Open access peer-reviewed chapter

Socialization from the Point of View of Postnonclassical (Universum) Sociological Theory of Rationality

Written By

Dmitry O. Trufanov

Submitted: 10 June 2017 Reviewed: 17 January 2018 Published: 20 June 2018

DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.74130

From the Edited Volume

Socialization - A Multidimensional Perspective

Edited by Rosalba Morese, Sara Palermo and Juri Nervo

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The chapter is focused on the theoretical perspective of analyzing the process of socialization from the standpoint of the postnonclassical (universum) rationality theory. Rationality is defined as the cognitive self-reference of a society, a recursive layer of social reality, reflecting its existence and development via the means of consciousness and thinking. Socialization is considered as a process of mastering culture, the former having rational and irrational sides. The rational side is connected with the individual’s acquisition of the ability to reflect reality discretely, normatively, symbolically, and reflexively. These abilities are necessary conditions to enter the world of human society culture. The irrational side is expressed in the process of the needs’ socialization, during which the individual’s extra-subjective needs in emotional satisfaction are transformed into orientations toward experiencing certain emotional states associated with the possibilities of satisfying needs in a particular society and culture. An important result of the socialization process is the formation of a system of the individual’s value orientations. The rational level of this system consists of orientations that have become the subject of the individual’s conscious choice. The irrational level consists of orientations to value experiences; these are the individual’s emotional experiences of his/her relationships with reality.


  • rationality
  • socialization
  • postnonclassical approach
  • universum
  • sociological theory of rationality
  • reflexivity

1. Introduction

Socialization in the broader meaning is the process of absorbing the culture of a particular society which is done by the individual during his/her whole life. Such an understanding of socialization can be traced in various sociological approaches to its explanation. During the socialization process, the individual acquires a set of supra-biological behavioral programs that form and support the social order of a particular society and its constituent parts. This social process’s effectiveness depends largely on the stability of the social order, the ability, and the willingness of the society members to comply with the underlying norms and rules.

In a narrower meaning, socialization is an instrument of including the individual in various social spaces—organizations, groups, and communities. The condition to be abode by the individual to enter a particular social space is his/her acceptance of a certain behavioral culture—norms and rules that ensures social order and regulates social processes in this space.

Along with this, socialization is a part of any social technology aimed at creating a certain social behavior of specific target groups or communities. As a part of social technology, socialization is a purposeful fostering of values, norms, meanings in a specific target social group with the goal of forming certain patterns of response to any social incentives. These patterns are advertising campaigns designed to generate demand for various goods and services in target audiences; political campaigns that shape the electorate’s political behavior to support a particular politician; social technologies for the creation and awakening of protest groups in different countries in order to perturb political elites of these states. To make buyers choose a particular product or service on a regular basis, to make the electorate support a certain candidate for political office, and to make the protesters actively express their dissatisfaction with the current power in the state, these groups of people should be socialized in certain systems of values and norms that are to start regulating their behavior.

Thus, the term “socialization” expresses both the general process of the individual’s entry into the world of human society culture and concrete ways of including the individual in various subcultural spaces with specific norms and values. In all these cases, socialization acts as a process of certain cultural content internalization; in other words, this content is a set of norms and values that guide the individuals’ social behavior.

The key feature of the human society culture, from our point of view, is its rationality. It is this feature that distinguishes the world of human culture from the world of nature, human society from other associations. In this connection, socialization is the process of mastering rationality, which is similar to mastering culture.

To discuss this thesis in detail, the rationality must be defined and its essential features must be revealed. Here, we encounter the most complex theoretical problem—the task of understanding and interpretation of “rationality” as a category. In this chapter, I did not set the task to analyze critically various sociological concepts of rationality, since they have been sufficiently covered in the precedent publications [1, 2]. In this chapter, I will pay attention to the new theoretical approach that can be productive in focusing both on studying rationality through sociology and a traditional sociological problem such as the socialization process. This approach is the universal (universum) sociological theory, based on the principles of postnonclassical approach in sociology. This theory is a product of the Russian scientific school, well-established in the traditions of Russian social and philosophical thought. The author of this approach is Prof. V.G. Nemirovsky, who presented the main theoretical principles of this paradigm in his publications [3, 4].

Within the framework of the universum approach, the author of this chapter proposes a postnonclassical (universum) sociological theory of rationality [5, 6]. The basic notions in this theory that are necessary to explain the culture of society and socialization as culture mastering process are “rationality” and “irrationality” (here, we introduce the notions but the basic postulates of the conception will be described in more detail in the section “Theoretical approach”).

