Friday, October 28, 2005
22] Analysis of First Political Memory
ANALYSIS OF FIRST POLITICAL MEMORY OF GRADUATE STUDENTS AT TEACHERS COLLEGE, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY: A PRELIMINARY INVESTIGATION OF POLITICAL SOCIALIZATION USING SELECTED PERSPECTIVES FROM THE MODERNIZATION AND NEO-MARXIST THEORIES By Azly Rahman Mutiara Mohamad Columbia University New York 1.0 Introduction Studies in political socialization have offered important insights into our understanding of how one gets socialized vis-a-vis the modern state as equally pertinent as studies which look at the socialization process concerning ethnicity, race, gender and class. Particularly fascinating would be the notion that the modern state as an abstract entity, although inherently containing of human actors, can be successful in maintaining its legitimacy by utilizing state apparatuses at its disposal; those such as the media, schooling system, and the armed forces among them, in order to carry out the maintenance and sustenance of its existential ideology bearing in mind the potentiality of its withering away. In looking at the question of how one gets socialized politically, we frame our analyses and discussions within a framework guided by the following analytical foci: i) the analysis of findings on first political memory of graduate students at Teachers College, Columbia University, New York, New York from a convenient sampling of students registered in a course TF 4091 (Spring 1998); ii) the interpretation of findings from selected perspectives particularly those of Modernization and Neo-Marxist in looking retrospectively the meaning inherent in the political socialization process; iii) the rationale behind the choice of perspectives; iv) the limitations and recommendations for further research. In this analysis, we are guided by the question, “In what ways do Modernization and Neo-Marxist theories look at the role of the state in the political socialization process of the child?” 2.0 Data The following represents the data selected to be analyzed. They are extracted from “Data Analysis Report on Political Socialization survey” which in total contained information categorized in the following components: 1) background information 2) political socialization 3) political interactions 4) citizenship and minorities 5) geographic scope of political news and 6) childhood political memories. Sample (N) = 94 Mean Age = 31.08 Top five countries United States of America Japan Korea China Norway Mean of first age of memory = 8.16 Female Male Total Rank 1 Literature/ Propaganda/ Iconography/Flag Uniform Literature/ Propaganda/ Iconography Rank 2 - Accent/ Linguistic/ Guns/Arms/ Weapon Uniform/ Flag Rank 3 - - - Table 1: First Political Memory The descriptive statistics on the different ages of political socialization and political memory was gathered through a combination of responses to an open-ended questionnaire (see Appendix A) which required short answer responses to the subcomponents of the major research questions. They were administered during two sessions (Section 1 and 2) of the Spring 1998 class “Comparative Education”. The sample consists of those primarily taking the course as a core requirement of the graduate program in International and Transcultural Studies. Prior to answering the questionnaires, a focus group interview was conducted in groups of 4-5 students facilitated by teaching assistants of this course. This exercise serves as a means to jog the memory of the would-be sample population. We believe that the specific findings on early political memory is relevant to be understood in more depth not only to find out how Modernization and Neo-Marxists would view the socialization process but also how the child perceive his/her political weltanschauung. It is to be noted that the mean age of first political memory is 8.16; the early years of schooling and timely enough for political socialization. 3.0 Political Socialization, Schooling and the State: Modernization and Neo-Marxist Perspectives We chose to look at the political socialization process from the Modernization and Neo-Marxist perspectives largely because they offer legitimate arguments in looking at the function of citizenship in a modern state. Corollary to this is the idea of what role schools should play. We look at the relevant literature pertaining to these perspectives. Feinberg and Soltis (1992) in analyzing the contending perspectives—Structural functionalists, Marxists, and Interpretivists—noted that Modernization, a social and economic concept within the procedural function of schooling and the modern state is closely related to political socialization. They explained that within the structural functionalist paradigm, the state in its process of modernization rely on political socialization of its citizenry in order for them to carry out symbiotically, harmoniously and consensusly their role as democratic participants. The concept is both political and psychological and as noted by Feinberg and Soltis (1992): it refers to the widening of a person’s political loyalty beyond the local group to the nation as a whole (p.25). Through assimilation and political socialization carried out via mass schooling the child learns the meaning of social integration and solidarity so that he/she can become a good citizen of the pluralistic and democratic