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political socialization


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The process by which people come to acquire political attitudes and values. Socialization in childhood has been extensively studied. Children first acquire warm feelings towards authority figures who might appear in fairy stories (such as queens and princesses). Similarly warm feelings to elected officials (presidents, prime ministers) emerge later, party identification later again, and something like a reasoned ideology not until well into the teenage years. The earliest socialization is believed to be the deepest. Therefore one's awareness of one's sex and ethnicity precedes anything more directly political. Each layer of socialization colours those that come afterwards.

Critics of socialization research make a number of points:1 There have been too few studies of children whose family position and early experiences might be expected to put them at odds with the values of most people in their society.2 Socialization research cannot by its nature tap false consciousness or any other way in which dominant values may be inculcated without the subjects of it being aware of it.3 Party identification is not necessarily a reliable guide to voting, or political attitudes. Sex and ethnicity are genetically determined; political attitudes are not.

1 There have been too few studies of children whose family position and early experiences might be expected to put them at odds with the values of most people in their society.

2 Socialization research cannot by its nature tap false consciousness or any other way in which dominant values may be inculcated without the subjects of it being aware of it.

3 Party identification is not necessarily a reliable guide to voting, or political attitudes. Sex and ethnicity are genetically determined; political attitudes are not.

Subjects: Sociology — Politics.


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