Rationality in this theory means the cognitive self-reference of the human society or its constituent parts (social groups, institutions, and organizations). “Cognitive self-reference” implies the process which is used by any society in the course of its existence and development to generate a recursive layer of reality, reflecting the very existence of society through various symbolic systems. These are symbols of natural or artificial language, which are represented at the level of collective consciousness, e.g., verbally formulated norms and rules of social behavior, knowledge, and collective opinions, and values expressed in various symbols and operating in diverse spheres of human activity—science, religion, professional activity, and in everyday life. This recursive layer is a symbolic expression of the space of culture of human society.

Irrationality from the point of view of our approach is a set of extra-cognitive (inconscient) components of social behavior that go beyond any verbal and symbolic shape. These components are emotional states, effects, habits, and other behavioral phenomena that do not become the subject of the individuals’ reflexive activity, though they appear and become significant for the individual in the process of social and group interactions. In society, they are represented at the level of the social unconsciousness [7]. Researchers call these components using different terms: collective feelings [8], emotional values [9], implicit underlying assumptions [10], value experiences [11], etc.

In the light of postnonclassical (universum) sociological theory of rationality, socialization is a process involving rational and irrational components. The rational components differ and in that they are apprehended by a social subject and expressed through a natural or artificial language, while the irrational components do not become an object of apprehension and have no symbolic expression. For example, the rational component of any social organization (university, supermarket, sports school, industrial enterprise, etc.) is presented in the form of charters, documents, instructions, regulations, orders, collective opinions, and other symbolic expressions that shape the existence and development of the organization. The irrational component of a social organization is expressed in the emotions, feelings, senses of its members that they experience in relation to this very organization: its goals, its functioning and corporate norms, their own status in the organization, and other aspects. Both rational and irrational components affect the behavior of the organization members.

In our approach, socialization is a process involving rational and irrational components. The rational component is connected with the internalization of the symbolically designed and expressed in the language products of the activity of society culture. During this process, the individual’s consciousness forms some structures through which he/she acquires the ability to reflect reality cognitively.

The irrational component is in the process of the individual’s appropriation of special emotional states, when the initial needs for emotional satisfaction, inherent in a person as a representative of the biological species, are transformed into specific orientations toward absolutely precise values [11]. This is the process known in sociology and psychology as the needs’ socialization. Even Plato once mentioned this process in his philosophical works: “Thirsting itself will never be a desire for anything other than that of which it naturally is a desire – for drink, and hunger itself is a natural desire to eat,” and further: “Every desire itself is directed only at what in each individual case corresponds to its nature. Desire for such and only such quality is something adscititious” [12]. Thus, in the course of socialization, the individual becomes oriented toward certain forms and methods of satisfying needs. For example, the need for an experience of satiety with food, initially nonobjective in an infant, during the socialization process is transformed in the orientation toward the craving for certain dishes that are cooked in a particular culture.

Thus, during the socialization process, the individual irrationally develops orientations toward value experiences related to the corresponding needs, be they physiological, social, or spiritual. On one hand, they are preconditioned by the individual’s inner motivations and personal characteristics, and on the other hand, by the social circumstances, the peculiarities of the culture in which the individual acts. Value orientations differ in direction and have a direct impact on the individual’s social behavior.

Later in this chapter, we will discuss the theoretical perspective of considering socialization from the standpoint of the postnonclassical (universum) sociological theory of rationality. In the author’s opinion, the conclusions drawn allow presenting the socialization process more thoroughly—in the unity of rational and irrational components.


2. Theoretical approach

The need for a sociological comprehension of rationality became topical at the end of the nineteenth and in the early twentieth centuries, during the period of positivistic secularization of “reason,” when the understanding of the reason in its abstract form as a transcendent subject was transformed into its interpretation as a precise characteristic of human activity and behavior. As Davydov notes, in this period there was a substitution of the “divine reason” for human reason. Now reason was not understood as transcendental will, but as an ability of simple individual to act expediently, in sound mind and memory [13]. This understanding of reasonableness as expediency formed the basis of the rationality theory by Weber, who proposed one of the first sociological theories of rationality. Further attempts at sociological comprehension of rationality have spawned its numerous interpretations, based on various characteristics, often far too much disconnected. Such characteristics were all sorts of particular content of reality, as well as different variants of their synthesis—expediency, efficiency, conformity to law, theoretical apprehension and order, normativity (standardization, conventionality), ability to set targets, truth, autonomy of the acting subject, etc. [14]. Consequently, the rationality reduction to one or another of the above-mentioned characteristics in many cases does not stand up to criticism: the choice of attributes is often arbitrary based on a priori knowledge.

