Studying the Social Worlds of Children: Sociological Readings

By Frances Chaput Waksler | Go to book overview

Chapter 1

Becoming a Member of Society—Socialization

Peter L. Berger and Brigitte Berger

Commentary

In their presentation, the Bergers provide a well-balanced description of socialization, a concept that has provided the major framework within which sociologists have studied children. Their treatment of the topic is sufficiently clear to require little introduction. Here I simply highlight some key features of the concept and suggest spheres of possible criticism.

Socialization can be conceived of as a fundamental social process through which 1) individuals becomes social members, i.e. members of specific social groups and of society as a whole, and 2) an individual develops a self. A person can be said to be socialized—and thus socialization can be said to most effectively support the status quo—when the self thinks and acts in consonance with what is deemed right by the social group of which it is a part. If, for example, murder is abhorrent to someone who belongs to a group that forbids murder, that person can be said to be well socialized to that group in that respect. If, however, someone craves meat who is a member of a vegetarian group, that person is not well socialized to that group in that respect—even if the person avoids eating meat for fear of punishment.

The socialization process rests on the idea that the self is a social product. People develop selves in interaction with others, creating selves as they simultaneously learn about others. As they learn language and the categories that make up language, they develop ways of viewing the social world that are similar to the ways of others with whom they share that social world. They learn the rules that exist in their social worlds, taking some for granted, questioning others, following some, learning how to break others. Some rules become so much a part of the self that they are unquestionably accepted as true; other rules are followed through fear of punishment; yet other rules are broken, with varying consequences for all those involved.

From Sociology: A Biographical Approach, Second, Expanded Edition, by Peter L. Berger and Brigitte Berger. © 1972, 1975 by Peter and Brigitte Berger. Reprinted by permission of Basic Books, Inc., Publishers.

-3-

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