What’s the difference between enculturation and socialization?

I was talking this morning with a friend, Scott Schopieray, and we were discussing how you can think about online education as a process of socialization or enculturation. My question is what is the difference between the two?

Scott put forth the idea that enculturation might fit within socialization. That seems to make sense, but we parted ways intending to keep thinking about it and maybe share some links.

Society is different than culture, right? Are there many cultures within a society? For instance, in our American society, there are many cultures. While, as a society, we share many of the same expectations and experiences, our cultural groups create ones that differentiate us from others within the society.

Here are two examples of cultures that exist within our American society: One, a group of Finnish-Americans in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. Two, the Arab-American community around Detroit, Michigan. These two groups seem like they are both in the same society, yet are separated by cultural differences.

Just thoughts.

Author: Davin Granroth

Davin is Chief Operating Officer for Covenant Eyes, Inc. in Owosso, MI, USA, where he gets to mix his background in user experience design, research, and strategy with the operation of a software company. For more, see his LinkedIn profile.

7 thoughts on “What’s the difference between enculturation and socialization?”

  1. I totally agree with what you are saying, but your answer is still very ambiguous. Is there a difference say between ones behavior and ones thoughts and feelings? When would it be enculturation and when would it be socialization?

  2. Wow, thanks for commenting on an 8 year old post. I still find it an interesting question. In response, just thinking this out now, I think of socialization as a process that describes how a person learns/adopts the values and ways of thinking of a group of people (a society or a culture, but when socialization is for a culture, you could call it enculturation or maybe acculturation). So, I do think that socialization influences both behavior and thought of an individual.

    The part that gives me pause is when I try to think of specific examples and how applicable the ideas of society and culture are. I’m not a sociologist or anthropologist, and just don’t have the fidelity of thinking on this topic that a sociologist would.

    For instance, if you think of values as part of culture, you could say that in U.S. politics, the Republican and Democratic political parties operate with different ideologies/value sets. They may be similar enough from a distance, say an observer from North Korea, but within this U.S. society, there is a difference. Would you describe the differences between Republicans and the Democrats in the context of different cultures?

  3. Enculturation involves a general ‘enfolding’ of individuals in the context of their culture, which leads to culture-appropriate behaviors. Socialization takes place by more specific training and instruction, again leading to culture-appropriate behavior.

  4. Societies consists of people and culture consists of attitudes, beliefs, opinions, values and behaviors (ABOVB) which are transmitted across generations to keep the society alive and kicking. Society teaches its members from birth how to be a good member of that particular society and does so in a formal way through education, rules, laws, etc. The overall goal is to control who the individual becomes. This is called socialization. However, enculturation is abstract and is reflected in the behaviors which are influenced by those ABOVs. Enculturation involves a vicarious type of learning, one that is not very consciously obtained and does not occur in a formalized teaching situation. I think this is what Christie in the previous post meant when she states “enfolding”. However, this informal learning, like a young girl developing her ideas about what it means to be woman in her culture, would be called enculturation. She takes what she has been formally taught about being a woman, what she sees her mother and other female members doing and develops a cultural identity about what a woman is suppose to be. This is enculturation and the goal is forming an identity and is more than just knowing what are the rules, laws, attitudes and values of your culture. Acculturation would be the same young girl learning what it is to be a woman in a culture different from her own. So, there are formal and informal ways of learning one’s culture (or that of another country). An interesting question is, when individuals find that they are not a good fit with their own culture’s belief system about what they should be, is this a failure of enculturation or socialization? Or is it a failure at all? The question of Democrats and Republicans being different cultures is interesting. They appear to be unique types of subcultures in that they are both accepted by the dominant culture as real alternative ways of being a good member of the dominant culture. They are sanctioned because they both support the overall goal of the dominant culture (for the society to develop and thrive) but differ in the methods and means of achieving it.

  5. l really appreciated H. Lowe’s distinctions between socialization, enculturation, and acculturation. Perhaps he/she might help clarify wikipedia’s definition of “enculturation”, as distinct from socialization.

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