Agents of Socialization

Family

A family serves to reproduce society biologically, through procreation, and socially, through the socialization of children.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the pivotal role a family plays in the socialization of children and the continuation of society through procreation

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Although a family can fulfill a variety of other functions, not all of these are universal or obligatory.
  • The incest taboo, which prohibits sexual relations between family members, is a form of exogamy and may help promote social solidarity.
  • The family of orientation refers to the role of the family in providing children with a position in society and socialize them.
  • From the parents’ perspective, the family of procreation refers to the family’s role is to produce and socialize children.
  • Exogamy is a social arrangement according to which marriages can only occur with members outside of one’s social group.
  • Exogamy is a social arrangement according to which marriages can only occur with members outside of one’s social group.

Key Terms

  • exogamy: Marriage to a person belonging to a tribe or group other than your own as required by custom or law.
  • bridewealth: Bridewealth is the amount of money, wealth, or property paid by the family of the groom to the bride’s parents upon the marriage of the couple. The amount paid generally indicates the perceived value of the bride.
  • family of procreation: the idea that the goal of a family is to produce and enculturate and socialize children
  • family of orientation: This refers to the family in which an individual grows up.

The primary function of the family is to reproduce society, both biologically through procreation and socially through socialization. Given these functions, the individual’s experience of his or her family shifts over time. From the perspective of children, the family is a family of orientation: the family functions to locate children socially, and plays a major role in their socialization. From the point of view of the parent(s), the family is a family of procreation: The family functions to produce and socialize children. In some cultures, marriage imposes upon women the obligation to bear children. In northern Ghana, for example, payment of bridewealth, which is an amount of money, wealth, or property paid to the bride’s parents by the groom’s family, signifies a woman’s requirement to bear children, and women using birth control face substantial threats of physical abuse and reprisals.

Producing offspring is not the only function of the family. Marriage sometimes establishes the legal father of a woman’s child; establishes the legal mother of a man’s child; gives the husband or his family control over the wife’s sexual services, labor, and/or property; gives the wife or her family control over the husband’s sexual services, labor, and/or property; establishes a joint fund of property for the benefit of children; establishes a relationship between the families of the husband and wife. None of these functions are universal, nor are all of them inherent to any one society. In societies with a sexual division of labor, marriage, and the resulting relationship between a husband and wife, is necessary for the formation of an economically productive household. In modern societies, marriage entails particular rights and privileges which encourage the formation of new families even when there is no intention of having children.

In most societies, marriage between brothers and sisters is forbidden. In many societies, marriage between some first cousins is preferred, while at the other extreme, the medieval Catholic Church prohibited marriage even between distant cousins. The present day Catholic Church still maintains a standard of required distance for marriage.

These sorts of restrictions can be classified as an incest taboo, which is a cultural norm or rule that forbids sexual relations between family members and relatives. Incest taboo may serve to promote social solidarity and is a form of exogamy. Exogamy can be broadly defined as a social arrangement according to which marriages can only occur with members outside of one’s social group. One exception to this pattern is in ancient Egypt, where marriage between brothers and sisters was permitted in the royal family, as it was also the case in Hawaii and among the Inca. This privilege was denied commoners and may have served to concentrate wealth and power in one family.

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Family: Families have strong ties and, therefore, are powerful agents of socialization.

Neighborhood

A neighborhood is a geographically localized community within a larger city, town, or suburb.

Learning Objectives

Justify the importance of neighborhoods and communities as units of socialization, especially when specialized, such as by ethnicity or religion

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Ethnic neighborhoods were important in many historical cities, and they remain common in modern cities.
  • Rural-to-urban migration contributed to neighborhood distinctiveness and social cohesion in historical cities.
  • A community is a group of interacting people, living in some proximity. Community usually refers to a social unit—larger than a household—that shares common values and has social cohesion.
  • Social capital refers to a sense of connectedness due to the formation of social networks in a given community.

Key Terms

  • community: A group sharing a common understanding and often the same language, manners, tradition and law. See civilization.
  • ethnic enclave: An ethnic enclave is an ethnic community which retains some cultural distinction from a larger, surrounding area, it may be a neighborhood, an area or an administrative division based on ethnic groups.
  • social capital: The good will, sympathy, and connections created by social interaction within and between social networks.