Thus, sociology formed theoretical pluralism in solving the problem of rationality, when there are simultaneous and different, often conflicting, explicit schemes that use different terminology systems to describe rationality. In the context of conflicting characteristics and explicit schemes of rationality, the scientific status of the “rationality” concept is blurred: it becomes an instrument of subjective assessments of certain phenomena and facts as positive or negative. The category “rational” then expresses positive assessments, and the category “irrational” expresses the negative ones [15, 16, 17, 18]. It is natural that under these circumstances, rationality is declared a pseudo-conceptual notion that expresses not the object’s properties but its significance in the human dimension of reality [19], while the ultimate result of the study of the rationality problem is its debatability [20, 21].

To overcome these difficulties, we should take an advantage of modern cognitive models that marked the transition of sociology to the postnonclassical stage of development. Such is the diatropic cognitive model [22], which was included in the theoretical foundation of the universum sociological paradigm [23]. This paradigm was introduced by Nemirovsky and has been developing within his scientific school. Social reality is considered here as a garden, a fair in which all possible objects and processes are presented in their diversity. Through the comparison of the most diverse objects of reality, the diatropic approach explores the general properties of these varieties and finds out “refrains” [24], the invariant qualities inherent in all the objects being compared. The result is knowledge about the general properties of various objects. This knowledge reveals the patterns of these objects’ existence and development.

Later in this section of the chapter, I will use a more complex scientific language. It allows us to reduce the text volume and briefly describe the main theoretical positions, from the point of which the process of socialization will be examined in the next section of the chapter. For more detailed acquaintance with these theoretical provisions and their justification, the interested reader can refer to the author’s previous publications, the references to which are given at the end of the chapter.

Based on the application of the diatropic cognitive model to the study of various objects, Nemirovsky formulated the diatropic principle of a minimal universum with a minimum number of characteristics necessary to describe the structure and dynamics of any developing system [25]. According to a brief summary of this principle, any developing system relies on two polar (complementary) elements; in the development process, it forms three hierarchical levels, each of which passes at least five stages and forms seven evolutionary strata in the process of change. Within the framework of this approach, we offer a universum sociological theory of rationality, which sets prerequisites to regard socialization as a social process further. The rationale for this theory was thoroughly analyzed in our previous papers; so here, I will give only its main points, which are crucial background for our study.

A diatropic analysis of various concepts of rationality makes it possible to distinguish the characteristic of the cognitive shape of the reality contents as an invariant trait that in one form or another is present in all rationality conceptions. To prove this, it is sufficient to consider all the concepts of rationality in accordance with the theoretical assumptions of the postnonclassical sociological approach, a characteristic feature of which is the use of the complementarity principle [26]. As is well known, this principle assumes the use of binary oppositions to describe the objects of reality, i.e., pairs of opposing concepts that describe an object as integrity. To consider the concepts of rationality from the point of this principle, I shall use the opposition “the cognitive subject—the object cognized.” The complementarity of the object and the subject of cognition lies at the basis of the human culture existence and development. It should be accepted that “there cannot be any ‘purely ontological’ characteristics that would describe the real world without taking into account the degree of this world cognoscibility. It is also clear that there can be no cognition as a purely subjective activity of a person that could be understood without the objective content of cognition” [27].

From this point of view, the concepts of rationality are social objects, the nature of which is conditioned by two bases. One of them is the cognizing subject (researcher), who makes up theoretical postulates and who is the product of the life and social group structures into which he/she is included. This is a well-known property of the researchers: their scientific activity is socially motivated and largely determined by the society in which they live [28]. Another foundation is the object of cognition, i.e., phenomena and connections of reality, which the research defines as rationality. Thus, the concept of rationality is not perceived as a set of theoretical postulates that reveal the meaning of the concept of “rationality,” but rather as a fact of realizing reality through the prism of the ontological and gnosiological characteristics of the cognizing subject. This awareness necessarily requires the use of symbols and, above all, verbal means of the language, which serve as a tool for the cognitive shape of reality. Along with this, such awareness is reflexive in its nature. Many authors (Shvyrev, Demina, Korsgaard, Giddens, et al.) connect rationality, cognition, and reflexivity. It is not accidental as cognition always assumes that the cognizing subject is separated from the object, occupies an external position in relation to it. In this regard, the human culture world, the main above-mentioned characteristic of which is rationality, is a sphere of reflexive reflection of the existence and development of human society.

Thus, the trait of cognitive shape is an essential sign of rationality, which makes it possible to distinguish rationality from irrational phenomena. Rationality in this sense entails a verbal-reflective activity and its result at the same time. This trait acts as a general characteristic of rationality, either in an explicit or an implicit form present in all concepts of rationality, without exception. This trait acts as a universally objective referent of rationality and should be extended to any verbalized reality content (and we have all grounds for doing so). Let us highlight that rationality in the discussed sense is an essential trait separating the cultural world from the natural one, human society from other associations. Irrationality from this point of view is a set of pre-cognitive contents of social reality that go beyond the verbal-reflective level.

