Sunday, November 28, 2010


Copyright © 2004 José Cossa

In Continuity and Change in Political Socialization in Poland, Slomczynski and Shabad argue, in a social reproduction theory fashion, that

Elites in nondemocratic and democratic regimes, in revolutionary and traditional societies, seek to reproduce through both informal and formal political socialization processes, the core values that underlie the prevailing political and economic order. Elites in newly established regimes, in particular, actively strive to shape the values and norms of young generations as they confront the cultural legacies, and often the leaders and political forces, of the past.

The article gauges the relative levels of support for democracy and a market economy – the new political and economic order – among three groups in post-communist Poland: Students aged 13-14 and corresponding “cohorts” of teachers and parents. Slomczynski and Shabad (a) compare political and economic orientations by concentrating on intergenerational differences rather than intraschool or intrafamilial processes of political socialization; (b) examine levels of and determinants of support for democracy by focusing on the principles of political equality, the legitimacy of the expression of group (even narrow ‘special’) interests, and the use of competitive elections for selecting government leaders and ensuring that they are held accountable to the public.

Their working definition of liberal democracy has at its core the principles of political equality, group representation, political pluralism, and governmental accountability.

The study is nomothetic and utilizes statistical method by conducting an extensive exploratory factor analysis of questionnaire items. They assessed mean differences between groups and tested for its significance at P<.05, e.g., students were less supportive of democracy than parents (that means that the difference between average scores for each item is statistically significant or P<.05[1]). Also, the authors examined the external validity of the prodemocracy and promarket scales.

Research question: To what extent do students, teachers, and parents agree with these core elements of liberal democracy and a market economy; and, to what degree do the three groups differ in terms of their political and economic orientations.

Null Hypothesis: All three groups will exhibit similar patterns of inconsistent values characteristic of periods of radical social change.

Hypothesis 1: Students are more likely than teachers or parents to favor change because the emergent ideology of democratic capitalism, as conveyed by political elites and the mass media, has a greater impact on youths than on adults. [Findings did not support; however, period effects nonetheless are evident in the ‘hybrid’ pattern of beliefs by all three groups]

Hypothesis 2: Since students have negligible personal experience on which to reject the past regime, they are more likely than adults to be affected by the political instability and economic insecurity of the transition era, and thus to be less supportive of systematic change. As for differences between teachers and parents, we expect teachers to favor systemic change more than parents since civics education requires a better understanding of democracy and a market economy. [Findings did support. Teachers tended to be the most supportive of systemic change overall, and adults were substantially more supportive of democratic principles and less positive toward a market economy than students. Thus, the pattern of intergroup differences depended upon whether the change was political or economic in nature.]

Further assessment: The relative impact of certain key determinants of support for democracy and the market among students, teachers, and parents focusing on two widely researched sets of variables known to affect political socialization. [1] Psychological dispositions involving (a) valuation of self-direction versus conformity, (b) authoritarian-conservatism versus open-mindedness, and (c) resistance to change versus acceptance of innovation; and [2] social structural characteristics and educational level strongly related to (a) one’s self-interest and hence (b) to one’s political and economic preferences. [Findings did support; however, these individual-level characteristics, while not easily manipulable, are not so closely linked to political and economic orientations as to foreclose the influence of schools and other agents of socialization on adolescents, as well as of political leaning on the part of both students and adults from a variety of experiences in informal and institutional settings. The effects of both social structural and psychological attributes of individuals, as well as of familial values, may well become stronger should the normative and institutional features of Polish society become more stable. But in the short term, other determinants and agents of socialization have considerable room to affect the political and economic orientations of younger Poles, e.g., schools, mass media, church, and students’ own experiences with political authority.]

The article has the following outline:

A.    Data

Data consisted of a sample of 295 students and 53 teachers. Data were gathered through questionnaires administered to teachers; TRIADS 1993 data file (surveys in which respondents were students and parents); the analogous file, TRIADS 1978, that contained data for students and their parents gathered toward the end of the Edward Gierek’s rule and prior to the formation of solidarity; and, 1993 data from a national sample of Polish adults from which data was extracted on parents of children ages 12-14.

B.    Aggregate Level Support: For Democracy and a Market Economy

C.    Intergroup Comparisons

Differences between parents and students in their degree of support for democracy were smaller, but still significant.

D.    Psychological Dispositions and Support for Democracy and a Market Economy

D1. Measurements of Self-Direction, Authoritarian-Conservatism, and Resistance to Change

D2. Intergroup Comparisons of Psychological Dispositions

D3. The Impact of Psychological Dispositions on Support for Democracy and a Market Economy

E.    The Relative Impact of Position in the Social Structure on Support for Democracy and a Market Economy

F.    Conclusion: Implications for Political Socialization

The study shows that at this time of systemic transformation neither the cultural legacy of the past nor the emergent ideology of democratic capitalism holds sway.

The authors state that their findings and interpretations argue for longitudinal and especially panel studies to investigate systematically the pattern and determinants of political and economic orientations of groups involved in political socialization. Only in such a way, they assert, can we achieve a better understanding of both continuities and changes in the process and outcomes of political learning in societies undergoing profound transformation.

[1] Usually a statistical application will give the value of P in a chart.
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