A neighborhood is a geographically localized community within a larger city, town, or suburb. Neighborhoods are often social communities with considerable face-to-face interaction among members. Neighborhoods are typically generated by social interaction among people living near one another. In this sense, they are local social units larger than households, but not directly under the control of city or state officials. In some preindustrial urban traditions, basic municipal functions such as protection, social regulation of births and marriages, cleaning, and upkeep are handled informally by neighborhoods and not by urban governments; this pattern is well documented for historical Islamic cities. In addition to social neighbourhoods, most ancient and historical cities also had administrative districts used by officials for taxation, record-keeping, and social control.

Specialization and Differentiation

Neighborhoods in preindustrial cities often had some degree of social specialization or differentiation. Ethnic enclaves were important in many past cities and remain common in cities today. Economic specialists, including craft producers, merchants, and others could be concentrated in neighborhoods. Other neighborhoods were united by religious persuasion. One factor contributing to neighborhood distinctiveness and social cohesion was the role of rural to urban migration. This was a continual process for preindustrial cities in which migrants tended to move in with relatives and acquaintances from their rural past.

On another level, a community is a group of interacting people, living in some proximity. Community usually refers to a social unit—larger than a household—that shares common values and has social cohesion. The sense of community and formation of social networks comprise what has become known as social capital.

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Chelsea: This image is of Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.

School

Education is the process by which society transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to another.

Learning Objectives

Explain the role of both formal and informal education in the socialization process, such as learning norms and expectations, as well as gaining social equality

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The sociology of education is the study of how public institutions and individual experiences affect education and its outcomes.
  • A systematic sociology of education began with Émile Durkheim’s work on moral education as a basis for organic solidarity.
  • Socialization is the process by which the new generation learns the knowledge, attitudes and values that they will need as productive citizens.
  • The hidden curriculum is a subtler, but nonetheless powerful, indoctrination of the norms and values of the wider society.

Key Terms

  • socialization: The process of learning one’s culture and how to live within it.
  • the sociology of education: The sociology of education is the study of how public institutions and individual experiences affect education and its outcomes.
  • hidden curriculum: A curriculum that goes beyond the explicit demands of the formal curriculum. The goals and requirements of the hidden curriculum are unstated, but inflexible. They concern not what students learn but how and when they learn.

Education is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people is transmitted from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts. In its narrow, technical sense, education is the formal process by which society deliberately transmits its accumulated knowledge, skills, customs and values from one generation to another. The sociology of education is the study of how public institutions and individual experiences affect education and its outcomes. It is most concerned with the public schooling systems of modern industrial societies, including the expansion of higher, adult, and continuing education.

Education has often been seen as a fundamentally optimistic human endeavor characterized by aspirations for progress and betterment. It is understood by many to be a means of overcoming limitations, achieving greater equality and acquiring wealth and social status. Education is perceived as an endeavor that enables children to develop according to their unique needs and potential. It is also perceived as one of the best means of achieving greater social equality. Some take a particularly negative view, arguing that the education system is intentionally designed to perpetuate the social reproduction of inequality.

A systematic sociology of education began with Émile Durkheim’s work on moral education as a basis for organic solidarity. It was after World War II, however, that the subject received renewed interest around the world: from technological functionalism in the US, egalitarian reform of opportunity in Europe, and human-capital theory in economics. These all implied that, with industrialization, the need for a technologically-skilled labor force undermines class distinctions and other ascriptive systems of stratification, and that education promotes social mobility.

Structural functionalists believe that society leans towards social equilibrium and social order. Socialization is the process by which the new generation learns the knowledge, attitudes and values that they will need as productive citizens. Although this aim is stated in the formal curriculum, it is mainly achieved through “the hidden curriculum”, a subtler, but nonetheless powerful, indoctrination of the norms and values of the wider society. Students learn these values because their behavior at school is regulated until they gradually internalize and accept them. For example, most high school graduates are socialized to either enter college or the workforce after graduation. This is an expectation set forth at the beginning of a student’s education.

Education also performs another crucial function. As various jobs become vacant, they must be filled with the appropriate people. Therefore, the other purpose of education is to sort and rank individuals for placement in the labor market. Those with high achievement will be trained for the most skilled and intellectually tasking jobs and in reward, be given the highest income. On the other hand, those who achieve the least, will be given the least demanding jobs, and hence the least income.

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School: School serves as a primary site of education, including the inculcation of “hidden curricula” of social values and norms.

Day Care

Day care, in which children are cared for by a person other than their legal guardians, contributes to their socialization.

