(Roughly) Daily

Just say “Nietzsche” to Kant…

The World Values Survey, conducted by a global network of social scientists and compiled by Dr. Ronald Inglehart, is concerned to understand variations in cultures around the world.  Its “Inglehart Values Map” visualizes the strong correlation of those values– that’s to say, the remarkably predictable way in which countries cluster…

Dr. Inglehart explains (prose alert– the following is from a social scientist; perseverance may be required– but will be rewarded):

The World Values Surveys were designed to provide a comprehensive measurement of all major areas of human concern, from religion to politics to economic and social life and two dimensions dominate the picture: (1) Traditional/ Secular-rational and (2) Survival/Self-expression values. These two dimensions explain more than 70 percent of the cross-national variance in a factor analysis of ten indicators-and each of these dimensions is strongly correlated with scores of other important orientations.

The Traditional/Secular-rational values dimension reflects the contrast between societies in which religion is very important and those in which it is not. A wide range of other orientations are closely linked with this dimension. Societies near the traditional pole emphasize the importance of parent-child ties and deference to authority, along with absolute standards and traditional family values, and reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride, and a nationalistic outlook. Societies with secular-rational values have the opposite preferences on all of these topics.

The second major dimension of cross-cultural variation is linked with the transition from industrial society to post-industrial societies-which brings a polarization between Survival and Self-expression values. The unprecedented wealth that has accumulated in advanced societies during the past generation means that an increasing share of the population has grown up taking survival for granted. Thus, priorities have shifted from an overwhelming emphasis on economic and physical security toward an increasing emphasis on subjective well-being, self-expression and quality of life. Inglehart and Baker (2000) find evidence that orientations have shifted from Traditional toward Secular-rational values, in almost all industrial societies. But modernization, is not linear-when a society has completed industrialization and starts becoming a knowledge society, it moves in a new direction, from Survival values toward increasing emphasis on Self-expression values.

A central component of this emerging dimension involves the polarization between Materialist and Postmaterialist values, reflecting a cultural shift that is emerging among generations who have grown up taking survival for granted. Self-expression values give high priority to environmental protection, tolerance of diversity and rising demands for participation in decision making in economic and political life. These values also reflect mass polarization over tolerance of outgroups, including foreigners, gays and lesbians and gender equality. The shift from survival values to self-expression values also includes a shift in child-rearing values, from emphasis on hard work toward emphasis on imagination and tolerance as important values to teach a child. And it goes with a rising sense of subjective well-being that is conducive to an atmosphere of tolerance, trust and political moderation.

Finally, societies that rank high on self-expression values also tend to rank high on interpersonal trust.  This produces a culture of trust and tolerance, in which people place a relatively high value on individual freedom and self-expression, and have activist political orientations. These are precisely the attributes that the political culture literature defines as crucial to democracy.

The summary map, above, is accompanied by 11 others focused on particular dimensions of the values map, for instance, this plot of “self-perceived well-being” (a sense of happiness) against the state of democracy (note the position of China, along the bottom of the chart…  may help explain why so many in the West have so much trouble understanding the culture and its attitude toward its government):

click image to enlarge

As we wipe away the Dewey and turn from values, we might recall that it was in this date in 1905 that Las Vegas was established as a railroad town, when 110 acres owned by the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Lake Railroad was auctioned off in what is now downtown Las Vegas.  Six years later, Las Vegas was formally incorporated.

What a difference a century makes…

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