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Political socialization and political culture: a case study Oliver, Thelma Isabel

Abstract

Stable democratic systems are characterised by the persistence and distinctiveness of political subcultures which offer alternatives to the status quo. This case study describes the New Democratic sub-culture in terms of its persistence and distinctiveness. The data was drawn from a survey of New Democratic activists in the Vancouver area. The concept of political socialization was used to examine the persistence of the New Democratic subculture. Primary and secondary agents of socialization provide continuity of sub-cultural values overtime; primary agents such as family and peer groups socialize New Democrats to sub-cultural values, while secondary agents provide socialization both to the general political culture, which is primarily liberal democratic, and to values which are consonant with the organic-socialist New Democratic sub-culture. New Democrats are strongly committed to their sub-culture, but seem to be attracted to the liberal culture in some degree. The liberal value of equality of opportunity seems to be particularly attractive to New Democrats. But the New Democratic sub-culture is distinctive in the very strong value placed upon the ordinary working person's welfare. When New Democrats contrast themselves with other sub-cultures, they see themselves as the party of the working class, the underdog, while other parties are for doctors, bankers, and the status quo. The study of political culture, especially of political sub-cultures which together make up the general political culture of a system, requires more study of two problems which must be examined together. First, it is necessary to establish a taxonomy of the values which constitute a sub-culture. Second, the process of socialization to those values must be studied in a manner that will enable the researcher to make use of that taxonomy of cultural values. An ideal research strategy would combine ideographic testing with small group methods. Political activists provide an excellent laboratory for this kind of study. Once we know more about the content of political culture and the way in which it is modified in the process of socialization, we will be able to study the interaction of political sub-cultures in a much more systematic way.

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