Cooley, Karl Marx and socialization

Cooley, Karl Marx and socialization

Ahmad Faraz

About a hundred years ago, Charles Horton Cooley, a symbolic interactionist, concluded that the self is part of how society makes us human. He said our sense of self develops from interaction with others.
( Excerpted from Sociology: A Down-To-Earth Approach ).

It is said that before the agricultural revolution there was less social issues compared to the later era. One reason for that was that there wasn’t a sense of ownership before the agricultural revolution. People were dependent mainly on hunting and gathering food which was considered the only source of their livelihood. And they were very less concerned about terrain or in the ownership of land. With the passage of time, they started marking land as their possession and launched agitation against each other by complaining of unequal distribution, injustice etc.

If we observe this on the basis of Cooley’s theory, we see a huge change in the attitudes of people before and after the agricultural society. We find a fair, polite and peaceful folks before this era and peoples having entirely opposite features after this period. Why? Because it depends on the way of socialization people have in their society i.e a person grows up in a society having negative influence will have more pessimistic features and vice versa.

In today’s world, there are many factors which play a pivotal role in the process of socialization. Advanced technology is one of them; it brings a variety of cultures, traditions and thoughts into one platform. It helps us come across a variety of perspectives, views and ides that are the building blocks of socialization. This allows us to differentiate identify between the dark and light, peace and chaos. This correct identification takes us to the correct route of socialization. But it does not mean that those who have the opportunity to avail modern technology will be on the correct route of socialization; rather it actually depends on the way of using it.

Another aspect which engrossed us is that every human prefers living in a civilized society. There will be no one who wish to reside in a uncouth society – and if ‘every individual’ wishes to live in a peaceful and prosperous society, why we still have lack of a civilized group of people? Why we still have deficiency of civilized society? Many reasons in many ways can be stated but one suitable reason is what Karl Marx said; unequal distribution of resources and due to this conflict arises which fade away peace from society.

Suppose a person born in Pakistan but soon after his birth he is taken to somewhere in Africa and he grows up there. With no doubt, he will follow African culture. Because when we born we don’t have any idea of who we were! We even don’t know that we were a he or she. But gradually a sense of self develops and we start mixing socially with others. How this aspect of “humanness” develops?

It is fascinating that a person with no idea (when born) later becomes a Muslim, a Hindu and a Christian etc. A person who even doesn’t have idea of the class system later is categorized into capitalist and the working class. An individual who is unaware of the place where he was born becomes a patriot citizen later on.
Cooley responded such queries by saying that “our sense of self develops from interaction with others”. His theory is summarized in three elements as
we imagine how we appear to those around us. For example, we may think that others perceive us as witty or dull. Secondly, We interpret others’ reactions. We come to conclusion about how others evaluate us. And lastly, We develop a self-concept. How we interpret others’ reactions to us frames our feelings and ideas about ourselves. In a nutshell, this theory proposed that how an individual socialized is merely depend on how he/she is socially mix up with others. Keeping in view the theory of Cooley, just think over the conflict theory of Karl Marx who proposed that society is an arena of social inequality – and because of inequality conflict arises. It means the place where human socialized is a place of social inequality! And if ‘self’ is part of how society makes us human, the society we are living only makes us human with inequality, injustice and many other social issues instead of having a positive approach towards life and it is challenging to have optimistic thoughts within the chasm of dismality.


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