Learning Objectives

Discuss how the use of day care (ranging from relative care to preschools) impacts the socialization of children in both a positive and negative way

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Studies have shown that while bad day care can result in physical and emotional problems, good day care is not harmful to noninfants and may even lead to better outcomes.
  • The day care industry is a continuum from personal parental care to large, regulated institutions.
  • Early childhood education is the formal education and care of young children by people other than their family in settings outside of their homes and before the age of normal schooling.

Key Terms

  • early childhood education: The formal teaching and care of young children by people other than their family in settings outside of the home and before the age of normal schooling.

Day care is the care of a child during the day by a person other than the child’s legal guardians, typically performed by someone outside the child’s immediate family. Day care is typically a service during specific periods, such as when parents are at work. Child care is provided in nurseries or crèches, or by a nanny or family child care provider caring for children in their own homes. It can also take on a more formal structure, with education, child development, discipline, and even preschool education falling into the fold of services.

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Day Care: A mother who works in construction drops her child off at daycare prior to work.

The day care industry is a continuum from personal parental care to large, regulated institutions. The vast majority of childcare is still performed by the parents, in house nanny, or through informal arrangements with relatives, neighbors, or friends. Another factor favoring large corporate day cares is the existence of childcare facilities in the workplace. Large corporations will not handle this employee benefit directly themselves and will seek out large corporate providers to manage their corporate daycares. Most smaller, for-profit day cares operate out of a single location.

Independent studies suggest that good day care for non-infants is not harmful. Some advocate that day care is inherently inferior to parental care. In some cases, good daycare can provide different experiences than parental care does, especially when children reach two and are ready to interact with other children. Bad day care puts the child at physical, emotional, and attachment risk. Higher quality care is associated with better outcomes. Children in higher quality child care had somewhat better language and cognitive development during the first 4½ years of life than those in lower quality care. They were also somewhat more cooperative than those who experienced lower quality care during the first three years of life.

As a matter of social policy, consistent, good daycare may ensure adequate early childhood education for children of less skilled parents. From a parental perspective, good daycare can complement good parenting. Early childhood education is the formal teaching and care of young children by people other than their family in settings outside of the home. “Early childhood” is usually defined as before the age of normal schooling – five years in most nations, though the U.S. National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) instead defines “early childhood” as before the age of eight.

Peer Groups

A peer group, whose members have interests, social positions, and age in common, have an influence on the socialization of group members.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the importance of the peer group in terms of childhood and adolescent socialization

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • This is where children can escape supervision and learn to form relationships on their own.
  • The influence of the peer group typically peaks during adolescence.
  • However, peer groups generally only affect short term interests unlike the family, which has long term influence.
  • Peer groups can also serve as a venue for teaching members gender roles.
  • Adolescent peer groups provide support for children and teens as they assimilate into the adult society decreasing dependence on parents, increasing feeling of self-sufficiency, and connecting with a much larger social network.
  • The term ” peer pressure ” is often used to describe instances where an individual feels indirectly pressured into changing their behavior to match that of their peers.

Key Terms

  • peer pressure: Peer pressure is the influence exerted by a peer group, encouraging individuals to change their attitudes, values, or behaviors in order to conform to group norms.
  • gender roles: Sets of social and behavioral norms that are generally considered appropriate for either a man or a woman in a social or interpersonal relationship.
  • Peer group: A peer group is a social group whose members have interests, social positions, and age in common.

A peer group is a social group whose members have interests, social positions, and age in common. This is where children can escape supervision and learn to form relationships on their own. The influence of the peer group typically peaks during adolescence. However, peer groups generally only affect short term interests unlike the family, which has long term influence.

Unlike the family and the school, the peer group lets children escape the direct supervision of adults. Among peers, children learn to form relationships on their own. Peer groups also offer the chance to discuss interests that adults may not share with their children (such as clothing and popular music) or permit (such as drugs and sex ).

Peer groups have a significant influence on psychological and social adjustments for group individuals. They provide perspective outside of individual’s viewpoints. Members inside peer groups also learn to develop relationships with others in the social system. Peers, particularly group members, become important social referents for teaching members’ customs, social norms, and different ideologies.

Peer groups can also serve as a venue for teaching members gender roles. Through gender-role socialization group members learn about sex differences, social and cultural expectations. While boys and girls differ greatly there is not a one to one link between sex and gender role with males always being masculine and female always being feminine. Both genders can contain different levels of masculinity and femininity.

