New generations all submit to ‘The Man’

Each new generation of children/young adults presents a problem of compliance to the unwritten rules of society. Their socialization into the institutional order (‘The Man’) requires the establishment of sanctions. Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann in ‘The Social Construction of Reality’ argue that new generations must be taught to behave and, once taught, must be kept in line. The more behavior is institutionalized  the more predictable and thus the more controlled it becomes. If socialization into the institution has been effective, outright coercive measures can be applied economically and selectively. The more behavior is taken for granted, the more alternatives (i.e. freedoms) to the institution will recede, and the more predictable and controlled the new generation will be.

The new generation initially tries to resist this. It fights back against ‘The Man’. The fact that they are fated to lose this battle does not stop them trying. Think of the baby who resists eating and sleeping by the clock rather than by their own biological demands. The resistance is progressively broken in the course of socialization  but the baby still demonstrates frustration on every occasion society forbids her to eat when she is hungry or to go to bed when she is sleepy. This will occur thousands of times towards thousands of different behaviours in the individual’s childhood. Socialization of the entire new generation will inevitably result in biological frustration.

Berger and Luckmann indicate that maximal success in socialization (submission to ‘The Man’)  is likely to occur in societies with very simple division of labour and minimal distribution of knowledge. Therefore societies have a vested interest in keeping the status quo, limiting mass distribution of wisdom and higher learning. Keep us dumb and poor and we won’t ask questions.

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