Trends Uncovered by the European Values Study. Surveys and the Outlook for the Future

Jan Kerkhofs

Sociologist, Catholic University of Louvain

My purpose in this article is to present a number of reflections that have been revealed as necessary following the European Values Study, the third European survey carried out by our foundation. As a prior comment and by way of an introduction, it is important to recall that surveys are an aid to understanding public opinion.The people interviewed give us their views and attempt to reply honestly, though in fact it is quite rare for them to do so in a truly personal manner. Often unwittingly, they reflect the opinion of a certain majority that they are subject to.

This majority is made up of a large number of subgroups, each with their own mindsets that are on occasions relatively open but which can also be somewhat closed. Each age group, for example, forms its own opinion, just as those who are better educated or wealthier have theirs, while those on the left and the right also have their own views. Practising Christians think very differently to freethinkers. Moreover, which European region you live in also has a certain determining impact that should not be ignored, due to the diverse historical traditions, and the prejudices, to be found throughout the continent.

Catholic, Anglican, Lutheran and Orthodox peoples in Europe will react very differently, not just on issues to do with religion, but also on other matters such as ethics, politics, the family and work. All almost by necessity express a subtly closed opinion. It is remarkable, for example, that the German Federal Republic should be divided into two totally opposed opinion groups. In the west, around 85% of the population are Catholics and Lutherans, and around 80% of their children have been baptised; in the east, Christians account for no more than 30% of the population and just 5% of newborn babies are baptised.

This divide does not date from the time of the Nazis or the Communists. We should not forget that regions such as Mecklenburg and Pomerania in Prussia did not convert to Christianity until the 12th or 13th century, a thousand years after the first Christian communities were established in Treveris, now Trier, in Cologne and around Lake Constance (Bodensee) in southern Bavaria on the Swiss border. It is also common to find that differences between regions in a single nation are greater than those between nation and nation. This is not only true of the German Federal Republic, but also of Italy, where people in the south think in very different ways to those living in the north in cities such as Milan and Turin.

Even in a small country such as Belgium, the differences between Wallonia and Flanders are unquestionably less important than those between Flanders and Holland, on the one hand, and Wallonia and France on the other, as explained to the monarchs of Belgium on numerous occasions. However, this does not prevent Flemish thinking on issues such as the family and work from being very different to those of the Walloons. For example, the Flemings do not believe having children to be a key to the success of a couple, whereas the Walloons believe entirely the opposite.

This could ultimately mean that the Walloons will have to pay the pensions of the elderly Flemish. This regional difference is also to be observed in the United Kingdom and in Switzerland. This will force us in the future to draw more precise distinctions in our surveys and to bear in mind regional mindsets, which, at a European level, would call for very high financing that would undoubtedly be impossible to find. There is a further aspect to consider: Europe is much ‘older’ than the United States. Hence, what we in Europe term our ‘long history’ continues to have a profound influence on character and on social structures, though few people are aware of this when they are interviewed. It is remarkable that Greece should have retained its Orthodox heritage, which protected its national identity, throughout the long centuries of Ottoman occupation, and it is not surprising that the bonds between the Church and the state should be so strong, though the government has been brave enough to distance itself from the Church, which opposes European integration.

At the other end of Europe we find Iceland, with its capital in Reykjavik, a mysterious island of geysers and clouds of steam that billow up in every corner of the land. In this country, old reminiscences of the times of the early Vikings, who arrived in their longships, known as drakkars, are kept alive. Whereas approximately a quarter of the population of Europe as a whole states that it believes in reincarnation, more than 40% of the population of Iceland believes in it. The islands of Iceland and Malta both belong to Europe, yet they are two countries with very little in common. Many other similar examples could be mentioned to illustrate the impact of our long pasts on opinions today. There is an entire geology of mental layers to be discovered. To sum up, however, it could be said that Europeans, who so honour liberty, are burdened with the mental outlook of their ancestors.

