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Overview & Agents of Socialization & Isolation

Overview & Agents of Socialization & Isolation
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  • 0:01 Agents
  • 0:28 Socialization
  • 2:11 Isolation
  • 4:06 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you will explore how agents, including yourself, interact with social norms through the processes of socialization and isolation. Then, test your understanding with a brief quiz.

Agents

Okay, check this out - you are an agent. Yes, you are an agent. But not like James Bond. Not a secret agent. In sociology, an agent is an individual, specifically a person who exists within a structure. So, you, as an intelligent individual within our society, are an agent. Within society, agents interact in certain ways to pass on social norms and expectations.

Socialization

In a society, people mix and mingle and spread their beliefs. This process is called socialization, or the lifelong process of inheriting or spreading social norms, customs, and beliefs. This process is something that each person, each agent, spends their entire life learning. In short, socialization is the way that a group teaches each member the rules and skills to participate in that society. Think of our society. There are important rules about public behavior. Shake hands when you meet someone. Don't use your cell phone at the dinner table. Don't tuck your pants into your socks. These rules are explained and reinforced throughout our lives.

If society is the structure, then each individual within that society is an agent and expresses their power as an agent by choosing to accept or reject the rules. These expressions of individual choice are called agency. Therefore, agents play a very important role in socialization. On one hand, the agent has to choose to accept the rules and customs of their society. On the other hand, agents must choose to enforce those rules in society and teach them to new members.

Agents who are key figures in enforcing social rules are called socializing agents. Some of the most important socializing agents are family members because they are responsible for teaching children social rules. Friends, co-workers, and people within the government or mass media are also important socializing agents who re-affirm correct social behaviors on a daily basis.

Isolation

Socialization refers to the process of maintaining social norms and expectations. But what happens when someone chooses to break those rules? The result is usually isolation, the lack of social interaction with a person, group, or society. People who do not live by social rules are isolated from society, meaning that most people will not associate with them. This happens in every society. Imagine if you saw someone running down the street wearing a suit of armor, yelling 'Free the dragons.' Would most people in our society freely associate with that person, or just run away?

As with socialization, agents have an important role in isolation. Isolation is one of the key tools that a society uses to teach social norms, so it is important for agents in that society to isolate the people or groups who break the rules. If the members of society isolate someone, that person's behavior is shown to be incorrect and not within social expectations. However, if enough agents choose not to isolate that person, then the power of isolation is lost, and that person's actions become part of normal society.

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