Modernisation, Cultural Change and the Persistence of Traditional Values

Ronald Inglehart

Sociologist, University of Michigan

I am going to write about the evolution of values in a global perspective — maybe this will give a sort of a broad framework for understanding the kinds of value changes that are taking place in Catalonia, in Spain, in Europe and in the Mediterranean world. One of the things that I am very grateful for is having got involved in this wonderful values project launched more than twenty years ago by my colleague and friend Jan Kerkhofs with the European Values Surveys in 1981. Since then four waves have been carried out and we are now working hard to raise funds for the fifth wave, which will be carried out in 2005. And this has been a fascinating project because it has made it possible, for the first time in human history, to trace how values are changing. We are living through a point in history when human values are changing.

This is not just a sort of intuition, like Tocqueville had brilliantly about how America was emerging or the sorts of, perhaps still more brilliant, fused impressions that Max Weber had about cultural change. We have the advantage, perhaps we do not have to be quite as smart as Tocqueville or Weber, but we have much more solid empirical data. We have data from representative national surveys carried out in, now, eighty countries. Initially the first wave of the European Value Surveys covered twenty-four countries, but we expanded this progressively with each wave, and the last wave has brought the total amount of countries that we have surveyed up to fully eighty countries, and we can do things that had not been impossible previously.

For the first time in human history, the World Values Surveys and European Values Surveys have measured the values of people throughout the entire world, not just the rich developed western countries, but now eighty countries containing 85% of the world’s population. We have a picture of what is going on in the minds and hearts of most of the people in the world. And we have successive waves of surveys so we can see how they are changing. And quite fascinatingly we find they are changing people’s motivations; their basic values, beliefs are changing.

There are some symptoms you see that we Modernisation, Cultural Change and the Persistence of Traditional Values Ronald Inglehart. Sociologist, University of Michigan Ingles 4 19/1/06 12:00 Página 189 are changing such as the role of women. It would be difficult to be so dense as not to notice that the role of women has changed in the last few decades. A huge historic change. The world’s religions have changed visibly too, and that’s something that there are lots of symptoms of it. We tried to push the Values Surveys in the countries not previously covered and some of my students ask me, “Well, you have not covered all of Africa!”And I think that is true, and it is very hard to cover all of Africa; there are some of these countries that you could not cover, as there is no survey organisation existing there.

In fact in some countries we have set up surveys. In Vietnam this was the first representative national survey ever carried out; we sent people from the United States and from our colleagues in the Philippines to help design a national survey in Vietnam and worked with some very, very eager cooperative colleagues in Vietnam, and have a view of what is going on there. And we have covered many countries that when this project started it would have been totally impossible to cover. Iran, for example, has been included in this most recent Survey as well as Egypt, Morocco, Algeria…

Twelve Islamic countries were included in this fourth wave for the first time, and that is something that we are trying to do, something that is quite fascinating because it turns out that, as you probably would expect, the Islamic world is different in a number of ways. There is such a thing as an Islamic cultural zone from Morocco to Indonesia, with comparatively similar values. But they are not similar in all, just in the ways you might expect. It is not just a matter of the stereotypes you knew all along were true, it is more complicated than that. For example, one of the things we have learned is that in all twelve of the Islamic countries, heavy majorities consider democracy the best form of government. Very strongly the Islamic peoples from Morocco to Indonesia accept the world of democracy.

They do not want many things about westernisation, they reject many aspects of the West, but democracy is not one of them, they very much want democracy. We have data from nearly eighty countries, and we can do things that as a social scientist I find quite fascinating. We can analyse the linkages between belief systems in people’s heads, and their society level characteristics, like fertility rates. We found certain values: the consistent dimension of values are very strongly linked with fertility rates and help explain fertility rates. They add quite a lot to the amount of explanatory power of the standard economic variables like GNP per capita, percentage of women in education, etc. But it is a cultural change.