Adolescent peer groups provide support for children and teens as they assimilate into the adult society decreasing dependence on parents, increasing feeling of self-sufficiency, and connecting with a much larger social network. Peer groups cohesion is determined and maintained by such factors as group communication, group consensus, and group conformity concerning attitude and behavior. As members of peer groups interconnect, and agree, a normative code arises. This normative code can become very rigid deciding group behavior and dress. Peer group individuality is increased by normative codes, and intergroup conflict. Member deviation from the strict normative code can lead to rejection from the group. The term “peer pressure” is often used to describe instances where an individual feels indirectly pressured into changing their behavior to match that of their peers. Taking up smoking and underage drinking are two of the best known examples. In spite of the often negative connotations of the term, peer pressure can be used positively.

Mass Media and Technology

Since mass media has enormous effects on our attitudes and behavior, it contributes to the socialization process.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the connection between media, technology and society

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Mass media is the means for delivering impersonal communications directed to a vast audience.
  • The term media comes from Latin meaning, “middle,” suggesting that the media’s function is to connect people.
  • Media bias refers to the bias of journalists and news producers within mass media. Bias exists in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered.
  • A technique used to avoid bias is the “round table,” an adversarial format in which representatives of opposing views comment on an issue.
  • A technique used to avoid bias is the “round table”, an adversarial format in which representatives of opposing views comment on an issue.

Key Terms

  • media bias: A political bias in journalistic reporting, in programming selection, or otherwise in mass communications media.
  • round table: A conference at which participants of similar status discuss and exchange views
  • mass media: Collectively, the communications media, especially television, radio, and newspapers, that reach the mass of the people.

Mass media is the means for delivering impersonal communications directed to a vast audience. The term media comes from Latin meaning, “middle,” suggesting that the media’s function is to connect people. Since mass media has enormous effects on our attitudes and behavior, notably in regards to aggression, it contributes to the socialization process.

Media Bias

Media bias refers the bias of journalists and news producers within the mass media. Bias exists in the selection of events and stories that are reported and how they are covered. The term “media bias” implies a pervasive or widespread bias contravening the standards of journalism, rather than the perspective of an individual journalist or article. The direction and degree of media bias in various countries is widely disputed.

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Media Bias: A panel in the Newseum in Washington, DC shows the September 12 headlines in America and around the world. Note the different treatment of 9/11 by different sources.

A technique employed to avoid bias is the “round table,” an adversarial format in which representatives from opposing views comment on an issue. This approach theoretically allows diverse views to appear in the media. However, the person organizing the report still has the responsibility to choose people who really represent the breadth of opinion, to ask them non-prejudicial questions, and to edit their comments fairly. When done carelessly, a point/counterpoint can be as unfair as a simple biased report, by suggesting that the “losing” side lost on its merits.

The apparent bias of media is not always specifically political in nature. The news media tend to appeal to a specific audience. This means stories that affect a large number of people on a global scale often receive less coverage in some markets than local stories, such as a public school shooting, a celebrity wedding, a plane crash, or similarly glamorous or shocking stories. Millions of deaths in an ethnic conflict in Africa might be afforded scant mention in American media, while the shooting of five people in a high school is analyzed in-depth. The reason for these types of bias is a function of what the public wants to watch and/or what producers and publishers believe the public wants to watch.

Video Game Violence

Debates have been going on for years about the problem and effect of violent video games. Many people believe that violent video games, when played regularly, lead to real-life violence. In fact, video game violence can lead to an increase in a person’s thoughts and behaviors. There have been incidents of children acting out the violence they see in a game, often with dire consequences. The key is being involved in other activities; when teenagers who played violent video games also participated in sports or clubs, there was less indication they would become violent in any potential situation.

Workplace

The workplace performs its socialization process through onboarding, through which employees acquire skills to adjust to their new role.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the process of onboarding as it relates to workplace socialization

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Tactics used in the onboarding process include formal meetings, lectures, videos, printed materials and computer-based orientations.
  • Employees with certain personality traits and experiences adjust to an organization more quickly. These include employees with a proactive personality, “Big Five” personality traits, curiosity, and greater experience levels.
  • Information seeking occurs when new employees ask questions of their co-workers to learn about the company’s norms, expectations, procedures and policies.
  • Also called networking, relationship building involves an employee’s efforts to develop camaraderie with co-workers and even supervisors.
  • Employee experience levels also affect the onboarding process such that more experienced members of the workforce tend to adapt to a new organization differently from, for example, a new college graduate starting his or her first job.
  • Information seeking occurs when new employees ask questions of their co-workers and superiors in an effort to learn about their new job and the company’s norms, expectations, procedures, and policies.
  • Also called networking, relationship building involves an employee’s efforts to develop camaraderie with co-workers and even supervisors.

