Your National and Local Political Culture

Identify where you are from in the United States or Internationally.
Identify which two agents of political socialization (as described in Chapter 3 required reading) you believe are the most powerful in shaping your national political culture.
Identify which two agents of political socialization are the most powerful in shaping your local political culture.
Compare and contrast the national and local agents of political socialization you identified, discuss why they are powerful within your political culture.Your initial post should be at least 500 words in length. Support your claims with examples from required material(s) and/or other scholarly resources, and properly cite any references.

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of a popular public figure, can affect nearly the entire nation similarly. In contrast,
subcultures in a society can have their own distinctive patterns of socialization.
Social groups that provide their members with their own newspapers, their own
neighborhood groups, and perhaps their own schools can create distinctive
subcultural attitudes. Distinct patterns of socialization can lead to a political gap
among members of a nation.
Agents of Political Socialization
3.4 Describe the agents of political socialization and their roles in forming
political values.
How do we learn our political attitudes? Individuals in all societies are affected by
agents of political socialization: individuals, organizations, and institutions that
influence political attitudes. Some, like civics courses in schools, are direct and
deliberate sources of political learning. Others, like playgroups and work groups,
affect political socialization indirectly.
The Family
What is your earliest political memory? It probably occurred when you were a
child living with your parents. Most of us first learn about politics through our
families. For instance, the family has distinctive influences on attitudes toward
authority. Participation in family decision making can increase a childâ??s sense of
political competence, providing skills for political interaction and encouraging
active participation in the political system as an adult. Similarly, unquestioning
obedience to parental decisions may lead a child toward a more passive political
The family also shapes future political attitudes by defining a social position for the
child: establishing ethnic, linguistic, class, and religious ties; affirming cultural
values; and influencing job aspirations. For instance, in established democracies,
many people inherit their party loyalties from their parents, as well as other social
Social Groups and Identities
Our social characteristics also shape political orientations because our
characteristics reflect different social needs, experiences, and social networks. For
instance, your class or occupation can affect your life chances and political
orientation. As one illustration, industrialization in Britain created a working class
that lived in particular neighborhoods, worked at the same factories, and visited
the same pubs. This working class developed its own forms of speech, dress,
recreation, and entertainment, as well as its own social organizations (such as
social clubs, trade unions, and political parties). In addition, labor unions provide
an organizational base for informing their members on the politics of the day.
Similarly, the life experience of the rural peasantry in many less developed nations
is radically different from that of urban dwellers. Often, these social divisions are
politically relevant; identifying yourself as a member of the working class or the
peasantry leads to ties to groups representing these interests and distinct political
views about what actions the government should take.
The religions of the world are also carriers of cultural and moral values, which
often have political implications. The great religious leaders have seen themselves
as teachers, and their followers have usually attempted to shape the socialization
of children through schooling, preaching, and religious services. In most nations,
there are formal ties between the dominant religion and the government. In these
instances, religious values and public policy often overlap. Catholic nations, for
instance, are less likely to have liberal abortion policies, just as Islamic
governments enforce strict moral codes. Religious affiliations are often important
sources of partisan preferences and can guide people in making other political
Where churches teach values that may be at odds with the controlling political
system, the struggle over socialization can be intense. These tensions can take a
wide variety of forms: the clash between secular and religious roles in the French
educational system, the efforts of American fundamentalists to bridge the
separation of church and state, or the conflict between Islamic fundamentalists and
secular governments in Tunisia and Egypt. In such cases, religious groups may
oppose the policies of the state, or even the state itself.20
In addition, gender shapes social experiences and life chances, and, in many
nations, provides cues about issue interests and political roles. Gender differences
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in politics have narrowed in many industrial nations, although they persist in
many less developed nations.21 The modern womenâ??s movement encourages
women to become politically active and change social cues about how women
should relate to politics. The lessening of gender differences in self-images, in
parental roles, and in relation to the economy and the political system is affecting
patterns of political recruitment, political participation, and public policy.
Especially in the developing world, the changing role of women may have
profound influences in modernizing the society and changing political values.22
Social identities are also often linked to membership in a racial or ethnic group.
Whether it is an African American in the United States, an ethnic Pakistani living in
London, or an Asian businessperson in South Africa, their distinctiveness partially
defines their social and political identity. Ethnically and racially oriented groups
provide social cues and information for members of these communities. In many
instances, their identity creates a social network of interactions and life
experiences that shape their values, while specific groups represent their interests
in the political process and provide a network for political socialization and
Schools are often an important agent of political socialization. They educate
children about politics and their role in the process, and provide them with
information on political institutions and relationships. Schools can shape attitudes
about the political system, the rules of the political game, the appropriate role of
the citizen, and expectations about the government. Schools typically reinforce
attachments to the political system and reinforce common symbols, such as the flag
and Pledge of Allegiance, that encourage emotional attachments to the system.