It seems that economic development is conducive to lower fertility rates, in so far as it brings certain cultural changes, certain changes in what people want out of life, in the way they see the world. So, we can answer such questions as whether Islamic societies have distinctive value systems, and if so, how they differ from those of other cultures. Another one interested in very much as a political scientist is this question: are certain values linked with the emergence and survival of democracy? And the answer here is very clear, very unequivocal.This is something that has been investigated for decades, with the supposition that, probably, certain values are linked with democracy, like trust, for example.

There is a lot of literature, a huge literature on how trust is essential to democracy. And it turns out it is linked to democracy, but certain other things are even more important.Through a reading of the evidence it indicates that tolerance, tolerance of outgroups of foreigners, gender equality, gays and lesbians, outgroups in general are very important to democracy. The sense of tolerance is a crucial element, but I think that that has been underestimated in the literature and we go beyond just finding that certain values are linked with saying you like democracy.

We can go a step beyond this, with data from eighty societies, and measure exactly how strong the linkages are between belief systems in people’s heads and the extent to which their institutions are democratic, and we find surprisingly strong correlations. The 0.83 correlation, for example, is extremely strong, between a particular belief dimension and the ratings, expert-ratings of how democratic the societies are. There are several systems of expert-ratings and they all pretty much concur in that certain countries are and certain countries are not democratic, and they have a scale of how democratic they are.

And we find that this expert rating of how democratic institutions are correlates with specific beliefs in people’s heads to a very strong degree. In other words, this is one of many pieces of evidence that convinces me that professor Kerkhofs was on the right track when he wanted to measure values empirically, because they don’t just sit in people’s heads, they have a very powerful impact on very important things like fertility rates, economic growth rates, democracy.The link between beliefs and values and the real world is very strong. So we asked the question, from the start suspecting that the answer was “yes; motivations are changing”, and we now have twenty-some years of data on this.And it has been twenty-five years and we have the ability to see how things are changing over time. In given societies we have got twenty years’ worth of data.And one of the things that is surprising and quite gratifying is that human values turn out to be surprisingly coherent. It is not as if one’s political values are independent of your religious values, or your sexual ones, or your child-raising ones, your leisure pursuits, the emphasis you place on friendship…

People’s world views are surprisingly coherent and if you know their religious outlook, for example, or if you know how happy they consider themselves, that tells you a lot about many other aspects of their lives. In other words, world societies can be plotted on a two-dimensional map that picks these two dimensions, pick, up a great deal of religious, political, economic, leisure, sexual, family and social norms in general. And these two dimensions, putting it tactically, they explain 75 per cent of the variance, a little better than 75 per cent of the variance across scores of variables measured in a world that uses surveys.

The world is more orderly than I might have expected in its cross-national differences. So I would like to give you a little overview of these two dimensions, and show you how these countries, the world societies, are moving within them. There is a large literature on modernisation, and Max Weber and Karl Marx had different versions of what is happening, but they both felt that economic development would bring predictable changes in culture, politics and society. And there is a lot of support for the idea that they were right. To put it very briefly, we find huge consistent differences between the worldviews of people living in rich societies and poor societies. It is not going to make you drop from your chairs in astonishment, perhaps.

Let us say Karl Marx said it a long time ago but we should acknowledge he has been debated and has been wrong on lots of points. And it is not self-evident that Marx was always right, in fact he obviously was wrong on a lot of things. He was right on the idea that economic development seems to bring coherent changes in motivations and worldviews, and one part of what we find, one big dimension of change, is linked with industrialisation, is linked with this classic modernisation of literature that everyone has more or less heard about. Industrialisation seems linked with the shift from traditional values to secular/rational values, as a lot of people have argued. But it is more complicated than this in a number of ways.

