The agencies of political socialization are the means by which the beliefs, values, and attitudes of the people are shaped from time to time.
There are primary and secondary agencies of socialization. The primary agencies are the family and school. On the other hand, socialization is only and incidental function of the secondary agencies such as the workplace, church, mosque, social club, etc.
The Agencies of Socialisation
1. The Family
The family is perhaps the most important agency of socialization. The family is the first contact of the child with the outside world. It is within the family that the child learns how to eat, work, speak and relate to others.
Although much of what the child learns at home may not be political, yet the knowledge acquired may be transferred later on in life to the political arena. Dowse and Hughes, for example, observed that the individual’s attitude towards authority or leaders depends primarily on his relationship with his parents.
If, for example, the relationship between the parents and the child is warm and friendly, and the child is allowed to take part in the family decision making process, then the individuals subsequent approach to political relevant matters may be accommodating, participatory and democratic.
But where the authority pattern in the family is concentrated in the father, for example, and there is little warmth and friendship between the father and child, and the father is only called in mainly to punish, the child may eventually become rigid, unfriendly, antagonistic and authoritarian and the political realm (Dowse and Hughes, 1967).
The behaviourial patterns of Nigerian politicians and especially their predilection to willfully undermine the law and the constitution may be considered from this perspective.
The family socialization process, especially in developing countries, appears harmful to the development of viable national institutions. In many African countries, the child is only thought things that are good for him and the family and, perhaps, the tribe to which he belongs. Because of the high level of poverty in these countries, and they leave almost everything to the school.
The long greetings, the unending celebrations and festivals and the presentation of gifts for service rendered are behavioral traits are required mainly from the home. But, unfortunately, they run counter to the officials delivery of services by public organizations.
For example, a top official of a federal government-owned university in Delta State was widely reported several newspapers in February 2012 to have collected a bribe of 50,000 US dollars from a former minister of state. He unshamedly dismissed the allegation claiming it was a mere gift.
In order to overcome the problems association with family socialization, the state of Israel, at its creation in 1948 established the Kibbutz, a programme whereby every Israeli child is weaned and brought up by the state in line with its political goals and objectives.
As a result of the decline of the family in the modern society, many of its functions have been taken over by other specialised socialization agencies like the school.
2. The School
The school is a more formalized agency of socialization than the family. At the school, the child is exposed to a number of influences and things he has never seen before. For the first time, the young child meets friends who are not members of his family, classmates who are his competitors, ideas which his parents may not have taught him and school authorities such as headmaster’s, teachers, prefects, etc who are choose on the basis of merit or achievement.
The relationship of the child with the school authorities is less personal than at home and the child ultimately comes to realise that progress in the school is based principally on achievements and performance. He is promoted if he passes school examinations and may be repeat a class if he fails.
In the classroom, the child is taught many subjects that tend to support the dominant values in the political system e.g. social studies, civic education, history and government, citizenship education and character building.
For example, it was estimated that in the former Soviet Union, more than 20 percent of the time of the Russian school children and university students was spent on political studies. Moreover, knowledge of Marxism – Leninism was tested as part of the final degree examination.
3. The Mass Media
The mass mediainclude the print and electronic media. Whether or not controlled by the government, the mass media tend to support or reinforce existing values in the society. In Nigeria, for example, the mass media generally support the Democratic system in so far as it is considered better than military rule.
The mass media may be an instrument of propaganda especially in socialist states where they are mainly owned and controlled by the government as vehicle for propagating government policies and programmes.
The media, may however, be a weapon in the hands of politicians, secessionists and other extremist groups.
It is nevertheless important to underline the fact that the alternate social media such as the internet Facebook, telephone, constitute an influential figure of socialization in modern times.
4. Voluntary Associations
Voluntary associations such as the Boy’s Scout, Girls Guide, Red Cross, Red Crescent, and religious institutions play very important role in shaping the values and attitudes of the people.
The religious institutions, for example, proselytize about what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ and they tend to emphasize the importance of morality in Society. Although morality has no place in politics, politicians still have an application to work for the common good.
Elections provide opportunities for the electorate to make rational choices among contending ends. In the process, they become better educated about government programmes and activities.
6. Voluntary Service
Through national service, for instance, the citizens are made to focus on National goals. For example, following the problems that arose in the USA after the Second World War, the Peace Corps was established to take care of the restless youths.
Political parties educate the electorate on their personal programmes, and by so doing serve as a link between the government and the people. Socialist States, they are an important instrument of political education.
Political parties can only be relevant in the socialization process where parties are allowed to operate freely. But political parties usually tend to encourage divisive tendencies in the polity.
8. Pressure Groups
Pressure groups are also important in the socialization process. Members of professional associations such as the Bar Association (Lawyers) and the Medical Association (Doctors) are, for example required to attend regular courses made to improve their knowledge and skills.
Similarly, trade associations such as the Manufacturing Association to organise seminars and workshops to familiarise their members and the public with government policies and programmes especially as they affect a business.
Labour unions can also be a powerful instrument for moulding the values of the people. At the same time the unions have also been useful in mobilizing support for government especially during elections.
Other non-state actors such as human rights groups and civil society organisations, though elitist in their approach enlighten and educate the people on important national issues
The workplace is also an important secondary socialization agency. A new staff joined our organisation, he undergoes an induction course, which exposes him to the history, structure and achievements of the organisation, and the role he is expected to play in it.
As long as he is a member of the organisation, his required to undergo further training programmes to familiarise myself with his role in achieving the goals of the organisation.
In many capitalist states, the kind of socialization that takes place in the work situation has little political content. The employer is mainly concerned with promotion and profit maximization.
Socialist States, on the other hand, place a high premium on workplace socialization, and the dominant political party usually has cells in each organisation to expose the workers to the ideas and programmes of the government.