state. The Structured Functionalist view on the role of education in a modern state purports that schooling must serve to maintain this development – based on social, economic and political fabric. Kelly and Altbach (1986) wrote about the worldview in relation to the Third World: The field asked either how education functioned to maintain the social fabric of how it could be made to function, in the case of the Third World, to develop a nation state generally along Western models (p.314). Illustrative of this view that modernization is but another stage of the inevitable development of a nation and that a modernizing state needed citizens socialized into modernity hence achievement can be formed respectively in classic work of this genre of Walt Rostow (1971) and David McClelland (1982). And in order to ensure political stability as a precondition of the growth and prosperity of the modern state, political socialization through formal and non-formal education must function as an instrument for such legitimacy. Thus, through signs and symbols and classroom knowledge, the citizen is socialized at the earliest age possible. We now look at political socialization. We chose the Neo-Marxist perspective with the understanding that it provides the important component of cultural critique and hegemony then a pure Marxist one which perhaps naively look at merely class struggle as its main tenet in which the state is perceived as an institution of domination of the ruling class over the proletariat. Feinberg and Soltis (1992) discuss Louis Althusser’s concept of Ideological State Apparatuses (ISAs) in explaining the Neo-Marxists conception of socialization. The state legitimizes its existence, maintains domination over its citizens, and creates one-dimensionality in ideological formation via the employment and deployment of apparatuses ranging from newspapers to political parties (Feinberg & Soltis, 1992). The most important of all these institutions are the schools in that they function to provide people with compelling reasons for doing that which they otherwise might not be inclined to do and which is essential for maintaining the current system of production relations and power (p.57). Neo-Marxists thus would believe that signs, symbols, and all forms of apparatuses for knowledge construction and reality invention are but tools of the agencies of socialization to colonize young minds into the inherently repressive construct called the (modern) state. Writings particularly which emerged in the 1970s and 80s, in the Neo-Marxist genre of critique of Structural-Functionalist perspectives center around the latter’s inability to explain issues of distributive injustices within the world capitalist system in general, and within states undergoing modernization in particular. As noted by Roland G. Paulston (1993), writing on the changing representation of knowledge in the field of comparative education, the structural functionalist orthodoxy gave way to heterodoxy after it came under attack in the social sciences and in development studies from a combination of emergent critical and interpretive knowledge communities (p.103). Thus drawing from Feinberg and Soltis (1992) and Roland J. Paulston’s (1993) explanation of the Neo-Marxist critique of the state as they relate to issues such as political socialization and mental colonization and their link with the structural functionalist view, we reiterate that the Neo-Marxist perspective would view education and political socialization as agencies of ideological domination and systematic and repressive means employed by the modern state to ensure that social reproduction is maintained for the benefit of the power elite. We find that the scope of this essay would not permit an extensive discussion of the process by which authority is maintained by the state, as viewed from this conflict model of conceptualizing society. Nonetheless, we note illustrative studies particularly from The Frankfurt School of Social Research, which drew attention to the means and methods used in analyzing ideology within the modern state. Antonio Gramsci (1992) for example analyzed how the state maintains hegemony, Jurgen Habermas (1971) wrote extensively on the structure of knowledge produced by the capitalist system and through ideologiekritik as a method of demystifying such knowledge, one can come to understand the interests inherent in its production, and Max Horkheimer (1974) and Theodore Adorno (1991) analyzed the structure of authority and how the authoritarian personality is developed. To recap the above brief illustrations of the main tenets from Modernization and Neo-Marxist perspectives on the role of education, schooling, and how they relate to the question of the means and methods of political socialization, we note that Marxism and Neo-Marxism emerged as disciplines of study to critique Capitalism, its offspring and hybrids and to offer legitimate systematic analyses of the innerworkings of the capitalist system. As perspectives, they respond to one another providing the necessary thesis and anti-thesis of social, political and economic analyses and as models, they provide a useful contrast between the assumptions that political socialization on the one hand, is consensual and systems maintaining, and on the other, conflictual and systems disequibriumizing. How do these perspectives, by way of interpretation then, view the data gathered from the Political Socialization Survey? 