Secularisation is partly right, but at the same time there are more people with traditional religious beliefs in the world now than ever before. This is one of the jokers; we find support for pieces of modernisation theory like secularisation, but it is complicated because secularisation is exactly one of the things linked with these huge declining fertility rates so that the countries that are secularising have way below population replacement level fertility rates, and are becoming a smaller part of the world’s population. So that, though secularisation is taking place in Spain, for example, and France, Italy, the United States, Japan and Canada, it is moving in a way that, interestingly, means that the notion that religion will drop off the map is not at all true. Religion has not disappeared; in fact there are more religious people today than ever before, as far as our evidence indicates.

Post-industrial society brings another shift, and this is another reason why the classic version of modernisation theory is much too simple. The changes that Karl Marx and Max Weber talked about are part of the story. Beyond a certain point history moves in a different direction and the kinds of changes are very different. It’s a separate dimension: post-industrial society, the rise of the knowledge society, brings a shift from survival values to self-expression values. The traditional secular/rational continuum is old stuff. This other dimension needs a new name because it is something that has only been happening in the last several decades. It is a new change that only the rich societies are emerging into, but it is very important. This is a shift in a quite different direction so that the notion, the sort of Marxian, simplistic, linear version of history that you get on the train at an agrarian society and you get off the train at this predestined industrial society, at the end of the line, the end of history, is too simple.

History takes a turning point with the rise of postindustrial society where the conditions of life are very, very different from those of industrial society. Instead of working in mass production assembly line factories, people are working with their minds, and imaginations, and standardisation, centralisation, bureaucratisation, hierarchy… And all of the things that Max Weber talked about, brilliantly, that characterise industrial society, become less and less true of post-industrial society. And another thing happens that Marx or Weber never dreamed off, because it did not happen until long after their deaths, and that is that existential security becomes something people take for granted.This is something that very few people in human history have taken for granted and it changes the whole life strategy. It is a shift from living in a world where survival is uncertain, is so settled that the idea of survival is so basic that if it is uncertain it shifts your whole life strategy, your values, the way you live your life.

Survival is assured and actually taken for granted and in the rich post-industrial societies, coupled with the economic advances, the enormous economic advances and the welfare state, survival is taken for granted unconsciously by most people who have grown up in these societies, and it gives rise to a quite different, basically different life strategy. It is a fundamentally different worldview that is emerging, and this is something that the World Values and European Values surveys have begun to explore and gives us a concrete picture of what’s going on here. So we have these two dimensions of change that are very important. Here is a sketch of what is happening: we have a modernisation shift in culture from traditional authority to rational legal authority, from a steady economy to a society that emphasises economic growth; a change of direction and a culture change.What could be called postmodernisation, post-industrial society, the knowledge society.

The labels are flexible as long as you understand what the content is. It is a change in a different direction, where it’s less and less maximising economic growth at any cost, regardless of the impact on the environment, on human happiness, on self-expression, on autonomy, and so on, to emphasising quality of life increasingly, and de-emphasising both secular and traditional authority giving rise to a different worldview. So, industrialisation brings a shift from traditional to secular/rational. Values are claimed so lets take a look at what these are. Starting with the values of traditional society, the things we measure in these values surveys indicate that there are a whole cluster of things that go together surprisingly coherently.

The first one is religion: religion is important. I have to admit I underestimated the importance of religion as a young social scientist, all my colleagues were not very religious, and we all expected religion to fade so why bother. We were a little premature. Religion is still, for most of the world’s population, a huge structuring factor. It is fading in Europe, it has faded visibly in Spain and in most of Europe, but it is very important for most of the world and, even in Europe, knowing whether a person is religious or not tells you a lot about everything, how they see the world, what they want out of life, their worldview and motivations. We have many indicators of religion and they point in the same directions.

It is a very important dimension but it is linked to a lot of other things that are not necessarily self-evident, like the norms you teach a child. Traditional societies emphasise teaching a child to obey, to conform, to follow the traditional rules. Secular rational societies emphasise independence, thinking for yourself, determination — quite a different package of things. Another thing that is linked with this empirically is national pride. This is something that is not self-evident but there is very strong empirical correlation in those societies that emphasise religion and traditional child-raising values, they have a strong sense of national pride. My notion of a really good society that you could be proud of is Sweden.

