Definition and Meaning of Political Socialization

Political socialization describes the process by which citizens crystalize political identities, values, and behavior that remain relatively persistent throughout later life. This chapter provides a comprehensive discussion of the scholarly debate on political socialization, posing a number of questions that arise in the study of political socialization and the making of citizens.

Definition and Meaning of Political Socialization

According to Almond and Verba

Is the process by which political culture are maintained and changed.

According to Rush

Political socialization is a process by which an  individual becomes acquainted with the political systems which determine his reaction to political phenomenon.

Allan R. Ball defines

Political socialization as the establishment and development of beliefs about the political system.

According to Austin Reaney

Political socialization generally means socialization of masses, the processes by which ordinary people develop their attitudes towards their political system.

Easton and Dennis define

Political socialization as those developments and processes by which person acquire political orientations and patterns of behavior.

The most comprehensive definition of political socialization has been given by Dr. S. Bhatnagar. He says

Political socialization means all political learning, formal or informal, deliberate, unplanned, latent or manifest, diffuse or specific, at every stage of the life cycle, including not only explicit political learning but also apparently non-political learning of the general culture which affects political behavior.

According to Robert Sigel

The foal of political socialization is to train or develop individuals, that they become well-functioning members of a political society and survival after all, is a prime goal of the political organism just as it is of the individual organism.

Political socialization thus means the process by which the individual becomes acquainted with the political system and which determines his reactions to political phenomena.

White political culture is a sociological aspect, political socialization is a psychological concept. Political socialization concerns itself with the orientations of the individual towards political objects. Since the individual is continually being influenced in his political attitude, orientations, and values, the process of socialization goes on throughout life.

The process by which political culture is shaped at the individual level and, at the community level, is passed on from generation to generation is called political socialization. Indeed, one of the salient features of culture is its inter-generational continuity.

Political socialization is thus a learning process by which norms and behavior acceptable to a well-running political system are transmitted from one generation to another. The learning process involving an internalization of the existing cultural pattern is called socialization and whenever this process has clearly a political context, it is known as political socialization.

Political socialization aims at the transmission of political values from one generation to another. It has been already made absolutely clear that the main emphasis of the concept of political socialization is the transmission of political values from one generation to another. Political socialization shapes and transmits a nation’s political culture or perhaps it would be more appropriate to say that it maintains, transforms, and sometimes creates the political culture of a people.

It maintains a political culture by successfully transmitting it from an old generation to a new one. In simpler words, we can say that political socialization seeks to introduce values, norms, and orientations in the minds of the individuals so that they develop trust in their political system and thereby keep themselves like well-functioning citizens and also leave their inalienable imprints on the minds of their successors.

The task of the transformation and maintenance naturally receives added importance under stable conditions but it is difficult to find stable conditions in the modern world where many nations are struggling to transform old order and replace it with a new one that may be able to adjust itself according to the changing conditions. Political culture maintains, transforms, and sometimes creates the political culture of a people.

Again sometimes, a newly independent nation may try to find a new political system for itself. For that purpose, it will have to create a new political culture and afterward maintain it. The process of maintaining, transforming, and creating a political culture is almost going on in every newly independent nation of Africa and Asia.

The process of political socialization goes on throughout the life of the individual. Political beliefs and attitudes developed at a younger age may undergo a fundamental change in older ago due to the contact, with new education, changing social environment, new experiences in life and performance of every political party. When a country, for example, is facing war unsuccessfully, political instability, and inflation owing to the corrupt and inefficient political leadership, the radical changes take place in the minds of individuals overnight. Incidents like the massacre in Jallianwala Bagh in 1919 provoked millions of our countrymen to join the national movement.

The Vietnam War nearly provoked a civil commotion in the U.S.A. in the early seventies as South Vietnam supported by her was being defeated by North Vietnam. North -Vietnam actually occupied Saigon, the capital of South – Vietnam in April 1975. The defeat of India by China in October 1962 created the utmost resentment in India including the Congress MPs and the Congress MPs led by Mahavir Tyagi forced Krishna Menon the Defence Minister to resign.

Agents of Socialization

Political socialization, as has already been explained, is the process by which the values, beliefs, and emotions of a political culture are Passed on to succeeding generations. The process starts at an early age and continues throughout life. The institutions of family, the school, religious institutions, the Peer group, mass media, experiences gained during employment t0 serve as its agencies of these the family is the first in order of importance. So following agents help the process of political socialization.


Family plays a key role in molding the character of the child and his attitude towards authority. In the family, the mother and father play the leading role in influencing the child in his formative stage. The formative stage of the child is from 3 to 15 years. Brothers and sisters also exercise the hidden influence upon the child. The mother and father exercise not only the hidden influence but also the manifest influence. The hidden influences shape his entire attitude towards authority, while manifest influence plays a direct role in the development of his political opinion. It has also been observed that a young man defies the authority o; obeys it or extends co-operation mainly because of the attitude molded by the family.

An early experience in participation in decision making, according to Almond and Verba, can increase the child’s sense of political competence provide him with a skill for political interactions, and thus enhances the probability of this active participation in the political system when he becomes an adult.

The Educational Institutions.

After the family; the educational institutions exercise the strongest possible influence, both latent (hidden) and manifest upon the child. Children getting an education in a particular institution may develop a particular kind of frame of mind. The fact that about twenty-five percent of all British Conservative MPs went to Eton is an indication of this. As the educational institutions exercise considerable influence, therefore the selection of courses has become important.

