Individual and Society: Socialization, Education, Violence

Mowgli, the main character of Rudyard Kipling’s famous book, was abandoned by his parents and brought up by a pack of wolves in the jungle. Nevertheless he learned how to speak (at least the animals’ language), how to understand, and how to empathize. In other words, he became a human. Unfortunately, such an uplifting story could never be true in the real world. Social science tells us that only a human, or more precisely only a human society, is able to turn a crying and screaming baby into a (wo)man. How does this happen? How do we learn to speak, to think, and to understand others – and ourselves? Why is it that even total strangers share similar perceptions of what is good and what is bad? Why are the things which are natural for us strange to people brought up and educated in different countries, or in different times, or, more broadly, by different societies? Why do we cooperate with each other and create groups, families, schools, states, and sometimes even unite with each other to change these groups – that is, to do politics? What does it mean to say that “society” made us who we are? What is this “society” – parents, teachers, the institutes of education, state officials? To put it another way, by who and how do we become educated?

This course will propose answers to these and others questions. It is devoted to the process of making the individual a part of society, a process called “socialization” by sociologists. In the first part of the course we will consider the different explanations for this process offered by sociologists, anthropologists, and physiologists. In the second part, we will discuss not just socialization, but also education and pedagogy. We will ask, for example, if education always presupposes coercion and suppression, or whether “free” education is ever possible? We will also consider the merits and drawbacks of discipline as an educational strategy. Finally, the third part of the course will be devoted to political socialization. How do people, especially children and adolescents, learn to think about politics and become active citizens, and how do adults react to the political participation of children? While the course will mainly involve discussions of texts in sociology, anthropology, political science, and psychology, we will also explore works of literature, videos, movies, games, and public debates.

Svetlana Erpyleva:

Svetlana Erpyleva is a sociologist, and a researcher with the Public Sociology Laboratory (PS Lab). She holds a PhD degree in Social Sciences from the University of Helsinki. Her dissertation was devoted to the political socialization of civic activists in Russia. She is the author of articles on political socialization, political involvement, and political culture in Russia and Ukraine and co-author of the collective monograph «Politics of Apoliticals» (2015, in Russian). She took part in research projects on civil society, protest movements, and war in post-communist world. Her primary field of research is a research on children and youth, political socialization, and biographical analysis.