This understanding brings us to the following theoretical conclusions:

  1. At the macro level, rationality appears as the cognitive self-reference of the society and its individual components. This is a recursive layer of social reality, reflecting its existence and development via the cognitive means. Let us emphasize that it is an issue of recursion, the effect of describing the system, its objects and processes, which occur within the system itself. This effect is close to the concept of “autopoiesis,” which Luhmann used for the analysis of social systems [29]. This phenomenon is also called the effect of “world duplication,” namely, the allocation of “transcendental reference points and a specific angle of view, which sets the perspective to assess and systematize reality” [30]. The recursive layer of social reality in question, on one hand, reflects the existence and development of social reality via cognitive means, and on the other hand, it is a part of this reality, which does not go beyond it (beyond the limits of social reality, as we know, human thinking does not exist).

    Thus, rationality implies the world duplication. Initially, such an understanding of rationality was posited in the philosophy of the Pythagoreans, where it was viewed as a measure expressing the commensurability of values and establishing the existence of two principles: a measurable quantity and a measuring person [31]. The relationship between these principles which can be expressed by a certain measure, was called rationality; and the relationship which is not expressed by measure, was called irrationality. A written fixation of this interpretation was given in Euclid’s “Elements” [32]. It is of fundamental importance for the discourse on rationality, because it forms a coordinate system for all subsequent interpretations of rationality. The measurable value is objective and has the properties of commensurability and incommensurability of things as they are in reality; a measuring person is rather subjective and indicates a way of reflecting (measuring) these properties by human consciousness.

    Further, this system of coordinates was reproduced in the Weber’s theory of rationality (as an intellectual understanding of reality) and in the majority of following conceptions. Later, as regards scientific understanding of the rationality, its interpretations differed mainly in the measure that determines the commensurability of things and the reality phenomena. Such a measure was designated as a verbal shape (apprehension, the ability to be expressed through words, the ability to be said and to have a name), calculability (the ability to be expressed through count), a logical shape (the ability to be expressed in terms, judgments, inferences, compliance with the laws of the right thinking), reasonableness (conformity to norms, standards, structures of mind, the latter understood in various senses as expediency, normativity, truth, utility, effectiveness, structuredness, correspondence to one or another value (value system), etc.), intelligibility (awareness of the universal: laws of the world existence and development, which are not perceived by senses). The reality contents, expressed by means of these measurements, are considered rational; the ineffable contents, beyond the limits of measurement, are considered irrational.

    The effect of “the world duplication” stipulates the reflexive character of rationality as its basic condition. A common place in the definitions of reflection is the presence of two positions, reflective one and reflected one, which has a distance between them. In this regard, the cognitive self-reference of the society is a reflective process of the group subject of social action, carried out through verbal communication means. The cognitive layer of social reality acts as a reflective attitude toward social life [33]. The results of this reflective process are expressed in the form of social norms, collective opinions, assessments, and behavioral rules that have received verbal shape, as well as in the form of knowledge, information, and other products of the reflective activity of individuals and groups.

  2. At the microlevel (the level of the individual and the small group), rationality is any reflective act (its process and result) of an individual or a group subject of social action, carried out through the verbal means of communication [34]. A necessary condition for the realization of such reflection is a group communication and a group interaction; these are the processes which are described in detail in the theory of symbolic interactionism (Mead, Cooley, et al.).

The general properties of rationality in our understanding can be reduced to the following minimal set:

  1. Discreteness: Disjointed and separated reality reflection is a characteristic for rationality. It is caused by the use of a measuring instrument, which implies distinguishing an elementary measure underlying it (a number, a word, a logical connection, etc.). With the help of such a measure, one is able to single out in the measurement object parts corresponding to the measure. These parts are segments, quantities, and other various qualitative determinations. As a result, the world appears in front of the measuring subject as a structure, i.e., a collection of individual fragments that enter into various relations and form different connections. Irrationality, on the contrary, indicates the existence of an integral, continuous, unstructured reality that is not reduced by the cognizing consciousness to its constituent fragments.