When a new nation comes into being, or a revolutionary regime comes to power in
an old nation, it usually turns to the schools as a means to supplant â??outdatedâ?
values and symbols with ones more congruent with the new ideology.
In some nations, educational systems do not provide unifying political socialization
but send starkly different messages to different groups. For instance, some Muslim
nations segregate girls and boys within the school system. Even if educational
experiences are intended to be equal, segregation creates different experiences and
expectations. Moreover, the content of education often differs between boys and
girls. Perhaps the worst example occurred under the Taliban in Afghanistan,
where, for several years, young girls were prohibited from attending school. Such
treatment of young girls severely limits their life chances, and ensures that they
will have restricted roles in society and the economyâ??which was the intent of the
Taliban system. The current Afghanistan government reversed this policy and
included girls in the education system, but this is still resisted in parts of the nation.
Education also affects peopleâ??s political skills and resources. Educated people are
more aware of the impact of government on their lives and pay more attention to
politics.23 The better educated have mental skills that improve their ability to
manage the world of politics. They also have more information about political
processes and participate in a wider range of political activities.
Peer Groups
Peer groups include childhood playgroups, friendship cliques, school and college
fraternities, small work groups, and other groups in which members share close
personal ties. They can be as varied as a group of Russian mothers who meet
regularly at the park, a street gang in Brazil, or a group of Wall Street executives
who are members of a health club.
A peer group socializes its members by encouraging them to share the attitudes or
behavior common to the group. Individuals often adopt their peersâ?? views because
they like or respect them or defer to the groupâ??s collective wisdom. Similarly, a
person may become engaged in politics because close friends do so. One example
of peer networks is the international youth culture symbolized by rock music,
T-shirts, and blue jeans (and often more liberal political values). Some observers
claim that it played a major role in the failure of communist officials to mold Soviet
and Eastern European youth to the â??socialist personalityâ? that was the Marxist
â??Leninist ideal. Likewise, the â??skinheadâ? groups that have sprouted up among
lower-class youth in many Western countries have adopted political views that are
reinforced by peer interactions.
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Interest Groups
Interest groups, economic groups, and similar organizations can shape political
attitudes. In most industrial countries, the rise of trade unions transformed the
political culture and politics, created new political parties, and ushered in new
social benefit programs. Today, unions typically are active participants in the
political process and try to persuade their members on political matters. Other
professional associationsâ??such as groups of peasants and farmers, manufacturers,
wholesalers and retailers, medical societies, and lawyersâ??also regularly influence
political attitudes in modern and modernizing societies. These groups ensure the
loyalty of their members by defending their economic and professional interests.
They can also provide valuable political cues to nonmembers, who might identify
with a groupâ??s interests or political ideology. For instance, when a group that you
like (or dislike) publicly supports a policy, it gives you information on the likely
content of the policy.
The groups that define a civil society are also potential agents of socialization.
These groups might include ethnic organizations, fraternal associations, civic
associations (such as parentâ??teacher associations), and policy groups (such as
taxpayersâ?? associations, womenâ??s groups, and environmental groups). Such groups
provide valuable political cues to their members and try to reinforce distinct social
and political orientations. They also provide settings to learn about how making
political choices in small groups can be extended to politics.
In democracies, we think about interest groups as expressing the values of their
members. But in authoritarian states, they can also be vehicles for the government
to propagandize group members. For instance, Vietnam has an active network of
social groups that socialize individuals into the norms of the communist regime,
while civil society groups in the United States are treated as democracy-building
Political Parties
Meet the Press
European leaders President Grybauskaite of Lithuania, President Hollande of France, and
Chancellor Merkel of Germany meet with the press at the 2013 EU Summit.
Political parties normally play an important role in political socialization in
democratic and nondemocratic systems (also see Chapter 5). In democratic
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political parties try to shape issue preferences, arouse the apathetic, and find new
issues to mobilize support. Party representatives provide the public with a steady
flow of information on the issues of the day. Party organizations regularly contact
voters to advocate their positions. In addition, every few years, an election enables
parties to present their accomplishments and discuss the nationâ??s political future.
Elections can serve as national civics lessons, and the political parties are the
Partisan socialization also can be a divisive force. In their efforts to gain support,
party leaders may appeal to class, language, religious, and ethnic divisions and
make citizens more aware of these differences. The Labour and Conservative
parties in Britain, for example, use class cues to attract supporters. Similarly, the
Congress Party in India tries to develop a national program and appeal, but other
parties emphasize the ethnic and religious divisions. Leaders of preindustrial
nations often oppose competitive parties because they fear such divisions.
