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Concept of Socialization

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Explain the concept of socialization and how useful is it in understanding human behavior?

Socialization is the process in which an individual learns the way of life of his/her society, learn the trick of the trade and develops the capacity and the potential to function both as an individual and as a member of the society by internalizing the culture in which the society is based on. Socialization is a life-long process occurring at all stages in life starting from the day the individual is born.

Naturally, sociologists believe that most (if not all) human behavior is a learned response and not instinctual. They have to learn to rely and cooperate with others to satisfy the basic needs. What make this cooperation possible are behavioral pattern and a system of communication shared by the members of a culture. Sociologists believe that besides eating, breathing – there is no other human behavior that is genetically coded.

Through the process of socialization a human being is taught the necessary skills demanded for living in the society. The person will be able to communicate effectively and develop the ability to read, speak and write.

Socialization is what makes us different from animals. Through socialization an individual will internalize the norms and values of society. By doing so, the individual will be able to develop the sense of self. He will be aware of his place in the society, develop a distinct entity, apart from other people and things.

The process of socialization can be divided into primary socialization that starts from infanthood by family members and secondary socialization by agents other than the family such as the school, peer groups and mass media.

The family is the main agent of socialization. Infants are totally dependent on those around them. The family provides protection, love, attention, affection and of course the basic needs such as food and clothing. To young children, the parents represent the whole world around them. The parents teach their children the attitudes and values accepted by the society.

Other agents of socialization such as the school transmit accumulated knowledge and ways of society. The mass media play an important role to reinforce culture and norms. It can also distort norms by giving a false impression of society.

Shared values are integral to in shaping human behavior and lay down guidelines to appropriate behavior in society. Such definition for accepted behavior varies from one society to another. For example, in Western culture, it is considered deviant, rude and uncivilized to eat with your hand. However, in most Asian countries it is regarded as a norm to eat with your hand. A child would therefore through socialization be brought up in the context of accepted norms and values in his society and be accepted as one of the members in that particular group.

One way to show the importance of socialization is to take into account cases of human isolation where the individuals have no contact whatsoever with other human beings. Cases such as Emperor Akbar’s experiment in raising children among deaf mutes, the little girl Genie who was kept locked for years, Isabella the little girl from Spain and the Midnapore children. From these cases it is clear that without socialization individuals would bear little resemblance to human beings. They will not be able to become functional members of society due to lack of knowledge on accepted norms and values and due to lack of communication.

According to Functionalism, socialization is an integral process, a means in unifying members of society and maintaining social order. Durkheim sees the answer for social order in consensus, the collective conscience consisting of common beliefs and sentiments. Only through the process of socialization the collective conscience can be achieved. When values are internalized and institutionalized and behavior is structured in term of them the result is a stable system, a social equilibrium.

Since humans are homoduplex(egoistic v morality) socialization is needed to constraint the egoistical part. Without socialization, humans would do anything including force and fraud to satisfy their desire. He illustrates this in his study of suicide. Due to lack of integration, a person is likely to commit suicide. This happens when the egoistical part reign and controls his emotion.

Only through a clear awareness of roles, will the individual become a functional member of society. Social roles are institutionalized social relationship which acts as a buffer or forms of external constraint. Individuals learn to conform to rules and expectation of society via rewards and punishments defined by society.

To ensure that the society remains in state of equilibrium these learned behavior is shared and transmitted from one generation to another. Both the primary and secondary agents of socialization play the role to ensure the maintenance of social stability.

Functionalism’s view on socialization has been criticized for being too deterministic. As Berger pointed out ‘individuals are like puppet on a string’. Functionalism over-emphasized the society role in shaping the behavior of a person leaving that person less or no room whatsoever to construct his own identity.

Marxism uses the concept of socialization to explain the inequality and the exploitation of the ruling on the subject class. Unlike Functionalism, Marxists believe that socialization will only benefit the ruling class by justifying their actions and privileges. Socialization propagates the ruling class ideology, that the system is fair, that the status quo is beneficial for the subject class. The distortion of reality is caused by the superstructure controlled by the ruling class. Through the Ideological State Apparatus, the hegemony of the ruling class over the subject class maintained. It functions by providing a false picture of society

Marxism has been criticized for undermining the importance of socialization in the construction of human behavior and identity. By emphasizing on the disadvantage of socialization, it ignores the importance of socialization in making an individual more human. It is socialization that distinguishes us from animals.

Likewise, Feminism also see socialization as a tool in justifying the privilege of a particular group in society namely men. Ann Oakley believed that gender role stereotyping as being transmitted through manipulation, canalization, verbal appellation and different activities. The society defined the accepted behavior for men and women and often the stereotyping process is in favor of men. In the Sussex University Experiment the reactions and behavior of babies were interpreted differently according to the colors that they wore. Their genders were also distinguished based on the colors that they wore. Therefore, socialization serves as a means in producing the patriarchal nature of society and conditioned the behavior of women according to the mold defined by society. Males are seen as the breadwinner and therefore in many countries given higher salaries than women.

Interpretivist see socialization as a tool in developing a person’s self concept. G.H Mead sees socialization as essential in constructing one’s identity through the interactions with other people. He believed that the spontaneous ‘I’ is controlled by the passive ‘me’. Through the play stage, a child learns to take the roles of others and through the game stage they begin to take account of the reactions of others. By interacting with other people they become internalized with the norms and values of society and become self-conscious.

Interpretivists also believe that socialization is important in developing one’s ability to communicate with others. Through socialization a person is able to interact and define things that are considered appropriate or deviant by society. Through the process of socialization a person is able to define, to interpret and to act according to different situations.

In conclusion, each social perspective offers different views on socialization. Functionalism sees socialization as a means to ensure social stability while Marxism and Feminism see socialization as a tool to justify the privileges of certain groups in society. Interpretavists see the benefit of socialization in constructing the identity of an individual.

It is interesting to consider other views on socialization for example the view of Essentialists. Essentialists believe that socialization has little effect in shaping one’s behavior. as proposed by Giddens, human beings have the capacity and ability to shape their own behavior. However to a certain extent, socialization still serves as a powerful mechanism in shaping a person behavior, dictate his action and constructing his identity.

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