  2. Normativeness: Rationality presupposes the existence of norms and rules for the application of certain means of measuring reality. These rules are a vital condition for the re-use of the measuring instrument (measure), which enables rationality existence in the form of cognitive models shared by many subjects of cognition. A clear illustration of such rules dates back to the above-mentioned Euclid’s “Elements”: “… for a given line there is an infinite number of lines both commensurable and incommensurable, <and> some are commensurable or incommensurable only linearly, others also – to a power. We can now call a given straight line rational, while lines commensurable with it, linearly as well as to a power, and lines commensurable only to a power will be called rational, but the lines incommensurable with it will be called irrational” [35]. Here we have the rule of measuring the lines, following which rationality occurs. Irrationality does not presuppose such measurements and, therefore, neither it is subject to this rule nor it is normative.

  3. Symbolic shape: The allocation of any measure designed to identify the commensurability of reality fragments is realized through its designation by specific symbols—algebraic, geometric, logical, verbal, etc. Rationality is thereby expressed through a symbolic system: a natural or an artificial language. It is evident that the primary symbolic system expressing rationality is the verbal communication system which is the base for formation of artificial languages. Any artificial language is a social convention, the emergence of which is possible under the condition of an already existing system of natural communication which uses a specific system of definitions. Thus, rationality is first and foremost a verbal shape of the reality contents. Irrationality is not symbolically expressed and goes beyond verbal shape of the worldview.

  4. Reflexivity: Rationality has a reflective nature, because it is a process of cognitive self-reference of reality. As it is known, the necessary requirement for reflection is the presence of meta-position in relation to the content being reflected, which reflects this content by linguistic means. Such a meta-position in relation to reality is represented by consciousness comprehending reality, while consciousness remains a part of this reality.

These are the main theses of our approach to understanding rationality, as summarized briefly. This approach to the rationality definition allows us to get over the relativity of the rationality concept in its existing interpretations. The rationality characteristics (expediency, efficiency, normativity, conformity to law, etc.), on which various conceptions are built, appear here as particular aspects of reality, which have received a cognitive reference in the mass consciousness of a particular society. Being devoid of verbal-reflective shape, these aspects are not capable of characterizing specific human behavior, distinguishing it from the instinctive animals’ actions. Along with this, the category of rationality in this approach becomes free of estimates. It fixes the fact of the cognitive shape of the reality contents, refusing to interpret their orientation in terms of certain value systems.

Next, let us consider the process of socialization from the standpoint of the postnonclassical (universum) sociological theory of rationality.


3. Socialization as acquiring rationality

Socialization in human society is intended to practice rationality. This means socialization is the process of teaching an individual to reflect the world discretely, normatively, through symbols, and thus, reflexively; this is the process of mastering the basic tools of the reproduction of the society culture. The discrete reality reflection presupposes the individual mastering of various ways of its measuring, by instruments such as a word, a number, and the ability to establish logical connections. In the process of mastering them, the individual begins to apprehend the world as a structure in the totality of its parts, segments, and elements. Normativity is associated with the acquisition by an individual of the ability to apply norms and rules that establish a social order. Reflection of the world through symbols involves mastering the language, i.e., a symbolic system, being the basic condition for the development of thinking and communication. Reflexivity is the ability of an individual to distinguish oneself from the world, to occupy a meta-position in relation to the world.

As an illustration of these theses, let us think about the socialization of the child, which can be successful only if the child masters rationality is in the aggregate of all its four aspects. So, in the course of interaction with the social environment, the child learns to recognize symbols and use them to define different objects. He/she learns letters, putting them into words, learns numbers, gestures, learns to recognize various iconographic symbols. This is the first experience of the child’s exit beyond the purely biological mode of existence when he/she gets acquainted with the cultural world—that recursive layer of social existence, whose essential feature is rationality. Gradual acquisition of symbols actualizes the child’s ability to use languages—natural (verbal) and artificial (numerical, iconographic, etc.). This, in turn, reveals the surrounding world as a structure, as a collection of parts, where each part has a symbolic designation. So, one does not need any special evidence to assert that without mastering the means of language, such rational structuring of reality remains inaccessible for the child.

Further, the child’s mastery of the norms and rules of social behavior structures the social world for him/her, resulting in understanding what the patterns of tabooed and socially approved behavior are. Finally, the gradual actualization of these abilities creates conditions for the development of the child’s self-consciousness, the appearance in his/her mind of a reflective position that allows one to apprehend one’s own being among other objects of reality. Such reflection is realized from the point of those meanings that are transmitted to the child by the surrounding society culture through the active agents partaking in socialization. Thus, the child becomes proficient in the basic cognitive products of his/her society, which express the basic content of culture, and becomes able to reproduce them in his/her social behavior.