4.0 Analysis of Findings In analyzing the findings on the first political memory, we bore in mind the mean age of 8.16 of the respondents, 1967-68 as the range of year of the first political memory, and perhaps the largely middle-class background our respondents may have come from. We noted too the gender composition as well as the type of political memory derived out of the socializing process. The biggest population of the respondents is in the rank from the United States of America, Japan, and Korea. The following discusses the analysis from the two perspectives. From the Modernization (Structural Functionalist) point of view we hypothesize that because nation-states like the U.S.A., Japan, and Korea all follow the laissez faire capitalist developmental model of liberal democracy, and because mass schooling have been institutionalized for a longer period of time, first political memory of the 8 – 9 year olds constitutes largely of presidential speeches and elections. Mass communication in these advanced industrialized countries is a powerful, consolidated, and institutionalized state apparatus (the notion of media as the fourth estate) for nation-building. It would be apt to say that along the line of social and economic advancement in modernization, political socialization is engineered through the Developmentalist-Communication paradigm of the use of media in advanced and developing countries. Through print and electronic media and through the curricular content in social and citizenship studies, the democratic ideals are transmitted perhaps through the remotest areas so that powerful images such as the President and Prime Minister can be cognitively imprinted as visual neural connections so that every 8 or 9 year-olds can be initiated as citizens of respective advanced capitalist states. Particularly in the United States then the image of President Richard Nixon about to be inaugurated must be made immortalized as the leader of the most powerful nation on Earth; a nation which emerged out of Vietnam which Modernization theorists regretted not having been successfully defended against the Communist terrorists. The image of elections as a testament of the free world must have been successfully transmitted too as inseparable from the Presidency, two party politics, and free enterprise. This analysis of image making and memory training we believe can be made applicable to the analyses of those in Japan and Korea. When applied to the case of China, the analysis from the modernization theory can illustrate a similar point albeit Communist China is governed via a Maoist-styled Communist system. The image of Chairman Mao Zedong and the 1966-69 Cultural Revolution must have been powerful enough for the respondents at that early age. Perhaps one may find it perplexing at some point to understand our relating of the Modernization perspective to the analysis of Communist China however, our point here is to briefly note that what we are analyzing is not the content of messages but the idea that via the consensual framework the maintaining of harmony in that nation-state must necessarily be the theme of political socialization as much as similar as in the case of corporate America. The scope of this essay would not allow us to analyze the information in Rank 2 of which types of memory such as racism/ethnocentrism/classism favor predominantly. Suffice it is to say that these are perhaps characteristic of memories inherent in the so-called Third World nation-states which in the middle of the 1960s were merely beginning to be socialized into the ideals of modernization of which modernization theories would argue, would not be totally free from the challenges associated with their post-Independence status. Thus, from the Modernization perspective, the type of early political memories of the 8 or 9 year-olds are characteristic of images necessary to be transmitted in order for political stability to be developed so that economic growth can be expected and social harmony cultivated. We saw a different picture in our analysis from the Neo-Marxist perspective. Through this lens our analysis is aided by Louis Althusser’s concept of Ideological State Apparatus (as cited in Feinberg and Soltis, 1992) who would view such types of political memory (Presidential/Prime Ministerial speeches and elections) as successes gained by the modern state in shackling the minds of the young into believing in the state. The state’s control of the media and schooling; the latter as a “mass babysitting enterprise” is seen as necessary to create, in Herbert Marcuse’s (1964) term “one-dimensionality” in thinking and in what Antonio Gramsci (1992) would term as hegemony. Through the illusion of democracy, the few in control of the means of production have been able to guarantee its lifeline as a “necessary evil.” Young minds see the President of the United States adorned in his/her primary colors as one who is the epitome of the free-est nation on Earth but hidden from the view is the military-industrial complex which in the 1960s for example found it no longer profitable to finance Napalm-dropping operations in Vietnam and thus, after tedious deliberations on its cost-benefit of the war, had to pull out. Through media and education, the 8 and 9 