Introduction to Contemporary Society
Introduction to Contemporary Society
ACAP Student ID:
Unit/Module: Introduction to Contemporary Society
Assessment Name: Assignment1
Assessment Number: 1
Term & Year:
Word Count: 2,121.
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Society is a human construct that in its most basic form refers to a group of people who share a sense of community and agree on how to behave within the community so it can function effectively. Socialisation is the process of learning, and adapting as a result of the learning, in order to successfully
integrate into society. Although we believe, or wish to believe, that we make choices autonomously, free from the influences of others, this is not the case. Agents of socialisation are those people and groups within a society that influence our self-concept, which in turn manifests in our attitudes, beliefs, values and behaviours. Although a myriad of agents contribute to this process over an individual lifetime the influence and impact these agents have will vary from individual to individual. This essay reflects on three agents of secondary socialisation – national identity, the workplace and social media – and their influences on my socialisation process.
Van Krieken, Habibis, Smith, Hutchins, Marton and Maton (2010) state that national identity is about identifying ourselves and others as a collective rather than as individuals; a collective that shares a common outlook shaped by either culture, lifestyle or ancestry or all three. National identity, often unconsciously, shapes our daily lives as it manifests in our beliefs, values, behaviours, views, language, lifestyle and choices. I am an Australian by choice, having lived in Australia for a number of years and attaining citizenship in June 2006, and a New Zealander by birth. Although both national identities are available to me I identify most strongly with my country of birth so I classify myself a New Zealander when asked about my nationality.
Māori are the Indigenous peoples of New Zealand whilst New Zealanders of European descent can be categorised in several ways; Pākehā from the Māori language, which literally translates to ‘stranger’, New Zealander or colloquially as Kiwis. The Kiwi is a flightless bird unique to New Zealand and is also one of its most recognizable national symbols. Of the three terms available to me as a non-indigenous New Zealander I use the term Kiwi as it also encapsulates symbolic aspects of New Zealand. There are a number of key characteristics that typify the national character and identity of New Zealanders according to research undertaken by Sibley, Hoverd and Liu (2011) where people who were born in New Zealand were asked what qualities classify someone a ‘true’ New Zealander. The top 5 characteristics to emerge from this research were liberal democratic values, cultural/bi-cultural awareness, rugby/sporting culture, citizenship and ancestry and patriotic values, with each characteristic also being
deconstructed into number of related elements.
Liberal democratic values, which encompassed pro-social, pro-environmental elements such as friendliness, respect for people and environment, tolerance, equality and work ethic was the characteristic that I believe has most influenced my secondary socialisation and continues to do so on a daily basis. New Zealanders view themselves as egalitarian and classless and this aspect of the national character has a significant influence on me as I place no value on titles, ranks, gender or backgrounds and my underpinning belief is that everyone is equal regardless of their wealth, power, race or gender. This may also prove to be a blind spot in my socialisation, as others may perceive my interactions with them as being disrespectful due to my egalitarian viewpoint.
The pro-environment outlook that I have also emanates from my sense of national identity rather than from my family of origin, as I am the only member of my family that has a green outlook and respects the environment through all forms of recycling. As a child in primary school I was exposed to Māori folklore, which explains the origins of everything from a mythological perspective. As a result of this the attitude of many New Zealanders towards the environment is heavily influenced by the Māori concept of the ‘mauri’, or environmental life force, which says that any negative impact on the ‘mauri’ adversely impacts its energy, which has a negative flow on effect to the lives of people and the environment. This value also underpins my support of the New Zealand Nuclear Free Zone, Disarmament, and Arms Control Act that was passed by the Parliament in 1987, which bans visits by vessels that are nuclear powered or armed. From my perspective this piece of legislation also embodies another characteristic of New Zealanders, that of ‘punching above our weight’ or fighting for what we believe in socially despite our size.
The majority of New Zealanders saw the passing of the legislation as a small nation courageously taking a clear position on a contentious topic on the world stage. Cultural/Bicultural awareness is another key characteristic identified by Sibley et.al. (2011) that has influenced me. In the late 1980’s there was a renaissance of Māoritanga or Māori culture and a subsequent acceptance of it by the broader New Zealand. This Māori renaissance manifested in a multitude of ways such as a greater emphasis on Māori cultural expression in the arts, language and ‘tikanga’ or customs and traditions. Te Reo, the Māori language, was formally recognised as an official language of New Zealand and all Government departments formally incorporated the Māori translation into their names.
Even though I no longer reside in New Zealand this still has an influence on my language as I often subconsciously select Māori words or phrases that more effectively explain symbolic concepts than English, which causes a lack of understanding from non New Zealanders. New Zealand art, which incorporates a significant amount of national symbolism and Māori culture, also adorns my home. This assignment has encouraged me to question why I am a patriotic Australian but fiercely patriotic New Zealander. Upon reflection it is my belief that it was my mother, an agent of primary socialisation and a fiercely patriotic woman, who instilled in me the strong sense of national pride that I still possess today. She reminded me often how fortunate I was to be a Kiwi and to never forget that we were lucky to live in ‘God’s own country’, a phrase used proudly by New Zealanders since the late 1880’s to typify New Zealand.