Another example of the process of socialization as the mastery of rationality is the socialization of a new employee in any formal organization—an enterprise, an institution, or a company. In order to acquire the ability to act effectively in the organization, to fulfill their duties, the new employee must become fluent in the system of symbols that is used for communication in the organization and to structure it. The organization may consist of departments, brigades, shifts, and other parts, which are called by the appropriate names. Not having learned the symbols of the organization and the language of the correspondent communication, the employee will not be able to integrate into the organization’s social processes. This statement is particularly relevant for specific organizations in highly specialized industries where special symbolic systems are used.

Next, the new employee is tasked with mastering the normative and value regulators in the organization. This task covers internalizing of the basic rules of social behavior and the values of corporate culture. The systemic effect of the new employee learning about these conditions of the organization’s existence and development is the formation of a special reflexive position allowing him/her to regard himself/herself as the employee of this very organization. The employee separates himself/herself as a company employee from himself/herself as a private person or as a family member and is aware of the differences in these statuses. Under the condition that the new employees acquire these aspects of rationality, their socialization in the organization is successful.

Actualization of the individual’s ability to rational (i.e., discrete, normative, symbolic, and reflective) reproduction of reality is a necessary factor for mastering the societal culture. This is obvious, given that the culture of human society, understood as the total set of the supra-biologic programs of social behavior, is based on these human abilities. In case when the process of socialization does not solve the problem of actualization of the individual’s given abilities, the individual does not acquire the skills necessary to live in human society, the contents of culture become inaccessible to the individual, who remains predominantly a biological being.

Summing it up, acquiring rationality in the course of socialization is a communicative process that can happen exclusively in human society. Outside society, there is no position capable of communication [36]. Rationality is an attribute of social reality that cannot exist beyond its limits. In this sense, rationality is “a totemic symbol of a person’s special position in the existing world” [37], a property that distinguishes the world of culture from the natural world, human society from other associations. In this regard, researchers rightfully consider rationality as the value of culture and civilization [38, 39].


4. Socialization as a communicative process

A necessary condition for mastering rationality in the socialization process are social and group interactions and, more broadly, a person’s ability to communicate [40]. Social communication is a key factor in actualizing the individual’s ability to reflect reality discretely and comprehend the world as a structure. The methods of the reality discrete reflection such as a word, a number, symbols of artificial language systems, are social conventions (agreements) that have been formed during communication. At the heart of these conventions, there are common patterns of activity that most individuals realize in their behavior.

Such properties of rationality as normativity and the reality symbolic reflection also have a social and conventional nature and are the result of group communication. Social norms and symbolic systems (both natural and artificial) are a product of communication in social systems and do not exist outside of them.

Meanwhile, social-group interactions are a necessary condition for reflexivity as a rationality characteristic. Let us consider this process in more detail. It is of fundamental importance for mastering rationality in the course of socialization.

To actualize the reflecting ability in the process of socialization, the individual must acquire the cognitive position, as if located outside of oneself. Thus, the subject is capable of reflection only when he/she is outside the reflected area. This is a position on which the individuals can analyze their own social being using their language and thinking. Such cognitive reflection becomes possible in the course of the group social interactions. Group interactions generate the effect of the “self-duplication,” i.e., the formation of meta-position with respect to the individual’s social activity (the effect of “the observation of the observer” [41]).

This effect of the “self-duplication” becomes possible in the course of socialization by introducing a metasubject in the structure of group communication. This metasubject is at a higher reflective level and reflects on the activity of the first subject. In this case, every social actor acts as a metasubject in relation to other actors. The reciprocal reflection of the plethora of social actors in meta-positions in relation to each other creates a reflective space in which the individual subject acquires the ability to understand their own bases of activity through reflection in the products of the social group’s reflective activity. As Mureiko writes, the organized normalized interaction of social groups provides the opportunity for the individual to identify oneself as a subject and the subject’s self-control [42].

This understanding of the reflexive process has theoretical surmises in sociology and the psychology of behavior. Theorists of symbolic interactionism interpret social interactions as a system of mutual reflection and use for its description another terminology. Mead remarks about the formation of the self (distinguishing human societies from animals), as, in fact, the product of the mutual reflection of social actors carried out through meaningful symbols. In the process of such reflection, one takes the role of the other, which means the process of successively developing stages—games and competitions. As a result, there appears a reflexive set of group conventions that determine the structure of the individual’s self [43].

Similarly, the self is conceived in the theory of the “looking-glass self” by Cooley: the determining meaning for the formation of the social actor’s self is the existence of group assessments and opinions that make the reflective scope of its self-identity [44].

Vygotsky, pointing to the reflexive nature of consciousness, affirms the equality of the mechanisms of self-cognition and the knowledge of others. The individual is aware of oneself insofar as he/she is aware of others, because he/she is aware of himself/herself. Consciousness cannot be directed to itself because it cannot become an irritant to a new reflex. “I am aware of myself only insofar as I am Other to myself, that is I can perceive my own reflexes as new stimuli again and again” [45]. The opportunity to “become Other for oneself” is realized in group interaction—in the cognitive reflection of the actor’s behavior in the group members’ minds. Thus, consciousness is “a kind of social contact with oneself,” a necessary condition of which is social contacts with other actors.