Jawaharlal had said many a time about the anti-national role of the Muslim League in the post-independence days and his words had become quotations in many textbooks of Kerala. Therefore, the Muslim League after forming an alliance with the ruling partners insisted on the expunction of these remarks from the textbooks.

Consequently, Almond and Verba have pointed out that the more extensive an individual’s education, the more likely he is to be aware of the impact of Government to follow politics, to have more political information, to possess a wider range of opinions on political matters, to engage in political discussions with a wider range of people, to feel a greater ability to influence political affairs, to be a member of voluntary organizations and express confidence in his social environment and exhibit feeling of trust.

Jaya Prakash Narain led the agitations of the students in Gujarat and Bihar and it led to great political socialization of the students.

Peer groups.

Peer groups also create a particular influence on the mind of individuals more than in or outside the school. A Peer group is a group of people of the same age sharing similar problems. A Peer group is thus a friendly group. Changes in one’s mental attitude from hostility and aggression to co-operation or vice-versa are registered while in the company of friends. The courses of study, debates, discussions and extra-curricular activities have their own impact on the attitudes of their grown-up students. According to James S. Coleman, In developed countries like the United States and Sweden, the socializing influence of parents and teachers begins to decrease in early adolescence and from then Peer groups exercise increasingly important influences on political attitudes and behavior. AS the person grows older, some Peer groups that were highly influential in his adolescence are superseded by them required by the circumstances of his new life, such as work-associates, neighbors, and above all husband or wife.

Mass Media.

Mass media plays a significant role in molding the views of children. A controlled mass media may bring out a sort of uniformity of views and a special like for the existing political system put free mass media (Television, radio, and free press) may create a special dislike and resentment in the mind of the individual against the dictatorial political system.

According to Lucian Pye.

Socialization through the mass media is the best short-run technique available and it is crucial to modernization

It was perhaps on this account that mass media was controlled by the Congress Government during Interfile Emergency (1975-77) but was extremely disliked by the people and they voted the Congress out.

Experience in employment.

Experiences which are gained while in employment are also very important. An individual brought in a family given to cooperation by nature and believing in democratic principles may develop a strong sense of resentment, even of violence, if he finds his employer behaving meanly. In employment, one learns about the attitude of the dominance of employers towards the employees and a superiority complex of the officers towards the subordinates, The general strike of the workers for the improvement of their wages and conditions of work and, consequent collective bargaining by the workers may exercise strong political influence or powerful socialization both for the workers and employers.

Religious institutions.

Religious institutions play an important role in political socialization. This agent is the most active in India as the people are readily swayed by their religious feelings. The effect of the Church on political attitudes is less apparent when it re-enforces other socializing agencies, but the role of Roman Catholicism in many European countries liberal democratic and totalitarian offers illustrations of its conflict with both State and education and is possibly a vital factor in the political behavior of women in some countries.

Role of Government and Party agencies.

Political parties disseminate political knowledge and values, mobilize political action, and train political leaders. Individuals come directly into contact with the governmental functionaries. They come to know for what purpose the government stands for and what the government is doing. If the government does something good, then the idea of obedience is reinforced amongst the individuals. If the government develops vested interests and it ignores the interests of the labor class, then the individuals are bound to resent such action.

No matter how positive the views of the political system which has been inculcated by family and school, writes Almond and Verba when a citizen is ignored by his party, cheated by his police, starved in the breadline, and finally conscripted in the army, his views of the political realm are likely to be altered. The corruption and inefficiency which prevailed in the government made many people remark that the British Government was s better than the present one.


Symbols also play an effective role in n political socialization. These include birthdays or martyrdom days of our national heroes such as Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Subhash Chandra Bose, Lala Lajpat Rai, and Bhagat Singh. The observance of these days inculcates a new spirit among the youth and the people begin to dedicate themselves to the national cause again.

Political crisis and discontinuities of socialization. It has been observed by Dawson and Prefill that there may arise discontinuities of socialization also. Such discontinuities may be caused by migration from one country to another or from country to the village or vice-versa. The migration from village to city leads to discontinuity because their earlier socialization does not help them, When they come to the cities, they have to face many problems. In the new atmosphere, they find no personal love, lack of traditions, and a lot of tough competition. Student unrest in many countries 1s also due to a gap in socialization. In the schools and Colleges, they are taught all merits of democracy but when they find the democracy in actual working they find many defects. Dictatorships, Fascism, and communism Control the mass media, consequently, there is different political socialization in those countries than actually, we find in democracy.

Contribution of Geopolitical Socialization:-

Like political culture political Socialization also helps a lot in the comparative study of political systems. It seems to be one of the most primping approaches to understanding political stability and development. It cannot be denied that political culture depends largely Upon political socialization.

  • Only political socialization can make us understand thoroughly what type of political culture, a country possesses.
  • Secondly, from political socialization, We can also know when particular qualities and elements of a political culture grew.
  • Thirdly, political socialization helps us to understand who are the leaders of a particular country, what qualities they should possess, and how they are involved in politics in different countries.
  • Fourthly, class-wise and regional discontinuities in political socialization throw light on the problems of a particular country.
SAKHRI Mohamed
SAKHRI Mohamed

I hold a Bachelor's degree in Political Science and International Relations in addition to a Master's degree in International Security Studies. Alongside this, I have a passion for web development. During my studies, I acquired a strong understanding of fundamental political concepts and theories in international relations, security studies, and strategic studies.

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