Practice Question – According to Mead, ”We play a key role in our own socialisation.” [UPSC 2019]

Approach – Introduction, Explain and interlink his theories of (Mind, Self and Society), Explain I and Me concept in the context of socialisation, Critique.



Socialisation is a processes with the help of which a living organism is changed into a social being. It is a process through which the younger generation learns the adult role which it has to play subsequently. It is a continuous process in the life of an individual and it continues from generation to generation. Socialisation is heavily centred upon the development of the concept of self. How a sense of self emerges—the awareness that the individual has a distinct identity, separate from other? This problem of the emergence of self is a much-debated one. This is because the most prominent theories about child development emphasise different aspects of socialisation.



Sigmund Freud’s theory of Socialisation

Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, believed that basic biological instincts combine with societal factors to shape personalities. Freud posited that the mind consists of three parts that must interact properly for a person to function well in society. If any one of the three parts becomes dominant, personal and social problems may result. The three parts are the id, the superego, and the ego.

  1. IdAccording to Freud, the id develops first. A newborn’s mind consists only of the id, which is responsible for the satisfaction of physical desires. The id represents a human being’s most primitive desires, and a person ruled only by the id would do everything strictly for his or her own pleasure, breaking societal norms in the process and risking punishment.
  2. Superego: As children move from infancy into childhood, their minds develop a superego, or conscience, which encourages conformity to societal norms and values. Someone with a hyperactive superego would be confined within a too-rigid system of rules, which would inhibit his or her ability to live normally.
  3. EgoA healthy mind also consists of the ego, or the part of the mind that resolves the conflicts between the id and the superego. Normally, the ego balances the desires of the id and superego, but when it fails, a person may have difficulty making decisions, which can lead to behavioral problems.


Cooley’s theory of The Looking-Glass Self

According to Charles Horton Cooley, this concept of self develops through a gradual and complicated process which continues throughout life. He pointed out that when we refer to the self, when we use the word T (the social self is referred to by such words as I, me, mine and myself; the individual distinguishes his ‘self from that of others), we usually not referring to our physical body. We use the word T to refer to opinions, desires, ideas, feelings, or evaluations of others with whom we interact. Whether one is intelligent, average or stupid, attractive or ugly, these and many other ideas of the self are learned from the reactions of our associates. Even, the elementary knowledge that one tends to be fat or thin, tall or short is a compar­ative judgment based on the opinions of others. This process of discovering the nature of the self from the reactions of others has been labelled the looking-glass self by Cooley. Looking-glass self simply means how we see ourselves through the eyes of other people. The idea of looking-glass seems to have been taken from Thackeray’s book Vanity Fair in which it is said: “The world is a looking glass and gives back to every man the reflection of his own face.”


G H Mead’s I and Me (Theory of Social Behaviourism) 

Sociologist George Herbert Mead believed that people develop self-images through interactions with other people. He argued that the Self, which is the part of a person’s personality consisting of self-awareness and self-image, is a product of social experience. He outlined four ideas about how the self develops:

  1. The Self Develops Solely Through Social Experience. Mead rejected Freud’s notion that personality is determined partly by biological drives.
  2. Social Experience Consists Of The Exchange Of Symbols. Mead emphasized the particularly human use of language and other symbols to convey meaning.
  3. Knowing Others’ Intentions Requires Imagining The Situation From Their Perspectives. Mead believed that social experience depends on our seeing ourselves as others do, or, as he coined it, “taking the role of the other.”
  4. Understanding The Role Of The Other Results In Self-Awareness. Mead posited that there is an active “I” self and an objective “me” self. The “I” self is active and initiates action. The “me” self continues, interrupts, or changes action depending on how others respond.


Durkheim’s theory of collective representation

In his theory of ‘collective representation’, Durkheim insisted that the individual becomes socialised by adopting the behaviour of his group. He maintained that the individual’s thought and behaviour are determined by collective representation. By collective representation, he meant the body of experiences, a system of ideas, patterns of behaviour, attitudes and values held in common by a group of people. Durkheim’s main interest in the relationship of the individual to the group was the group control over the individual. For him, sociali­sation is a one-way process because he focussed his attention on how society develops and moulds the individual to fit into the group. Durkheim’s conception left little room for individual’s initiative and freedom in the process of socialisation. This is a great weakness of his theory of collective representation. Durkheim did not recognise any role of the individual in the process of socialisation. How do these representations become a part of the individual or how does collective representation exert pressure over the individual is not fully explained by Durkheim. 



Because socialization is so important, scholars in various fields have tried to understand how and why it occurs, with different scholars looking at different aspects of the process. Their efforts mostly focus on infancy, childhood, and adolescence, which are the critical years for socialization, but some have also looked at how socialization continues through the life course. Socialization is the process whereby we learn to become competent members of a group. Primary Socialization is the learning we experience from the people who raise us. In order for children to grow and thrive, caregivers must satisfy their physical needs, including food, clothing, and shelter. Caregivers must also teach children what they need to know in order to function as members of a society, including norms, values, and language. If children do not receive adequate primary socialization, they tend not to fare well as adults.



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