In general, the reflection at the social group level has a mutually directed character and functions as a self-reproducing and self-developing system. In the course of this process, social norms, group values, behavior patterns, language, traditions, and other components that make up the culture of society are formed and consolidated by linguistic means. The cognitive shape of these conventions (their expression by linguistic means) is a manifestation of rationality. This allows us to define the reflexive process in a social group as the cognitive self-reversal nature of social practice.

Thus, communication in a social group is the basic condition for mastering rationality in the socialization process.


5. Value orientations as the socialization effect

One of the key effects of socialization is the formation of the individual’s system of value orientations.

From the point of view of the postnonclassical (universum) approach, the system of the individual’s value orientations looks as follows: Table 1 [46]. The core of the system of value orientations has two interacting elements—rational (conscious) and irrational (unconscious) components. The system forms three levels of orientations: organic orientations based on vital human needs; social orientations based on the individual’s social needs, and spiritual orientations based on the person’s yearn for creativity and self-realization.

Two elementsThree levelsSeven layers (levels)
Irrational and rational levels of value orientationsSpiritual orientationsNeed for self-actualization
(realization of the individual’s goals and abilities)
Esthetic needs
(harmony, order, beauty)
Cognitive needs
(to know, to understand, to explore)
Social orientationsNeed for respect
(achievement of success, approval, recognition, authority)
Needs for belonging and love (belonging to the community, being close to people, being recognized and accepted)
Organic orientationsSecurity needs
(to feel protected, to get rid of fear)
Physiological needs
(hunger, thirst, libido, etc.)

Table 1.

The system of human value orientations.

The system of value orientations is characterized by the existence of seven successively realized layers (levels). The orientation of each layer (level) is based on the corresponding class of needs. The content of the table layers and the classification of needs are given in accordance with Maslow’s hierarchically constructed groups.

Taking into account the existing criticism of Maslow’s needs conception with its mechanistic and incomplete nature, we will give another illustration of the developmental levels of the system of the individual’s value orientations. Let us avail Kohlberg’s concept of moral development. The researcher marked out the levels of person’s moral development based on this person’s attitude to life as a value [47]. He is known to distinguish three levels of the personality moral development: pre-conventional (hedonic), conventional, and post-conventional, in fact, representing three hierarchical levels of the minimum universum of the individual’s value system. They correspond to the seven evolutionary levels of moral development. In addition, Kohlberg identified a zero level, in its content corresponding to the pre-conventional (material-energy) level. At the pre-conventional level of moral development, the main determinants of human behavior are individual organic needs. The conventional (functional-organizational) level refers to role conformism, where the key indicators in the choice of behavior are values based on social needs. The post-conventional (informational) level is characterized by the individual’s self-sufficiency as regards the moral autonomy (the level of spiritual orientations).

In the course of socialization, two basic parts of value orientations are formed, these are rational and irrational levels.

The rational (reflexive) level of the individual’s value orientations is expressed in the individual’s conscious choice of the reality objects in the social environment as values. These are “superficial,” socially conditioned value preferences at the verbal level of the respondent’s consciousness. These preferences, as a rule, express the individual’s conscious (rationalized) representations about utility. These representations reflect current social norms operating in the individual’s environment and are regulated by the individual’s desire to join various social associations through which a person is connected with the society.

The irrational (non-reflective) level of orientations is expressed in the focus on value experiences, meaning the individual’s emotional experiences of his/her relationships with reality. This level, in turn, includes two components (levels): socially-determined and latent. The socially determined level displays the orientation toward value experiences, consistent with the existing social norms [48]. It contains experiences that the respondent likes gaining in some way or other. As it was noted by Durkheim, “… the values, which some parties impress us with what is like the imposed reality, at the same time seem to us desirable things, which we sincerely love and which we aspire to” [49]. Positive emotional connotation of these experiences indicates that they are not an obstacle to establishing and improving social contacts, but, on the contrary, they are conditions that allow such contacts to be created, thus being useful to the individual as a social being. At the irrational, socially-determined level of the individual’s value orientations, there are experiences of needs for activity, communication, assistance to others, love, reason to live, knowledge, freedom and independence, etc.