year-olds are “protected” from this image of structural violence a much as graphic violence and explicit contents on cable television are labeled “R” and pornography on the Internet are filtered by “Net Nannies” form children of the age of “everything cyber”. Writings for example by Noam Chomsky (1989) and Michael Parenti (1993) we believe can best elaborate from the Neo-Marxist point of view how realities are invented in the modern capitalist system. Neo-Marxists would view that such types of political memory, whether coming from children of capitalist America or Maoist China illustrate the need by the state to maintain legitimacy so that the unequal production in social economic distribution can continue to be hidden by the hype over “democracy”; a concept much defined, redefined, misused, abused, and mystified by those in power irregardless of their adherent to capitalism or variants of socialism. Neo-Marxists would see the form of image-making as “totalitarianizing” in its enculturizing means and goals a la George Orwell’s (1992) explication of totalitarianism in his novel Nineteen Eighty-four We view thus the 8 and 9 year-olds as repressed and mystified as they possessed no alternative worldview of humane and communal governments since the repressive state apparatus is in control of the process and product of their thought-formation. We would analyze our respondents from the United States as the most repressed in terms of majority followed by those from Japan and Korea. Similar limitations as in the case of analyzing the second and third ranks of first political memory via Modernization perspective, we note briefly that through the lens of Neo-Marxists we view “racism/ethnocentrism/classism” as illustrative of repressive political imagery from emerging Third World nations which follow the line of Western-led model of capitalist development. In conclusion, from the Neo-Marxist perspective, we believe that Presidential/Prime Ministerial speeches and elections as important types of early political memory illustrate the gains made by the modern state in subliminally subjugating the minds of our 8 and 9 year-old respondents; a process successfully carried out through the use of media and schooling as repressive state apparatuses. 5.0 The Usefulness of Modernization and Neo-Marxist Perspectives We chose Modernization Theory as a vantage point in looking at circa 1967-68 so as to lend justice to this important perspective of systems equity which dominate the thinking of leaders and practitioners in the field of nation-building. We view Modernization as a dominant ideology of social, economic, and political advancement then as it grew out of the ideological creativity of those who operated within the logical-positivistic paradigm. Even up to the time this essay is written, variants of Modernization Theory continue to be grimed in all their complexity and hybridity and the neo-classical economics view of production and reproduction in the virtually all spheres of human living continue to be defended, reconceptualized, and readjusted according to changing milieu – all these underpinned by its reliability and validity, obviously, within its own paradigm. We thus found this perspective useful. We also chose the Neo-Marxist perspective for all the powerful critique it has enlightened us of the modern state as entity and of philosophy and politics of knowledge construction as ontology. We view Neo-Marxism and its variants and hybrids including post-Marxian analyses and radical post-modernist views inclusive, as anti-thesis to the thesis correlated to capitalistic development. The choice of Neo-Marxist rather than pure Marxist perspective is made in lieu of our understanding that questions of culture; hegemony, ideological mystification are important dimensions not adequately addressed by Marxists who view, in reductionist terms, the bourgeoise-proletariat and historical materialism as the only conflicts inherent in the analysis of the modern state. We find the Neo-Marxist view thus more palatable in our analysis of how the respondents were repressed at the tender age of 8 or 9 years old. 6.0 Limitations of the Study Although we attempted to answer the main research questions using the two perspectives we claim as necessary and justifiable, upon closer analysis and scrutiny of the data, we find limitations in them. Whilst modernization theory cannot adequately explain why behind the process of political socialization there exist another dimension called contradiction in that repression of consciousness is engineered so that social reproduction for inequality is maintained, Neo-Marxist analysis too has its shortcomings. This alternative view of the modernization perspective has its fundamental flaw in assuming that the first political memory signifies without doubt that the 8 or 9 year olds are “objects” of domination of the state. As such the Neo-Marxist analyst can fall into the same category as the naïve pure Marxist who fundamentally see class struggle as the main issue. If the question for Modernization theory would be “who benefits?” or “cui bono?” in the attempt to politically socialize citizens of the modern state, then that for Neo-Marxist would be “Why claim that it is all a conspiracy?” in the state’s attempt to mystify and hegemonize. These two contradictions and inadequacies respective of the two theories