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Over the years, it has been proposed that socialization is fundamental for an individual’s social development. Considering that socialization entails the lifelong process of assimilating and implementing socially established norms and customs, it logically follows that socialization is, in fact, important for any person’s social development. Man lives in a social context; he is inevitably faced with having to interact with others. In fact, in order for a person to develop integrally socialization is a key (especially in today’s highly integrated and globalized world). Today the world bears witness to the consolidation of a multicultural society. Given all of the diverse elements that comprise today’s society, man is constantly reshaping his values, beliefs, attitudes, and overall social development. This is unquestionable, and it also serves to confirm that socialization is important. Throughout the twentieth century, anthropologists and sociologists have ascertained that the ongoing process of socialization is conditioned by a number of social institutions. Socialization affects different ethnic groups differently. In Jay Macleod’s Ain’t No Making It, it may be seen that two groups, the “Hallway Hangers” and the “Brothers”, have different mindsets and exhibit fundamentally different behaviors. The “Hallway Hangers” and the “Brothers” are conditioned differently by stereotypes (that lead to racial discrimination) and the perpetuation of social reproduction patterns; socialization ends up hindering social mobility opportunities for both groups.

There are various social institutions that come into play when discussing socialization and the way, in which each individual (and society as a whole) behaives. It may appear to some that a social institution such as education might be the most important. Such a claim might be justified by the fact that it is at educational facilities where students spend most of their time during their formative years (from early childhood all the way to young adulthood). Others might suggest that the most important social institution is not education, but rather the family unit. This argument might be justified by the assertion (and a righteous one indeed) that children tend to establish parental figures (be it a parent, grandparent, uncle, or older sibling) as a role model and shape their minds and overall behaviors in order to emulate those of their role models. In other words, children will emulate their parent’s social reproduction behaviors. On this point, there is a difference between the Hangers and the brothers. While the Hangers have conformed to a life of need, failure, and overall underachievement, brothers are more hopeful and aspire to at least go to college (Macleod 2008). Here, we find a solid explanation of why both groups behave differently, the Hangers focusing on drugs, alcohol, and slacking; the Brothers focusing on family and school. 

The discussion on which social institution has the most significant impact on socialization could go on forever, but the bottom line is that there is one social institution that comprehends all others and is a chief determinant of a person’s socialization: civil society. Civil society is the highest order social institution as it comprehends all that is outside of the family unit, the government, and the economic markets. In a word, civil society comprehends the integral environment where all members of society spend the majority of their time and, more importantly, engage in constant interaction with one another. It is precisely in the context of civil society that contact zones develop. Contact zones have to do with (specific) social spaces in which societies come into direct contact with one another. These interactions imply a clash of ideals, customs, moral values, etc., all of which contribute to the creation of contexts of extremely asymmetrical game of power, for an example, slavery, colonialism, or their implications as they experienced in different parts of the world through contemporary time. There are different civil societies that have grown and developed all over the world; there are different contact zones that have developed (and are constantly developing), as well. Each civil society is limited to a certain geographical location, and even though technological innovation and globalization continue to consolidate a multicultural society, its individual civil societies still remain. Each civil society is different, and in explaining such differences there are various factors to consider, including religion, climate, topography, natural resource allocation, etc. Multicultural societies are the ultimate result of a phenomenon known as transculturation, in which individuals from one culture appropriate (certain) elements of other cultures. Transculturation is also found in the wider context of civil society, more specifically in the aforementioned contact zones.

This allows seeing, at least in principle, why it is that white kids and black kids end up in the same classroom positions (in spite of the fact that their social reproduction behaviors are very different). Contact zones bring blacks and whites into direct contact with one another, and in the United States, however, unfortunate as it may be, whites are the majority. Furthermore, America was a slave nation, and equality for blacks is a thing of the second part of the twentieth century. This means that racial discrimination is still frequent throughout all sector of the American society. This racial discrimination runs deep through society’s veins, and so the Hangers feel that they can slack, engage in drugs and alcohol, without having to worry about anything else. Furthermore, they consider themselves to be superior to the brothers. The Hangers are not interested in education since they have no faith in education getting them ahead. Instead, they attempt to make a quick buck; they sell drugs and perpetuate racist ideals that work to their benefit and against the interests of blacks. Here again, it may be seen that civil society that accounts for the differences in terms of social development between the Hangers and the Brothers in Clarendon Heights.

Another factor that may be considered is one that has been widely dubbed as the unruly forces of society. These unruly forces entail alienating methods in production, and further to this, shroud techniques for political domination, which ultimately result in immense transformation of the insight nature of a person, including the aims and conditions of his life. Here again, it is clearly stated that the biggest influence on a person’s socialization lies not in the individual, but in society itself. Based on this, it becomes evident that civil society is instrumental when attempting to explain the differentiation in terms of individual socialization (in different social groups). Here again, it is important to note that man is always evolving. Transculturation is always taking place, for instance, and every instance in which it does happen can be pinned down to a specific contact zone (be it a classroom, a park, a house’s living room, a movie theater, etc.).

Education empowers man to be more than he already is. Education empowers man to become free and pursue his happiness in whatever way he wishes to do so. This being said, it is education for what all men should aspire. This is what Plato believed, for example, and, in making his idea clear, he resorted to the allegory of the cave that Socrates told to his friend Glaucon. The allegory of the cave focuses on a group of men who are deprived of experiencing the real world; they are forced inside a cave and their backs face the cave’s entrance. All they can see in their position are the shadows of things passing through the cave. These men are bound by ignorance, and are, therefore, incapable of being free (or good).

Literacy leads the path towards goodness, virtue, and liberty, but the path is not an easy one. The fundamental idea behind this gradual liberation is that man becomes truly free only once he is knowledgeable and virtuous enough to use his freedom in a good way. Plato believed that good men made good societies, and good societies were in turn consolidated through liberty and literacy. However, he stressed the fact that true literacy, virtue, and goodness were achieved by educating the soul (not the body).

Social locations (race, class, gender, etc.) do condition individuals. Social location affects each person’s intersectionality and ultimately determines his or her positionality in the world. In other words, social location is a factor that has an impact on the type of social relationships (across multiple dimensions) that individuals form with each other. Also, it has an impact on the way that each person sees himself or herself in the world.

Socialization is fundamental for an individual’s social development. Throughout life, social institutions condition individuals. These institutions ultimately shape the way in which a person thinks, feels, acts, and socializes with others. Having managed to establish the importance of socialization and the influence that social institutions have over the overall process, the only real question left to answer was which social institution was most important. I must conclude that civil society is the most important social institution in the process of socialization. Finally, it is also worth noting that this entire process, which foments transculturation and ultimately leads to a multicultural society, effectively takes place in contact zones. These contact zones, such as Clarendon Heights, end up hindering education’s true value (in terms of social mobility) by pushing racial discrimination and the perpetuation of social reproduction patterns, which are found on a deterministic principle: if your father is a failure, then you are destined to follow his footsteps.

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