Spain is along this continuum, but I would say Sweden, in my view, is even a little further along this continuum, a really progressive, good society. And you would think, well, this is where national pride would be highest and it is not. It is quite the opposite. Poor societies, traditional societies, are much stronger on national pride than rich societies. This is something that is another one of these important dimensions: differences between how people in rich and poor societies see the world, between traditional and secular/rational societies. There are some other things: in traditional societies, people say that “one of my main goals in life is to make my parents proud.”This is something that there is a lot of.

People in traditional societies are guided by the sense of shame or not bringing shame on the family, and their parents really count. And unfortunately in the more modern societies parental influence is not as absolute as it seems to be in traditional societies. There are some other things that are not surprising: divorce, for example, abortion, these are things that in traditional societies are rejected, or are not accepted. In secular/rational societies they are much more accepted. Limits on selling foreign goods; another element is respect for authority. In traditional societies people tend to say more respect for authority would be a good thing. In secular/rational societies they de-emphasise authority.

Actually there are scores of questions in the World Values Surveys that cover just a tiny sampling of the many items that are linked with this important dimension, this modernisation dimension, linked with industrialisation. It is one of religion, god, family, country, this classic authority sort of worldview that goes together in a psychological way and empirically goes together. This is one dimension and we find a generational shift away from religious values in post-industrial societies.

It is interesting that we have many different kinds of societies; so we find, if we compare generations, we see the differences between young and old people, and we start out with the oldest birth cohort groups, and the next oldest, and middle age, and then the youngest birth groups and we are moving across from older to younger birth cohorts, and we find that in post-industrial societies older people place a lot more emphasis on religion than younger people.We do not find any difference in agrarian societies; it is not that this is some basic part of the human life cycle, the older you get the more religious you get. In fact, in agrarian societies the young are at least as religious as the old, there is no decline in this. If anything they seem to be slightly more.

So there is, I think, a de-generational change taking place in some societies. This is only part of the picture: the rise of post-industrial society brings another dimension of change which is from survival to self-expression values. And this is less familiar. This is not the classic modernisation dimension and this is one where a different kind of change is taking place. One is a shift from emphasis on economic and physical security, above all, to emphasis on self-expression.

This is something that has been studied for some time now. Another label for this is a shift from materialist to post-materialist values.And this is going on powerfully. It is one of the best indicators of this dimension, but though this is one of the things I have been interested in for a long time, it seems that is only one indicator of a much broader, pervasive process of cultural change. Another thing very strongly linked to this is gender equality. These Values Surveys have five different items measuring support for gender equality. It happens that the best indicator for or against gender equality is: “Do you think men make better political leaders than women?” This is something that there is an enormous variation of across the world. In Spain big changes have occurred in this dimension in the last decades.

Your parents had very different views on this from you, but this is something that has changed in some countries and not in others. And it is changing over time, from one wave to the next in the world: through these Values Surveys we find big changes. Just in five, ten years we find significant changes in this. And this is something, at one extreme, among the young better educated elements of rich countries. In some countries, like Egypt, 99% of the population agree that men make better political leaders than women. It is self-evident that the answer is the other answer. Something that varies a lot, in other words it is a good indicator of this dimension. Child motivations vary a lot too in emphasis, in survival oriented societies.

Child motivations emphasise good income and safe job over a sense of accomplishment or working with people you like. Attitudes towards gays or lesbians, homosexuality, is another thing that is going through a huge historic change, and we see change from one wave to the next of our surveys. We see big differences between rich and poor countries, and we see very big differences and this is, of course, linked more with the rise of the knowledge society. We have had huge change going on between rich and poor countries, but especially between industrial and post-industrial societies.

