Topic of the lecture: Sociolization of an individual
1. Theoretical orientations to socialization
- Critical perspective
2. Sociological research on socialization
3. Socialization is the life learning process
4. Agents of socialization
- Public opinion
- Total institutions
5. Gender socialization
The concept of socialization figures prominently in sociology, underlying many of the discipline’s major claims about the nature of society and social relations.
In general terms, socialization is a generic concept embracing the ways people acquire the general competencies required for participation in society.
At the societal level, socialization helps explain how and the extent to which large numbers of individuals come successfully to cooperate and adapt to the demands of social life (Long & Hadden 1985).
At the organizational level, it summarizes processes by which newcomers to social groups and organizations are transformed from outsiders to participating members.
At the personal level, it refers to the social and cultural shaping and development of the mental, emotional, and behavioral abilities of individuals.
Theoretical orientations to socialization
• Sociology offers three main theoretical orientations to socialization:
a) a functional,
b) an interactional, and
c) a critical perspective.
Structural functionalists such as Parsons T. and Merton R. view socialization as a process of role learning by which people come to adopt prescribed orientations to life which limit the ends to which they may aspire, as well as the means they can use to achieve them.
a) Functional theoretical orientation
Parsons claimed that role learning was society’s primary mechanism for integrating individuals into the patterns of interactionthat constitute the major institutions of society.
From this perspective, socialization is essentially the imprinting of cultural patterns on the personalitiesof individuals, or how society inculcates in its members the skills and orientations required for participation in social life. As such, successfully socialized individuals learn to function in society by interacting with others in accordance with the social roles and positions they occupy.
Structural functionalism has been criticized for exaggerating society’s control over individualsand for portraying people as utterly passive recipients of social influence.
b) Interactional theoretical orientation
The symbolic interactionist perspective leans in the opposite direction by emphasizing the individual’s active role in the socialization process. Symbolic interactionism traces its lineage to pragmatist philosophers such as Herbert M. G. and Dewey J., and sociologists of the Chicago School such as Blumer H. For symbolic interactionists, the crux of socialization is the formation of self concepts in the context of social relationships mediated by shared symbols. Selves are said to emerge and develop as individuals mutually construct versions of reality through communicative processes based on shared symbols, especially language.
Selves emerge and develop as individuals gain experience of:
1. imagining their own demeanor (manner) from the standpoint of others,
2. interpreting and evaluating these perceptions in the light of shared attitudes, and
3. adjusting their actions accordingly
Interactionists hold that people do not automatically internalize or respond to others’ perceptions, attitudes, and understandings, but rather have the ability to evaluate and select from them.
c) Critical perspective (theoretical orientation)
Symbolic interactionism and structural functionalism have been criticized for underplaying the role of power and inequality in social life. Though they offer different perspectives on the process, critical orientations to socialization in sociology, such as Marxism and feminist theory, are unified by deep concerns with power imbalances in society and the reproduction of structures of inequality. Proponents of this perspective generally agree that socialization is a primary mechanism of social control. Pierre Bourdieu’s critical view of socialization has gained prominence in contemporary sociology. For Bourdieu, socialization is the acquisition of ‘‘habitus,’’ which he characterizes as individuals becoming deeply habituated to the customary ways of behaving, thinking, and feeling common to other members of their social worlds. The process is one in which members who share similar positions in society inculcate in each other deeply ingrained patterns of subjective adjustments to external social conditions.