The Journal of Politics

Research Article

Developing Political Orientations of Panamanian Students*

Daniel Goldricha1 and Edward W. Scotta1

a1 Michigan State University

A picture has been presented of two student groups in Panama. The groups differ in socio-economic status, and each has a relatively high probability of acquiring élite political roles, depending on developments within the social and political systems. The students' political orientations have been analyzed and related to social background, the political system and the process of acquisition of adult social roles. We have found the upper-class group to be more liberal than was expected. However, inasmuch as these students (1) tend to accept the existing political process and (2) have relatively easy access to desirable social and political roles by virtue of their social background and familial political connections, it is unlikely that their current reformism will continue as a stable, salient orientation.

The middle- and lower-class group express more liberal and more reformist orientations. Past generations of graduates from this politically renowned secondary school who, as students, had gained the reputation of reformers and dissidents have since been absorbed, coopted and neutralized by the political and social systems. Since the present group of students from this school are (1) upwardly mobile, (2) aspirant to careers in science and related fields, (3) but face stiffer competition for such positions as a function of a growing imbalance in the factors of social modernization, and (4) since they tend to reject the existing political process, it is likely that their current orientations may prove both stable and salient. The probability of this is heightened, to an undetermined degree, by the fact that these students have available and tend to identify with new, revolutionary figures and movements. The latter, in turn, are seeking to activate Panama's alienated intellectual and youth groups. This is occurring at a time when relations between Panama and the traditionally-resented United States are seriously deteriorating, so that nationalism is accelerating the pressures for social change.

Daniel Goldrich is Assistant Professor of Political Science and Research Associate in the Bureau of Social and Political Research at Michigan State University. He is a co-author of a forthcoming book, Comparative Community Politics.

Edward W. Scott is a graduate student in political science at Michigan State University.

Footnotes

* This is a report on one part of a study of the political socialization of Panamanian youth, which is itself a part of a program of comparative research on the development and maintenance of civic and political values, in progress at the Bureau of Social and Political Research, Michigan State University.

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