then can be interpreted at best as reductionism and simplicitude ignoring the deeper complexities in the analysis of child political socialization as such. Whilst theoretical adequacies as such can be discerned, the data gathered on the other hand too is fundamentally inadequate for satisfiable interpretation to be carried out. The sampling is not representative although perhaps representative for the Department of International and Transcultural Studies at Teachers College, the interview conducted was too brief thus limiting the amount of phenomenological responses to be produced and the setting was not conducive enough for the respondents to produce rich data excavated from the archeology of the mind from the archeological site of the political territory. The above brief mentionings of the limitations of the study we believe represent “twilight zones” in our attempt to explain in more plausible detail the political memories of the 8 and 9 year olds. These shortcomings however can become potential fertile areas of investigation in this valuable inquiry into childhood political memories. 7.0 Agenda for Future Research We believe that an even more advant garde, suitable and enlightening perspective in analyzing the data would be one based upon those from the “postmodern sensibility” as it pertains to understanding the child’s symbolic interactionism with his/her environment in that what signs and symbols mean when looked at semiotically. Is the child a passive recipient of images archetyped by the political socialization intent? What was happening cognitively in 1967 in the mind of the 8 or 9 year olds as it relates to their inner world; of interconnections in their brain’s neural network as they perceive and make sense of what would otherwise be claimed as “necessary” and “repressing” by Modernization and Neo-Marxists respectively? Through simplicitude and reductionism as such inherent in these two perspectives, the child remained a “static subject” under study and thus an “object.” Through a more in depth interviewing perhaps within the methodology genre of ethnophenomenography and in the tradition of rigor characteristic of psychotherapy, we may be offered more information to work with. We can then, although the respondents’ answers are in retrospect, still discern important critical and creative intersubjectivities of meaning, construct cognitive maps to look at other variables such as the milieu, background of parental political socialization, nature of political messages transmitted, classroom constructed knowledge regarding political ideology and a host of other schematic information. We believe then that perhaps we needed a way of interpreting based upon Complexity or Chaos Theory (see for example Gleik,1987) to justifiably capture holographically, semiotically, kaleidoscopically, and semantically the meaning of the respondents’ childhood political memory. All is perhaps in constant flux and vacillation, an experimental music video rather than still black and white photograph if we are to coin a metaphor for the subjective experience. We therefore believe that our agenda for further research must be contextualized within this milieu called “postmodern sensibility” as an era ripe with theoretical perspectives able to address complex systems rather than reduce phenomena to “rabbit holes”—be they of shape structural functionalist or Neo-Marxists. REFERENCES Adorno, T. (1991). Freudian theory and the pattern of fascist propaganda. In J.M. Bernstein (Ed.) The culture industry: Selected essays on mass culture. London: Routledge. Chomsky, N. (1989). Necessary illusions. Thought control in democratic societies. Boston, MA: South End Press. Feinberg, W., & Soltis, J.F. (1992). School and society (2nd ed.). New York: Teachers College Press. Gleick, J. (1987). Chaos. Making a new science. New York: Viking Press Gramsci, A. (1992). Hegemony and separation of powers. Prison notebooks. European perspectives series. New York: Columbia University Press. Habermas, J. (1971). Knowledge and human interest. Boston:Beacon Press. Horkheimer, M. (1974). Eclipse of reason. New York: Continuum Kelly, G.P., & Altbach, P.G. (1986). Comparative education: Challenge and response. In Philip G. Altbach & Gail P. Kelly (Eds.), New approaches to comparative education. Chicago: Chicago University Press. Marcuse, H. (1964). One-dimensional man. Boston: Beacon Press. McClelland, D. (1961). The development of social maturity. New York: Irvington Publishers. Orwell, G. (1992). Nineteen eighty-four. New York: Alfred Knopf. Parenti, M. (1993). Inventing reality: The politics of the mass media. New York: St. Martin’s Press. Paulston, R.G. (1993). Mapping discourse in comparative education texts. Compare, 23(2), pp.101-114. Rostow, W. W. (1971). Politics and the stages of growth. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Posted by Dr. AZLY RAHMAN at 10/28/2005 11:21:00 AM
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- Dr. AZLY RAHMAN
- AZLY RAHMAN is an educator, academic, international columnist, and author of nine books on Malaysia and Global Affairs. He grew up in Johor Bahru, Malaysia and holds a Columbia University doctorate in international education development and Master’s degrees in six areas: education, international affairs, peace studies communication, fiction and non-fiction writing. Twitter @azlyrahman.