The primary school I attended also served to deepen this sense of patriotism, as we sang the national anthem at our weekly assembly, which only served to deepen the connection I felt. Whilst the value I place on work is determined primarily by my family’s values it also has links to national identity. In the research undertaken by Sibly et. al. (2011), which focuses on defining the national identity of New Zealanders, many New Zealanders reported that working hard and trying to get ahead, colloquially referred to as ‘the number 8 fencing wire’ mentality, were national traits, a philosophy that I was brought up to believe in. Work is also an important aspect of my life for more than economic reasons. It is a significant contributor to my identity as it allows me to be viewed as an individual rather than by my relationships with others such as being someone’s partner.
From an economic perspective, I place significant value on being self-sufficient as a result of a my upbringing and this, combined with the value I place on achievement, has driven me to consciously progress my career in order to ensure that I can remain independent financially. An output of these needs is that I am more comfortable in the role of the primary, rather than secondary, breadwinner in my intimate relationships. Meisenbach (2010) undertook research on the phenomenological experiences of women who were the primary income earners in their relationships, either through choice or circumstance, seeking to determine elements of commonality from these experiences. Six key themes emerged from the women’s experiences: the need for control, valuing independence, feelings of stress, placing value on a partner’s contribution, feelings of resentment or guilt, and placing value on progressing their careers.
Although there was variation around the value the participants placed on each element, most agreed that the financial independence the role of female breadwinner gave them formed an important aspect of their identity. The value placed on this aspect was usually attributed to a parent actively encouraging their independence, or to a negative example they saw whilst growing up, so the status of main breadwinner in their lives ensured a sense of independence they felt would be a positive factor for negotiating any tough times in their lives. This resonated with me as my mother was ill educated and as a result financially dependent on my stepfather so she stayed in a non-supportive relationship, which had significant impact on me. As noted above another essential element was that the majority of participants identified as being ambitious and career driven, in many cases, much more so than their male partners.
This is another aspect that resonates with me as it is my belief that one of the major reasons I am constantly studying is that continuing education is a basis for progressing my career thereby as a means of maintaining my ability to remain independent financially if the need were to arise, through either choice or circumstance. This unwavering focus on remaining financially independent, even within a committed and loving partnership, must be handled with care in order to ensure my husband understands that that my need to be in control financially in no way no way diminishes his financial contribution or status. Social media also has growing impact on my socialisation, both personally and professionally. I experience a conflicted relationship with it. From a positive perspective I use social media as a mechanism to keep in constant touch with family overseas.
On the negative aspect of social media, I find the intrusiveness of it frustrating as some individuals seem to feel the need to be on social media constantly despite being physically in my company. I am also perplexed at the self-focused culture social media is breeding in our young people where they seem to record life rather than experience it. I have a different relationship with social media from a professional perspective. I use LinkedIn a networking and job search tool so I connect with people I’ve previously worked with, join groups of other like-minded professionals, use it as a passive job search mechanism by having an online resume posted. Hemel (2013) says “In the past year LinkedIn has emerged as one of the most powerful business tools on the planet. Long considered a repository for digital résumés, the network now reports 225 million members who have set up profiles and uploaded their education and job histories” (pg 68).
She also goes on to say that people are using LinkedIn for a multitude of purposes such as building professional portfolios of their work, recommending colleagues and keeping abreast of trends by reading LinkedIn Today, which has news from a myriad of sources including key LinkedIn influencers. With tough economic conditions prevailing over the last few years I made the decision to leave self-employment after ten years to return to the perceived stability of full time, paid employment in order to retain my financial independence. During this time I used LinkedIn to monitor trends in employment, update my network in anticipation of the change, peruse online job opportunities posted on LinkedIn, connect with recruiters, who are prevalent on LinkedIn nowadays, and to post an updated resume and career history.
I also used it to investigate and research companies prior to attending interviews. Social media also has a role to play in maintaining links with my national identity. Expatriation is a major phenomenon according to the New Zealand Government statistics as 16% of New Zealanders and 25% of overall tertiary educated New Zealanders live overseas with the largest group residing in Australia. In 2004 Kiwi Expatriates Abroad (K.E.A) was formed to connect expatriate New Zealanders to their nation, to promote New Zealand to the world and to enhance business opportunities via an online presence on Facebook, LinkedIn and the Internet. I joined at the outset and have used the group to network in order to create business opportunities. With a membership of over 100,00 people, K.E.A demonstrates that national identity doesn’t always mean residing in a county in order to identify with it, as the use of social media now makes the world’s boundaries less relevant.
Agents of socialisation do not exist as static entities that have a defined, once off influence on an individual’s identity at a given point in time but rather as dynamic entities that continue to interact with one another throughout an individual’s lifetime. These agents also vary in their influence and impact on individuals and they encourage individuals to learn and adapt in order to fit comfortably into society.
Hempel, J. (2013). LinkedIn: How it’s Changing Business
(And How To Make It work For You). Fortune. 168(1), 68-1NULL.
Meisenback, R. J. (2010). The Female Breadwinner:
Phenomological Experience and Gendered Identity in Work/Family Spaces, Sex Roles 62(1/2), 2-19. Doi:10.1007/s11199-9714-5.
Sibley, C.H., Hoverd, W.J, & Liu, J.H. (2011). Pluralistic and Monocultural Facets of New Zealand National Character and Identity. New Zealand Journal of Psychology, 40(3)19-28).
Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand. (2013). National Identity. Retrieved from: http://www.teara.govt.nz/en/new-zealand-identity/page-6
van Krieken, R., Habibis, D., Smith, P., Hutchins, B., Martin, G. & Maton, K. (2010). Sociology. (4th ed.). Sydney: Pearson Australia.