Key Terms

  • networking: the act of meeting new people in a business or social context.
  • curiosity: Inquisitiveness; the tendency to learn about things by asking questions, investigating or exploring.
  • onboarding: The process of bringing a new employee on board, incorporating training and orientation.

The workplace performs its socialization function through onboarding. This is the mechanism through which new employees acquire the necessary knowledge, skills and behaviors to become effective organizational members. Tactics used in this process include formal meetings, lectures, videos, printed materials, or computer-based orientations. Research has demonstrated that these socialization techniques lead to positive outcomes for new employees including higher job satisfaction, better job performance, greater organizational commitment, and reduction in stress. These outcomes are particularly important to an organization looking to retain a competitive advantage in an increasingly mobile and globalized workforce.

Employees with certain personality traits and experiences adjust to an organization more quickly. These traits are a proactive personality, the “Big Five” traits, curiosity and greater experience levels. “Proactive personality” refers to the tendency to take charge of situations and achieve control over one’s environment. This type of personality predisposes some workers to engage in behaviors like information seeking that accelerate the socialization process. The Big Five personality traits—openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism—have been linked to onboarding success. Specifically, new employees who are extraverted or particularly open to experience are more likely to seek out information, feedback, acceptance and relationships with co-workers.

Curiosity also plays a substantial role in the newcomer adaptation process. It is defined as the “desire to acquire knowledge” that energizes individual exploration of an organization’s culture and norms. Individuals with a curious disposition eagerly seek out information to help them make sense of their new organizational surroundings, which leads to a smoother onboarding experience. Employee experience levels also affect the onboarding process. For example, more experienced members of the workforce tend adapt to a new organization differently from a college graduate starting his or her first job. This is because seasoned employees can draw from past experiences to help them adjust to their new work settings. They may be less affected by specific socialization efforts because they have (a) a better understanding of their own needs and requirements at work and (b) are more familiar with what is acceptable in the work context.

Employees that build relationships and seek information can help facilitate the onboarding process. Newcomers can also speed up their adjustment by demonstrating behaviors that assist them in clarifying expectations, learning organizational values and norms, and gaining social acceptance. Information seeking occurs when new employees ask questions in an effort to learn about the company’s norms, expectations, procedures and policies. Also called networking, relationship building involves an employee’s efforts to develop camaraderie with co-workers and supervisors. This can be achieved informally through talking to their new peers during a coffee break, or through more formal means like pre-arranged company events. Research has shown relationship building to be a key part of the onboarding process, leading to outcomes like greater job satisfaction, better job performance and decreased stress.

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Organization Socialization Model: A model of onboarding (adapted from Bauer & Erdogan, 2011).

Religion

Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and moral values.

Learning Objectives

Explain how people come to be socialized in terms of religion and how parental influence is a key factor in religiosity

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Sociology of religion is the study of the beliefs, practices, and organizational forms of religion using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology.
  • Agents of socialization differ in effects across religious traditions. Some believe religion is like an ethnic or cultural category, making it less likely for the individuals to break from religious affiliations and be more socialized in this setting.
  • Belief in God is attributable to a combination of the above factors, but is also informed by a discussion of socialization. The biggest predictor of adult religiosity is parental religiosity; if a person’s parents were religious when he was a child, he is likely to be religious when he grows up.
  • In their thesis, Altemeyer and Hunsberger found some interesting cases where secular people converted to religion, and religious people became secular.

Key Terms

  • parental religiosity: The biggest predictor of adult religiosity is parental religiosity; if a person’s parents were religious when he was a child, he is likely to be religious when he grows up.
  • agents of socialization: Agents of socialization, or institutions that can impress social norms upon an individual, include the family, religion, peer groups, economic systems, legal systems, penal systems, language, and the media.
  • sociology of religion: Sociology of religion is the study of the beliefs, practices, and organizational forms of religion using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology.
  • religion: an organized collection of belief systems, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values

Religion is a collection of cultural systems, belief systems, and worldviews that relate humanity to spirituality and, sometimes, to moral values. Many religions have narratives, symbols, traditions, and sacred histories that are intended to give meaning to life or to explain the origin of life or the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, religious laws, or a preferred lifestyle from their ideas about the cosmos and human nature.

