Political Socialization and Political Culture. Theories of Political Socialization.
Political Socialization and Political Culture
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Cognitive Development Theory (Piaget; Kholberg): the individual inherits basic tendencies for growth in which he “comes to know” his political environment. Moreover, there are basic structures that facilitates this cognition as he moves from the basic to more complex stages of cognition.
Social Learning Theory (Skinner, Sears): This suggests that the individual is a blank slate and in the same way that s/he learns to walk, s/he learns all other social traits associated with a human being, through social interaction.
Psychoanalytic Theory (Freud, Erickson): Attention is focused on the personality structure and the impact of social interaction is secondary to mental disposition. There are hence various theories which suggest that the critical issue is the time of influence of like Freud, the type of ego one is born with, but this does not fully negate the individualistic assumption.
Social Role Theory: here the individual is continuously adapting to his/her social environment which changes based on the choice of partner, or the environment that s/he anticipates.
Defining the Concept
Political socialization – the general process through which attitudes and values are formed.
Refers to the way in which political values are learned and political culture is transmitted from one generation to the next (Almond et al 2010).
Political attitudes and values come from institutions, the impact and content of which vary according to one’s position in society.
The family, school and church provide the earliest influences.
Other influences are:
Formal political structures, e.g. parliament
Informal political structures, e.g. political parties, pressure groups, mass media
Unstructured groups, such s those that spontaneous demonstrations
Individuals acting alone
The state and political socialization
Political education is a form of indoctrination. This is more evident in authoritarian and totalitarian political systems.
Little political socialization is left to chance, the process is tightly controlled.
Intense political educational programming is considered as necessary because such a regime is bent on altering the political culture.
In competitive political systems, the features of political socialization are more subtle, but no less pervasive, persistent and persuasive.
The mass media play a critical role in the process of socialization in industrialized societies.
The issue of political socialization in the Caribbean has been controversial. Several institutions have been blamed for the way in which people have been socialized: from plantation/slave society to colonialism with its patterns of trusteeship and benevolent paternalism. Of importance also was the concept of preparation for government.
Political socialization never prepared West Indians for political and social independence. For the most part, the process has produced individuals prone to authoritarian ‘submissness’, i.e. having an uncritical to persons in high office.
Functions of Political Socialization
Political socialization performs several functions for society:
From the point of view of the state, effective socialization can be used as a substitute for coercion as a means of maintaining existing class/power relations,
As an instrument of mass mobilization for the attainment of specific objectives of the ruling class which would have been difficult otherwise,
Besides maintaining given class relations, it is also self-reproducing of such relationships.
The set of values, beliefs and attitudes within which a political system operates.
The spirit, the mood and the set of values which influence the conduct of politics and political behaviour patterns of people (Munro).
A nation’s political culture is viewed at three levels (Almond et al 2010): how people view the values and organizations that make up the political system (system level); expectations of hoe politics should function, and individuals’ relationship to the political process (process) level; the public’s policy expectations for the government (policy level).
Factors that impact on Caribbean political culture
A country’s political history shows the extent of participation in public affairs by the mass of the people. The period of colonialism was marked by exclusion of the local population from political activity, e.g. voting, universal adult suffrage in Jamaica, 1944). The result was a culture of non-participation of the masses, their involvement limited to elections.
A country’s institutions and structures: for example, the ‘little man’ finds no place. Factors such as dress, speech, etc, present barriers. The masses are unconcerned, generally do not understand the procedures/processes of parliament and the civil service.
Small economy: the limited resources are at the disposal of the government. There is intense competition amongst the public to gain access to the resources. Private sector activities are limited. Government is vey powerful, it can use rewards/punishments to forced compliance, intimidate, victimise. People are afraid to challenge government (submissive attitude).