The latent level is associated with orientations inconsistent with the social norm, but fulfilling their functions in the system motivating the individual’s social behavior. As values here we have experiences of such needs as need for power, control over others, control over negative emotions, need for a patron, conformist behavior, etc. These emotional values, rooted in the person’s mental reality in the form of actual needs, are evaluated negatively from the standpoint of current social norms. In this regard, they hinder effective social interactions, i.e., act as though useless. The latter factor causes the displacement of these orientations to the latent level of the individual’s value-need system. This is the psychological mechanism of repression, well known in the psychoanalytic tradition [50].

This correlation of the socially determined and latent levels of the system of the individual’s value orientations allows us to clarify at the structural level the idea expressed by Gouldner regarding the problem of a person’s alienating in the culture of utilitarianism: “Everything in a person that is not useful must be somehow excluded, or at least it should not manifested, and therefore a person is alienated or detached from a wide range of his/her own interests, needs and abilities” [51]. Thus, as Gouldner concludes, it is formed “unwanted self” as an alienated part of the individual’s personal reality.

Orientations at the rational and irrational levels often do not correspond to each other and, moreover, contradict. This contradiction is the essence of the phenomenon of personal alienation from society and himself/herself. This alienation is rooted in the structure of the individual’s value orientations. Social norms that are accepted in society or in certain social groups prescribe to the individual certain patterns of normative behavior. At the same time, the orientations at the latent irrational level manifest themselves, forcing the individual to violate normative behavior patterns in various forms of deviant behavior.

Thereby, in addition to the individual’s acquaintance with the world of culture, socialization produces the effect of a personal alienating from oneself. At the level of the individual’s value of orientations, this effect shows itself in the existence of socially determined and latent levels of orientations, which have a different relation to existing social norms. The socially determined level of orientations reflects the current norms in the society, while the latent one is based on the individual personal needs whose opportunities to be satisfied are either blocked or severely regulated by society.

Thereupon the problem of the individual’s alienation is also demonstrated at the mass level. As shown by the research results, the mass of socially-determined level of orientations of the Russians turns out to be different for different strata and it changes depending on the features of the value-normative environment of various social groups. Practically in all cases presented in the studies, this indicator corresponds to the first evolutionary layer of the value orientations system. These are organic orientations (in terms of Maslow), so life is estimated by the value of things, status, and other personal characteristics (in Kohlberg’s terms).

The real mass level of value orientations (a set of socially determined and latent ones), in contrast to socially-determined orientations, has a higher rank and is similar among the representatives of different social groups. This indicator corresponds to the second evolutionary layer of the value orientations system—security needs (Maslow), so human life is important because it is a factor in meeting the needs of other people (Kohlberg). At the same time, the parameter of the socially-determined level of orientations in all cases turns out to be lower than the parameter of their real mass level.

These properties of the real mass level of value orientations, apparently, signal the presence of some basic spectrum of the individual’s natural needs for the emotional satisfaction that exist, regardless of the individual’s social life conditions. This is a manifestation of the objective natural laws of the supreme maternal system, which includes people as well. Current social norms in society authorize some individual’s needs and block the others leading to creating the socio-deterministic and latent levels in the structure of its value orientations, though the relationship between these levels has the character of contradiction.


6. Summary

  1. Socialization is a process of acquiring the societal culture and has rational and irrational sides. The rational side is revealed when an individual develops the ability to reflect the world discretely, normatively, through symbols, and thus, reflexively. These abilities lie in the foundation of the culture creation as a set of supra-biological programs of social behavior and are necessary tools for its mastering by a socializing individual.

    The irrational side of socialization is the socialization of needs. This is a process of transforming the original extra-subjective needs of the individual in emotional satisfaction into the orientation toward the experience of certain emotional states connected with the possibilities of satisfying the needs in the conditions of a particular society and culture.

  2. A necessary condition for mastering rationality as a specifically human way of the individual’s being in a culture is social group interaction. Communication in a social group creates conditions for the development of the individual’s abilities to reflect reality discretely, normatively, symbolically and, as a consequence, reflexively. A key role in this process is played by the development of the individual’s ability to reflect. This means an ability to isolate oneself from the world and to acquire the cognitive reflexive position in relation to one’s own social being.

  3. The key effect of the socialization process is the formation of the system of value orientations, which include rational and irrational levels. The first of them is expressed in the individual’s conscious choice of the reality objects represented in the individual’s social environment as values; the second is expressed in the orientations toward value experiences, which represent the states of how emotionally the individual experiences his/her relations with reality. In this system, there is a contradiction between socially approved and socially disapproved orientations. This produces the emergence of the socially determined and latent levels in the system of value orientations, though the relationship between these levels is contradictory.


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Written By

Dmitry O. Trufanov

Submitted: 10 June 2017 Reviewed: 17 January 2018 Published: 20 June 2018