Sociology of religion is the study of the beliefs, practices, and organizational forms of religion, using the tools and methods of the discipline of sociology. This objective investigation may include the use of both quantitative methods (surveys, polls, demographic, and census analysis) and qualitative approaches, such as participant observation, interviewing, and analysis of archival, historical, and documentary materials.

Agents of socialization differ in effects across religious traditions. Some believe religion is like an ethnic or cultural category, making it less likely for the individuals to break from religious affiliations and be more socialized in this setting. Parental religious participation is the most influential part of religious socialization–more so than religious peers or religious beliefs. For example, children raised in religious homes are more likely to have some degree of religiosity in their lives. They are also likely to raise their own children with religion and to participate in religious ceremonies, such as baptisms and weddings.

Belief in God is attributable to a combination of the above factors but is also informed by a discussion of socialization. The biggest predictor of adult religiosity is parental religiosity; if a person’s parents were religious when he was a child, he is likely to be religious when he grows up. Children are socialized into religion by their parents and their peers and, as a result, they tend to stay in religions. Alternatively, children raised in secular homes tend not to convert to religion. This is the underlying premise of Altemeyer and Hunsberger’s main thesis–they found some interesting cases where just the opposite seemed to happen. Secular people converted to religion and religious people became secular. Despite these rare exceptions, the process of socialization is certainly a significant factor in the continued existence of religion.

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Socialization through Religious Ceremonies: Religious ceremonies, such as Catholic mass, socialize members of the faith to the practices and beliefs of the religion.

The Division of Labor

Division of labor is the specialization of cooperative labor in specific, circumscribed tasks and similar roles.

Learning Objectives

Interpret Durkheim’s division of labor theory in terms of mechanical and organic solidarity, as well as progression from primitive to advanced societies

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • An increasingly complex division of labor is historically closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialization processes.
  • Durkheim classified societies as primitive or advanced based on their division of labor.
  • According to Durkheim, in primitive societies where there is little or no division of labor, people act and think alike with a collective conscience. In advanced societies with high division of labor, social ties are relatively homogeneous and weak.
  • Labor hierarchy is a very common feature of the modern workplace structure.
  • It is often agreed that the most equitable principle in allocating people within hierarchies is that of true competency or ability. This important Western concept of meritocracy could be interpreted as an explanation or as a justification of why a division of labor is the way it is.

Key Terms

  • industrialization: A process of social and economic change whereby a human society is transformed from a pre-industrial to an industrial state
  • meritocracy: Rule by merit, and talent. By extension, now often used to describe a type of society where wealth, income, and social status are assigned through competition.
  • labor hierarchy: Labor hierarchy is a very common feature of the modern workplace structure, but of course the way these hierarchies are structured can be influenced by a variety of different factors.

Division of labor is the specialization of cooperative labor in specific, circumscribed tasks and roles. Historically, an increasingly complex division of labor is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialization processes. Division of labor was also a method used by the Sumerians to categorize different jobs and divide them between skilled members of a society.

Emilie Durkheim was a driving force in developing the theory of the division of labor in socialization. In his dissertation, Durkheim described how societies maintained social order based on two very different forms of solidarity (mechanical and organic), and analyzed the transition from more “primitive” societies to advanced industrial societies.

Durkheim suggested that in a “primitive” society, mechanical solidarity, with people acting and thinking alike and sharing a collective or common conscience, allows social order to be maintained. In such a society, Durkheim viewed crime as an act that “offends strong and defined states of the collective conscience”. Because social ties were relatively homogeneous and weak throughout society, the law had to be repressive and penal, to respond to offenses of the common conscience.

In an advanced, industrial, capitalist society, the complex division of labor means that people are allocated in society according to merit and rewarded accordingly; social inequality reflects natural inequality. Durkheim argued that in this type of society moral regulation was needed to maintain order (or organic solidarity). He thought that transition of a society from “primitive” to advanced may bring about major disorder, crisis, and anomie. However, once society has reached the “advanced” stage, it becomes much stronger and is done developing.

