The folllowing sample essay on Agents Of Political Socialization discusses it in detail, offering basic facts and pros and cons associated with it. To read the essay’s introduction, body and conclusion, scroll down.
The family lays a central role in socialisation, but it is not the only central influence. Influence by the family on the individual may be changed through interaction with peers. By having peers individuals open themselves to alternative points of view which may have a considerable influence on the individual’s attitude.
(Manheim, 1982: 78). Over time peer groups may become the dominant socializing force for the individual.
(Manheim, 1982: 77) Manheim states that peer-group socialization is politically vital in three ways: it gives the individual social control through which the parents value systems can be challenged this results in social change, secondly it not only motivates the individual to question his value systems , but it also offers the individual with competing models of reality, lastly peer groups can make the broad concept of “politics” meaningful.
(Manheim, 1982: 80) Through the analysis of peer-group social influence it is clear that the colleague’s first point is valid, as peer-group interaction influences political socialization way beyond childhood. Interpersonal sources of political socialization are not the only institutional sources also exist. The most important institutional agent is the school. The teacher creates a learning culture to which the student will aspire. (Manheim, 1982:81) Schooling is an instrument for training the student in political roles and civic responsibilities; it is therefore a potent force in the political development of the individual.
Schooling is not the only influence. At an elder age students at college can question their dominant value’s trough the further development of their critical capabilities. (Manheim, 1982:83-84) Beyond education on a tertiary level is the socialization that occurs in the military, labour unions, church groups and political organisations. These organisations show the validity of the colleague’s advice in point one. Mass media is also a major agent in political socialization.
Mass media provides various forms of politically relevant information to the individual at virtually every stage of the life cycle, encounters with information have a significant impact on the perceptions of political reality that individuals have. Mass media has an influence on individuals as long as media images are seen by the individual. The majority of people are opinion followers who are guided by the opinion leaders. This instrument of socialization occurs mainly beyond the childhood years. (Manheim, 1982: 87-89).
In the above analysis of the agents of political socialization an underlying argument was not addressed, this was the contrast between the primacy and recency models. The primacy model states that fundamental attitudes and values are formed early in life and these values remain as the basic foundation on which adults perceive their environment. (Manheim, 1982: 90) The recency model argues that people do not have the cognitive skills required for political activity until their adolescence, therefore the most recent learning that is the most politically relevant.
( Manheim, 1982: 90) The recency model is the equivalent of the advice that the colleague gave, “do not focus only on learning amongst children. ” In conclusion with point one from the colleague, early political learning is more important when dealing with politics as a fact of life, later political learning which is more cognitive is most important when dealing with politics as a part of life. ( Manheim, 1982: 90) Political socialisation is seen as a continuous process, going beyond childhood. (Kavanagh:39) The ‘trickle down’ approach to learning:
The traditional hierarchical top-down trickle effect is based on four assumptions. Assumption one: “children acquire civic orientations through modelling and direct attitude control”. (McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:283) Top down believers support the view that children will adopt the same orientations evident in parents. (McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:283) The belief is based on the fact that children will adapt themselves to the image of their parent’s characteristics. Assumption two: “Political influence flows downward only, from societal institutions to children.
” (McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:283) This assumption did not take the reciprocal into account. Assumption three: “Adults may be agents in political socialization but are themselves unlikely to change. “(McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:284) This assumption disregards socialization in adulthood, and the changes that occur through marriage and offspring. Assumption four: “Socialization to politics should be conceptualized and measured as individual behaviour. “(McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:285) This assumption is limited as measurements can not be limited to the mind of a single person without taken into account shared experiences.
Trickle-up Socialization There is a large amount of data that proves the above theory wrong. The data shows that when children and teenagers increase there political involvement parents simultaneously increase their political involvement. (McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:287) This simultaneous movement is the result of information seeking, opinion formation and concept-orientated communication. The article by McDevitt and Chaffee is conclusive in showing that children do influence parental growth, before during and after discussion with a child.
(McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:289) The table on page 289 clearly shows the influence that a child has on the parent, through behavioural, cognitive and affective activities. The above mentioned article also clarifies political socialization during the family life cycle. This shows the implications that external stimuli have on political communication in the home. (McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:293)What is clarified in this article is that the chid-parent relationship continuously restructures itself; these changes create “social inversions”.
(McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:294). The above argument shows that through child initiated discussion parents increase their civic competence, increase their news media use, knowledge gain, and opinion formation. The parents increase in civil competence may be seen as an effort to maintain the leadership role in the family. (McDevitt and Chaffee, 2002:281). Conclusion: In the above it was shown that political socialization is the process by which individuals learn about politics.
(Kavanagh: 34) The realisation that political socialisation is the legitimating of inequalities in society and that this occurs in a trickle-down and a trickle-up line of socialisation. Through this light the colleague’s advice must be concurred upon. Only with the extensive knowledge given above on the agents of political socialisation could the question be answered. When looking at how South Africans learn about politics it must be stated that the colleague was correct, and with his advice a true understanding of political socialization in South Africa can be attained.
Bibliography: Kavanagh, D. 1983. Political Science and Political Behaviour. Nottingham: George Allen and Unwin. Manheim, J. B. 1982. The Politics Within. Longman: s. n. McDevitt, M. and Chaffee, S. 2002. From Top-Down to Trickle-Up Influence: Revisiting Assumptions About the Family in Political Socialization. Colorado: Taylor and Francis. 2 Show preview only The above preview is unformatted text This student written piece of work is one of many that can be found in our University Degree Social Work section.