And we find big generational differences, young people are very different in their attitudes on this from older people. It is another indication of tolerance of diversity and it is something that at this point in history is a good indicator of this dimension, exactly because there is a lot of variation on it. It varies hugely in its acceptability. Rejecting foreigners is something linked with this subjective world; participation in politics, environmental protection, another part of this broad dimension of survival values versus self-expression values. And we find an intergenerational shift here too.

This shift seems to be moving most rapidly in post-industrial societies; again, we find big changes as we compare the older and younger birth cohorts, across our samples; we find large changes toward the self-expression values moving from older to younger cohorts; we find very little change in agrarian societies, except for this very oldest group. It is a relatively flat age relationship indeed, in agrarian societies. Way back in 1970, in the Europe round of Surveys, we measured one of these items, the materialist, postmaterialist values. In fact, there are great age differences here. At that time the prediction was given in print that this reflected generational change, not a life-cycle phenomenon. At this point, with data from just one series, you can not tell whether it is life cycle or generational change. We have been able to follow these values over thirty years now and it is quite clear.

If it were a life-cycle phenomenon then, as they age, these younger groups would change. Here we find a huge preponderance of materialist values over post-materialist values, and obviously an emphasis on economic and physical security above all, as opposed to self-expression, freedom of speech, quality of life. Among the oldest group there is an enormous predominance of materialist over post-materialist; among the postwar generation in 1970 we found a slight preponderance of post-materialists over materialist. At this point you could argue that it is a life-cycle phenomenon, in 1970 you could have argued that it is a life-cycle phenomenon, and as these groups grow older they will be just as materialist as the older groups. They are floppy headed, unrealistic, silly young people who will become realistic as they age. They did not. Thirty years later they have not changed.

They are pretty much where they were thirty years ago. These values have remained stable, which means that the societies have changed. These generational differences predict the changes actually observed from 1970, I should say not 1981, in this case from the Europe round of Surveys. From 1970 to 1999 all of these countries have moved, 1970 is in black and 1999 is in green, and these societies have all moved quite markedly, from predominantly materialist to post-materialist values. This is a scale where the zero point represents that there are as many materialists as post-materialists. All of these societies had more materialists than post-materialists. Now, most of them are at the zero point or above, they have all changed in the direction of more post-materialist values, over this period of time.

We have some element of predictability. The world is complicated, it is not just a matter of generational change but also a matter of what is going on in the world at a given time. But there is an element of predictability in the value changes going on. These changes are far from random, as I have mentioned, agrarian societies that emphasise traditional values and survival values. In keeping with this general modernisation thesis, rich societies tend to emphasise secular rational values and self-expression values, which gives another element of predictability to these changes. Here is a picture of these two basic dimensions in the global perspective. One dimension is the traditional secular rational values dimension, the other is the survival self-expression dimension.

And as you can see, all of the rich societies, we do not show them all in this map, but all of them, even the US, which is an interesting outlier, all of them fall in the upper-right hand region; all of the more (primitive?) societies are relatively low in both dimensions. They place relative emphasis on traditional and survival values. Economic development, this graph implies, tends to bring a shift of values. The US is an interesting outlier. It is a society that is high on self-expression values, pretty far over on this dimension, and much more traditional, much more religious, much more patriotic, nationalistic, etc., than other rich societies. That is an interesting phenomenon, we could spend an entire afternoon discussing why this is true. I’ll simply say that in all of our surveys this is a reliable finding. The US is much more traditional, religious, nationalistic, patriotic than other rich countries. It has interesting consequences.

This is part of a genuine values difference between US and most European countries. On the other hand, on this other very important dimension, the survival self-expression values dimension, the US is right up there with Britain, France, Germany, Sweden, etc. In other words it is quite advanced in this dimension. This is a very important dimension and, cutting ahead, I will give one reason why this is very, very important. This is the dimension that is linked with democracy. Democracy is widely cited and, although these are values measured inside people’s heads, they are strongly linked with democracy. This dimension has a 0.83 correlation with democracy. Countries that are higher in this dimension are much more likely to be democratic.