In the modern world, those specialists most preoccupied with theorizing about the division of labor are those involved in management and organization. In view of the global extremes of the division of labor, the question is often raised about what manner of division of labor would be ideal, most efficient, and most just. It is widely accepted that the division of labor is to a great extent inevitable, simply because no one can perform all tasks at once. Labor hierarchy is a very common feature of the modern workplace structure, but the structure of these hierarchies can be influenced by a variety of factors.

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Division of Labor: An assembly line is a good example of a system that incorporates the division of labor; each worker is completing a discrete task to increase efficiency of overall production.

The Incest Taboo, Marriage, and the Family

An incest taboo is any cultural rule or norm that prohibits sexual relations between relatives.

Learning Objectives

Analyze the different constructs of the incest taboo, ranging from biological (the Westermarck effect) to cultural (endogamy and exogamy)

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Incest taboo is a cultural norm or rule that forbids sexual relations between relatives.
  • Inbreeding is reproduction resulting from the mating of two genetically-related individuals.
  • The Westermarck effect is essentially a psychological phenomenon that serves to discourage inbreeding. Through this effect, people who have grown up together are less likely to feel sexually attracted to one another later in life.
  • Exogamy is a social arrangement in which marriage is permitted only with members from outside the social group.
  • Endogamy is a social arrangement in which marriage can occur only within the same social group.

Key Terms

  • exogamy: Marriage to a person belonging to a tribe or group other than your own as required by custom or law.
  • inbreeding: Breeding between members of a relatively small population, especially one in which most members are related.
  • endogamy: The practice of marrying or being required to marry within one’s own ethnic, religious, or social group.
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Inbreeding: An intensive form of inbreeding where an individual S is mated to his daughter D1, granddaughter D2 and so on, in order to maximise the percentage of S’s genes in the offspring. D3 would have 87.5% of his genes, while D4 would have 93.75%.

An incest taboo is any cultural rule or norm that prohibits sexual relations between relatives. All human cultures have norms regarding who is considered suitable and unsuitable as sexual or marriage partners. Usually certain close relatives are excluded from being possible partners. Little agreement exists among cultures about which types of blood relations are permissible partners and which are not. In many cultures, certain types of cousin relations are preferred as sexual and marital partners, whereas others are taboo.

One potential explanation for the incest taboo sees it as a cultural implementation of a biologically evolved preference for sexual partners without shared genes, as inbreeding may have detrimental outcomes. The most widely held hypothesis proposes that the so-called Westermarck effect discourages adults from engaging in sexual relations with individuals with whom they grew up. The existence of the Westermarck effect has achieved some empirical support. The Westermarck effect, first proposed by Edvard Westermarck in 1891, is the theory that children reared together, regardless of biological relationship, form a sentimental attachment that is by its nature non-erotic.

Another school argues that the incest prohibition is a cultural construct that arises as a side effect of a general human preference for group exogamy. Intermarriage between groups construct valuable alliances that improve the ability for both groups to thrive. According to this view, the incest taboo is not necessarily a universal, but it is likely to arise and become stricter under cultural circumstances that favor exogamy over endogamy; it likely to become more lax under circumstances that favor endogamy. This hypothesis has also achieved some empirical support.

Societies that are stratified often prescribe different degrees of endogamy. Endogamy is the opposite of exogamy; it refers to the practice of marriage between members of the same social group. A classic example is seen in India’s caste system, in which unequal castes are endogamous. Inequality between ethnic groups and races also correlates with endogamy. Class, caste, ethnic and racial endogamy typically coexists with family exogamy and prohibitions against incest.

Ideology

Ideology is a coherent system of ideas that constitutes one’s goals, expectations, and actions.

Learning Objectives

Explain the purpose of an ideology and how it is used in various contexts (i.e. religion or politics) to create change or conformity in society

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • Ideology can be used either to initiate change in society or to encourage continued adherence to a set of ideals in a situation where conformity already exists.
  • According to Karl Marx, ideology is an instrument for social reproduction, as those who control the means of production (the ruling class ) are able to establish the dominant ideology within a society.
  • Louis Althusser proposed a materialistic conception of ideology using the concept of Ideological State Apparatus.
  • Ideological State Apparatuses are institutions, such as the family, media, religious organizations, education system, etc., that together comprise ideological practice, the sphere which has the defining property of constituting individuals as subjects.
  • Many political parties base their political action and program on an ideology. Political ideology consists of two dimensions: goals and methods.