Although this is sometimes a sincere concern, it is also self-serving for government
leaders, and is increasingly difficult to justify against contemporary demands for
multiparty systems.
Authoritarian governments often use a single party to inculcate common attitudes
of national unity, support for the government, and ideological agreement. The
combination of a single party and controlled mass media is potent: The media
present a single point of view, and the party activities reinforce that perspective by
directly involving the citizen. In a closed environment, single-party governments
can be very effective agents of socialization.
Mass Media
The mass mediaâ??newspapers, radio, television, and magazinesâ??are actively
socializing attitudes and opinions in nations around the globe. The mass media are
typically the prime source of information on the politics of the day. There is
virtually no place so remote that people lack the means to be informed about
events elsewhereâ??in affluent nations, the public is wired to the Internet; satellite
dishes sprout from houses in Iran; and inexpensive radios (or even smartphones)
are omnipresent even in Third World communities outside of urban centers.
There is one thing that most people in the world have in common: We sit before
our televisions to learn about the world. Television can have a powerful cognitive
and emotional impact on large public audiences by enlisting the senses of both
sight and sound. Watching events on televisionâ??such as the broadcasts of
government affairs or the civil war in Syriaâ??gives a reality to the news. Seeing the
world directly can shape political attitudes.
Today, the Internet provides another powerful source of news for those with access
to it.24 The Web provides unprecedented access to information on a global scale,
especially in developing nations with limited traditions of a free press. One can
hardly travel to any city in the world and not see Internet cafés or WiFi access. At
the same time, the Internet empowers individuals to connect to others and to
develop social and political networks. This may be why autocratic governments
struggle to restrict unfettered access to the Internet (see Box 3.3).
BOX 3.3 The Great Firewall of China
The Peopleâ??s Republic of China has the largest number of Internet users of any
nation in the world, and this fact has government officials worried. Chinese
â??netizensâ? find themselves surfing in the shadow of the worldâ??s most sophisticated
censorship machine. A large Internet police force monitors websites and e-mails.
On a technical level, the gateways that connect China to the global Internet filter
traffic coming into and going out of the country. Even the Internet cafés are now
highly regulated and state-licensed, and all are equipped with standard
surveillance systems. Google was one of the Western companies that initially
provided keyword-blocking technology to prevent access to offending sites.
Pornography was banned, but also searches for the word â??democracyâ? or
â??Tiananmen Square.â? After struggling with censorship requirements, Google
redirected Chinese searchers through its Hong Kong servers. But China continues
to restrict Internet access through Chinese-based search engines.
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Access to information thus becomes an important political commodity in the
contemporary world. Western democracies put a premium on freedom of the
media, even if they frequently complain about what the media reports. In many
European nations, the government still manages some television and radio stations
because it views the media as a public service. Autocratic governments typically
seek to control the media and what they can report, as well as the publicâ??s access to
information. Social media provide a method for antigovernment protestors to
communicate and organize in Egypt, and, when similar protests appeared in other
authoritarian states, the government quickly closed down Internet access. In the
contemporary world of Internet and satellite broadcasting, it is becoming
increasingly difficult for governments to control the spread of information.
Direct Contact with the Government
In modern societies, the wide scope of governmental activities brings people into
frequent contact with various bureaucratic agencies. Surveys of Americans find
that about a third have contacted a government official in the preceding year, and
online interactions with government are increasing dramatically.25 Citizens contact
a wide range of government offices, from federal officials to state and local
governments to school boards and the police. In addition, the government touches
our lives in a myriad of other ways, from running the public schools to providing
retirement checks to providing social services. The degree of government
intervention in daily life, and hence the necessity for contact with government,
varies greatly across nations as a function of the political system and the role of
government in the society.
These personal experiences are powerful agents of socialization, strengthening or
undercutting the images presented by other agents. Does the government send
retirement checks on time? Do city officials respond to citizen complaints? Are the
schools teaching children effectively? Do unemployment offices help people find
jobs? Are the highways well maintained? These are very direct sources of
information on how well the government functions. No matter how positive the
view of the political system that people have learned as children, citizens who face
a different reality in everyday life are likely to change their early-learned views.
Indeed, the contradictions between ideology and reality proved to be one of the
weaknesses of the communist systems in Eastern Europe.
In summary, the country-specific chapters in this book examine the patterns of
political socialization for several reasons. The sources of political socialization
often determine the content of what is learned about politics. If people learn about
new events from their friends at church, they may hear different information than
people who rely on the workplace or the television for information. The role of
these different socialization agents and the content of their political messages also
vary systematically across nations. In addition, the ability of a nation to recreate its
political cul …
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