Government and Politics

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fulfill in order to survive were identified. Among these was the need to teach recruits to accept the values and customs of the group. In a political sense, this function is crucial; each succeeding generation must be encouraged to accept a society’s basic political values and its particular methods of decision making.

Political socialization is the process by which individuals acquire political attitudes and develop patterns of political behavior. This involves not only learning the prevailing beliefs of a society but also coming to accept the surrounding political system despite its limitations and problems. In the United States, people are socialized to view representative democracy as the best form of government and to cherish such values as freedom, equality, patriotism, and the right of dissent.

The principal institutions of political socialization are those which also socialize us to other cultural norms—including the family, schools, and the media. Many observers see the family as playing a particularly significant role in this process. "The family incubates political man," observed political scientist Robert Lane.

In fact, parents pass on their political attitudes and evaluations to their sons and daughters through discussions at the dinner table and also through the example of their political involvement or apathy. Early socialization does not always determine a person’s political orientation; there are changes over time and between generations. Yet research on political socialization continues to show that parents’ views have an important impact on their children’s outlook.

The schools can be influential in political socialization, since they provide young people with information and analysis of the political world. Unlike the family and peer groups, schools are easily susceptible to centralized and uniform control; consequently, totalitarian societies commonly use educational institutions .

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