Key Terms

  • superstructure: The ideas, philosophies, and culture that are built upon the means of production.
  • ideology: the doctrine, philosophy, body of beliefs or principles belonging to an individual or group

An ideology is a set of ideas that constitute one’s goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things, as in several philosophical tendencies, or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to all members of this society. The main purpose behind an ideology is to offer either change in society, or adherence to a set of ideals where conformity already exists, through a normative thought process. Ideologies are systems of abstract thought applied to public matters and thus make this concept central to politics.

In the Marxist account of ideology, it serves as an instrument of social reproduction. In the Marxist economic base and superstructure model of society, base denotes the relations of production, and superstructure denotes the dominant ideology (religious, legal, political systems). The economic base of production determines the political superstructure of a society. Ruling class-interests determine the superstructure and the nature of the justifying ideology—actions feasible because the ruling class control the means of production. Similarly, Louis Althusser proposed a materialistic conception of ideology using the concept of the ideological state apparatus. For Althusser, beliefs and ideas are the products of social practices, not the reverse. What is ultimately important for Althusser are not the subjective beliefs held in the “minds” of human individuals, but rather the material institutions, rituals, and discourses that produce these beliefs.

Many political parties base their political action and program on an ideology. A political ideology is a certain ethical set of ideals, principles, doctrines, myths, or symbols of a social movement, institution, class, or large group that explains how society should work and offers some political and cultural blueprint for a certain social order. A political ideology largely concerns itself with how to allocate power and to what ends it should be used. Some parties follow a certain ideology very closely, while others may take broad inspiration from a group of related ideologies without specifically embracing any one of them.

Resocialization and Total Institutions

A total institution is a place where a group of people is cut off from the wider community and their needs are under bureaucratic control.

Learning Objectives

Review Goffman’s five types of social institutions and their functions, including their processes of resocialization

Key Takeaways

Key Points

  • The term total institution was coined by the American sociologist Erving Goffman.
  • Resocialization is defined as radically changing an inmate’s personality by carefully controlling his or her environment.
  • Resocialization is a two-part process. First, the staff of the institution tries to erode the residents’ identities and independence. Second, the resocialization process involves the systematic attempt to build a different personality or self.

Key Terms

  • Resocialization: Resocialization is defined as radically changing an inmate’s personality by carefully controlling the environment.
  • Erving Goffman: Erving Goffman (June 11, 1922 – November 19, 1982) was a Canadian-born sociologist and writer. The 73rd president of American Sociological Association, Goffman’s greatest contribution to social theory was his study of symbolic interaction in the form of dramaturgical analysis. This began with his 1959 book, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life.
  • total institution: It is an institution that controls almost all aspects of its members’ lives. Boarding schools, orphanages, military branches, juvenile detention, and prisons are examples of total institutions.

A total institution is a place of work and residence where a great number of similarly situated people, cut off from the wider community for a considerable time, lead an enclosed, formally administered life together. The term was coined by the American sociologist Erving Goffman. Within a total institution, the basic needs of a entire bloc of people are under bureaucratic control. These needs are handled in an impersonal and bureaucratic manner.

Goffman divided total institutions into five different types:

  1. Institutions established to care for harmless or incapable people, including orphanages, poor houses and nursing homes
  2. Institutions established to care for people that are incapable of looking after themselves and are also a threat to the community, including leprosarium, mental hospitals, and tuberculosis sanitariums
  3. Institutions organized to protect the community against perceived intentional dangers, with the welfare of the sequestered people not the immediate issue, including concentration camps, prisoner of war camps, penitentiaries and jails
  4. Institutions purportedly established to pursue some task, including colonial compounds, work camps, boarding schools, and ships
  5. Institutions designed as retreats from the world while also often serving as training stations for the religious, including convents, abbeys, and monasteries

The goal of total institutions is resocialization, the radical alteration of residents’ personalities by deliberately manipulating their environment. Key examples include the process of resocializing new recruits into the military so that they can operate as soldiers. Resocialization is a two-part process. First, the staff of the institution tries to erode the residents’ identities and independence. Second, resocialization involves the systematic attempt to build a different personality or self. This is generally done through a system of reward and punishment. The privilege of reading a book, watching television, or making a phone call can be a powerful motivator to conform. Conformity occurs when individuals change their behavior to fit in with the expectations of an authority figure or the expectations of a larger group.

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Total Institutions: Prisons are examples of total institutions.