Clausen (1968) defines socialization as the “means by which social and cultural continuity are attained” (p. 5).


Clausen (1968) defines socialization as the “means by which social and cultural continuity are attained” (p. 5). This implies that socialization is in fact a lifelong process through which humans inherit and circulate personal and cultural traits including norms, ideologies, and customs. It is the process through which human interaction and education take place. Infants acquire the required knowledge and skills to function as members of a society through socialization (Billingham, 2007, p. 336). It is an integral learning process that occurs through human interaction. Sociologists normally analyze socialization from five major perspectives namely functional, symbolic interaction, conflict, rational choice, post modernist perspectives.

Functionalism, also called functionalist perspective, views all aspect of a human society, including socialization as being interdependent with each other. It is this interdependence that enables a society to function as a whole (Gerber & Macionis, 2010, p. 14). Famous social theorists associated with functionalism include Emile Durkheim, Herbert Spencer and Auguste Comte. A common example provided by functionalist’s is the role the government plays in provision of education to its citizen’s children while parents pay taxes to enable the government or state continue providing such core services. In a functional perspective, socialization occurs when all parts of the society work perfectly to produce order and productivity.

Symbolic interaction perspective is largely attributed to the works of George H. Mead, an American philosopher, though the whole concept can be traced to Max Weber’s claim that humans behave according to their peculiar interpretation of the world. The perspective asserts that people first attach meanings to symbols then interact with others according to their interpretation of the symbols. For example socialization occurs through verbal conversations which employ words as symbols.

The conflict perspective originated from Karl Marx’s writings that addressed class struggles in the society. Unlike other sociological perspectives such as functionalist and symbolic interaction that focus on societal attributes that positively contribute towards its stability, this perspective views the negative aspects of human socialization (Gerber & Macionis, 2010, p. 15). Conflict perspective encourages change in the society by all means including social revolution in a bid to eliminate the status quo in an ever changing world. Socialization is dictated by a social order imposed on poor and weak people by rich and powerful individuals. Attributes such as democracy, humanitarian efforts, and civil rights are considered as capitalistic efforts aimed at controlling the masses rather than preservation of social order.

Rational choice theory is a theoretical paradigm commonly used in social and economic studies. Friedman (1953) gives a concise definition of rational choice as the natural impulse for individuals to balance costs against benefits for every action they perform in order to arrive at a choice that provides the greatest advantage (p. 15). Rational choice perspective views socialization as an economic interaction in which individuals seek to maximize benefits at the lowest costs possible. Common patterns of behavior emerge in the society as a result of this kind of cost versus benefit interaction.

The post modern theoretical perspective is opposed to modern ways of socialization such as formal knowledge, sciences, realism, materialism, and dogmatism among others. Post modern theorists believe that what many perceive as realities of life are actually social constructs which are subject to change as the society evolves. The perspective is also opposed to binary classifications in the society such as male and female, black and white races, and straight versus gay relations among others. Social realities which govern human socialization, according to post modernism, are never static but subject to change since there is no absolute truth (Krug & Krug, 1993). Post modern ideas have largely influenced many aspects of human interaction such as in business and marketing, law, and religion since the beginning of the 21st century.

Through these perspectives, sociologists are able to come up with explanations on specific aspects of human social interactions. The perspectives seek to explain behavior patterns and beliefs in the society through theoretical frameworks that address concepts such as the functional relationships between different aspects of the society, the role of symbols in human interaction and learning processes, control of the weak by the elite, and post modern liberal ideas.


Billingham, M. (2007). Sociological perspectives. In Stretch, B. & Whitehouse, M. (Eds.),Helath and Social Care Book 1 (pp. 336). Oxford: Heinemann.

Clausen, J. A. (Ed.). (1968). Socialization and society. Boston: Little Brown and Company.

Friedman, M. (1953). Essays in positive economics. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Gerber, J. & Macionis, L. M. (2010). Sociology (7th ed.). Toronto: Pearson Canada.

Krug, L. D. & Krug, E. L. (1993). The new debate: Post modern analysis of the debate activity.Retrieved from