This is a culture that is supportive of democracy. On that dimension, the US and Europe are at the high end. They share a consensus on this. On other things there are some significant differences. One more important reason, why we cannot simply accept the classic version of modernisation theory that is cultural change is path dependent, to a degree that is quite striking. The traditional cultural heritage of a society influences its values today to a degree that is quite surprising. In other words, the fact that a society was historically Protestant, or Roman-Catholic, or Islamic, or Orthodox, or Hindu changes its starting point, and that starting point is reflected today in its values system. Thus Protestant Europe is different from Catholic Europe.

When I first noticed this, I thought: “What a coincidence all the Protestant countries are high on trust and the Roman-Catholic countries lower.” And then I noticed that on one, after another, after another, it is consistent, there are enduring cultural differences, and what is surprising is that, today, these are post-Christian countries, more or less. Northern Europe, and some of these countries like Sweden and the Netherlands, are down to very low rates of church attendance. The Netherlands less so, but East Germany and Sweden have 5 or 6% of people going weekly to church. They are kind of ex-Protestant countries in a way. The churches are being used as museums and hotels. But they remain very Protestant; in their basic value systems the Swedes today are very Protestant, even though they are not in churches. It is not what the churches are teaching today, it is the impact of this historical influence of having been shaped by Protestantism or Catholicism, or the Englishspeaking colonial empire. The countries populated by immigrants from the British Isles have a cultural zone.

Catholic Europe is a cultural zone. Latin America is another cultural zone, and this is very robust. In successive waves of these surveys, we find the countries falling in the predicted direction. In our 1990 surveys we did not have data from Australia or New Zealand. We had defined an English speaking cultural zone, and it would have been embarrassing if New Zealand had come out here, or Australia, but in fact they come out here. The same thing with Latin America: we originally had only four countries; in more recent surveys we have eleven, and they fall into a common cultural zone, again. As predictable as a south-Asian zone where most of the Islamic countries fall, there is an Orthodox zone where the traditionally Orthodox societies, except for Greece, fall. Because there is also an excommunist factor. In other words, history has left an impact on these value systems.

East Germany, having been shaped by decades of communism, is culturally as different from West Germany as West Germany is from Norway. They are different societies shaped by a different historical influence, partly religion and partly, I think, the communist experience. I have supported it before, but I want to re-emphasise that these values have important societal consequences. For example, they shape fertility levels and in complicated analyses it looks very much like economic development is lowering fertility rates if it is linked to these cultural changes.And you see a graph of the fertility rates against the traditional secular/rational values. And another point is that society’s relative emphasis on survival or self-expression values is strongly linked with how democratic it is.

This is extremely important in the world political scene. This is the survival of self-expression values dimension, from the survival of self-expression values, and these are a totally different set of measures, the freedom house-ratings, expert ratings of how democratic the societies’ institutions are. How high in political rights and civil liberties the society is. And as you can see just looking at the data, societies that emphasise survival values and low on self-expression values are almost without exception low on democracy. We find Belarus, Armenia, Georgia, Russia, Ukraine, Rumania, China, in this, and so on. We find Spain, Sweden, Italy, the Netherlands, Australia, New Zealand, here, high on both self-expression values and high on democracy.

One of the tasks that is much too complicated to go into today is explaining this linkage. Is it that democracy changes the whole culture and makes you high on gender equality, trust, tolerance, subjective well-being? Or is it that a culture of trust, tolerance, equality, subjective wellbeing is conducive to democracy? The analyses I have done with colleagues indicate that it is partly both. I think democracy does actually make you more trusting, but much more that economic development brings certain cultural changes that then give rise to democratic institutions and help them survive. That is a separate topic, but it looks as though these cultural changes are shaping the possibility for survival and the emergence of democracy.