process by which the values, beliefs and emotions of a political culture are passed on to succeeding generations”.

Harry Eckstein: Political socialization is the “process through which operative social norms regarding politics are implanted, political roles institutionalized and political consensus created, either effectively or ineffectively”.

Roberta Sigel (1972): “Political socialization is the learning process by which the political norms and behaviors acceptable to an ongoing political system are transmitted from generation to generation”.

Gerald Bender (1967): “Political socialization is the process through which the individual internalizes politically relevant attitudes, beliefs, cognitions and values”.

More recent definitions of political socialization include those of Eric Siraev and Richard Sobel (1995): “Political socialization is a lifelong process by which individuals learn political attitudes and behaviors. It is part of the broader socialization process whereby an individual becomes a member of a particular society and takes on its values and behaviors. Social and cultural conditions mediate political socialization”.

Powell & Cowart (2003):” Political socialization is the study of the developmental processes by which children of all ages (12 to 30), and adolescents acquire political cognition, attitudes, and behaviors”.

It is through the performance of the function of political socialization that individuals are inducted into the political culture and their orientations towards political objects are formed.

Factors Affecting Political Socialization

Although political socialization is made possible through certain agencies (this is discussed in another unit), certain factors still determine whether or not a person will be socialized and in whatever direction. The factors are:

(A) Strength of Socializing Agency: It has been argued often that some socializing agents are stronger and more effective than others. The family for instance is the first agent of political socialization that a child is exposed to at a tender age when his or her personality is still being formed. This is followed by the Schools (elementary and secondary). These two agencies are more effective in socializing people compared to the media and the political party.

(B) Proximity to and Interaction with Socialization Agency: Agencies of socialization become effective in the lives of those who are close to as well as who interact with them. An atheist who has no religion is not, for instance likely to be socialized by the church or the shrine, while an illiterate introvert may miss the socializing opportunities offered by the school and the peer group.

(C) Reinforcement System: Socialization patterns can sometimes depend on reinforcement system. An agent that has a system of positive reinforcement is more likely to be more effective in socializing people in certain directions; vice versa. This is particularly true in families and schools. If interest in politics is positively reinforced in the family and school, children in the two institutions have better chances of political socialization than where it is not.

(D) Period and Age of Socialization: Although socialization is a continuous exercise in the life of man, social scientists agree that personalities, believes and attitudes of people are often fully formed when they are young, say below 20 years. The interpretation of this is that socialization tends to be more effective when it occurs to people of tender ages, and at the period of their lives during which their personalities are being developed.


Forms of Political Participation

There are many different forms of political participation and whether you know it or not, you've probably taken part in some of them at different points in your life.

Some of the most common forms of political participation are:

1.  Voting: In a democracy, voting is the single most important form of political participation that a person can take part in because it ensures that politicians are elected by the people, rather than being assigned to their position of power by someone else.

2.  Protest: Whether or not it is a constitutional right, as it is in the U.S., public protests are another important form of political participation because you are making your opinions known in a very obvious way, with the hope that your actions will influence or initiate change in a particular area of politics.

3.  Public consultations: Like voting, public consultations (which are more commonly known as town hall meetings) offer ordinary citizens the chance to get together in a group with a politician or elected official in order to make their opinions and feelings known.

4.  Jury duty: Although most people shudder at the thought of having to attend jury duty, it is an important type of political participation because it ensures that people who are charged with a crime are judged by people like them, rather than allowing the outcome to depend entirely on a single person, such as a judge.


Most Common Forms of Political Participation

These include:

·   Signing a petition

·   Writing a letter to a public official

·   Blogging about a political issue

·   Donating money to a cause

·   Volunteering for a campaign

·   Joining an activist or interest group

·   Holding a public official position

·   Occupying a building in an act of protest

·   Committing a terrorist act

As long as the activity involves ordinary citizens expressing their opinions by contributing to the political process, you can probably assume that it is a form of political participation.


Conclusion on Political Socialization Definitions, Examples and Factors Affecting

Political socialization refers to the processes and ways in which political values, beliefs and orientations are handed down from one generation to the other through structures and institutions that are called agents of socialization. This socialization depends on certain factors.

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