Political Socialization and
Political Culture
Theories of Political Socialization
• 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
- events
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 selfreproducing of such relationships.
Political Culture
 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 nonparticipation 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).
• Political socialization as outlined above.
Trends in political culture
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Political Socialization and Political Culture