History is extremely important in sociological analysis, as Gabriel Le Bras, the eminent dean of the Sorbonne, pointed out some 50 years ago. We can now, following these opening remarks, go on to consider the central theme of this article, in other words, the main trends that have been identified in surveys and which place us in the opening years of the third millennium. When we began the first survey in 1978 with friends such as Professor Ruud de Moor from the University of Tilburg and Professor Jean Stoetzel from the Sorbonne, our intention was to conduct a poll on the specific identity of Europe to identify the typical values of our continent. At that time, we were still at the height of the Cold War and Europe was caught between two superpowers, the United States and the Soviet Empire. Once we had conducted our initial analysis, however, we were surprised to discover that there were virtually no truly common values. I was lucky enough to be able to visit the city of Hong Kong on several occasions.

On my first trip, a friend pointed out to me the observation that there is no character in Chinese writing that expresses ‘liberty’, the first value of the French Revolution and one revered by St. Paul in his Epistle to the Galatians. Having arrived at this point, it is proper to ask whether liberty is indeed the fundamental value held dear by all Europeans. In 1999, the populations of Greece and Italy, countries where European culture began to form, declared that they preferred equality to liberty. The people of Russia stated the same. Yet in Europe as a whole, 53% of the population today prefers liberty, while 40% prefers equality. It would seem that even in its fundamental values, old Europe is very diverse. Even so, the surveys conducted in 1981, 1990 and 1999-2000 found trends shared by almost all countries.

One might first mention the gradual rise of individualism, and secondly what is often termed, rightly or wrongly, secularisation, which is becoming more widespread. These two trends are connected, but it should be pointed out that people have not opted for them in a deliberate manner but have suffered them.The principle causes were firstly the democratisation of education, and secondly industrialisation and the subsequent impact of new technologies. Following this, mention must be made of the democratisation of secondary and advanced education for girls, which is a very important factor as it is mothers who pass on values to their children. Women’s emancipation is unquestionably the most important phenomenon of the period after the Second World War.

The time has now come to develop the importance of this democratisation. Our surveys demonstrate the considerable impact that the opportunity to enjoy a longer period of education has had on both men and women. The democratisation of education owes its origins in large measure to Martin Luther, the great reformer of the 16th century. He it was who translated the Bible into German and wanted everyone to be able to read it. Consequently, and as Alain Peyrefitte demonstrates in his marvellous book La société de confiance, illiteracy fell firstly in the countries of northern Europe, in Protestant regions, whereas Catholic and Protestant countries had to wait until the 20th century for literacy rates to rise.

Being able to read and write was a sine qua non in order to apply the sciences to industrialisation. Reading meant being informed. The secularisation that had begun in relatively closed circles in the 20th century found a potent incentive from the moment that young students were able to keep up to date with Charles Darwin’s discoveries on the evolution of life, be it plant, animal or human—which proved to be decisive in arriving at a new understanding of mankind. Westerners began to question the entire dogmatic Christian tradition on the Creation, original sin, predestination and above all the very existence of God.The democratisation of teaching, therefore, opened the doors to secularisation, which resulted in a gradual separation of Church and state. The surveys show that, even in Poland and in Russia, where there is still a lot of confidence and trust in the Church, people oppose any interference by the Church in the running of the state. Consequently, the value of tolerance, introduced into Holland in the 20th century, spread firstly into western Europe and then into Central Europe.

Tolerance is the source of many changes to do with ethics. If we look closely at the recent changes that have occurred in western thinking, we find that the surveys demonstrate that of the six areas put forward, the most important is the family. However, as Louis Roussel from the INED describes in his book La famille incertaine, this family is now in the throes of change. For centuries, the family was first and foremost a social structure: the fact of belonging to a certain social class and sharing the same religion and the same political beliefs sustained family stability.These factors are at the bottom of the scale today when we want to find out which are important factors for a marriage to work. Issues mentioned as being most important are interpersonal matters such as respect, tolerance, dialogue and loyalty. However, these factors are much more fragile than those deemed important in the past.

When we try to assess which ambits public attention should focus on, we always find the ‘family’ as the key issue, though young people in a number of countries put ‘personal growth’ first. It is at this point that views on cohabitation, marriage and sexuality begin to shift, and each person decides what will make them personally happy. If we examine the data, we find that in France in 1960, for example, 10% of couples were cohabiting, a word that had at that time recently come into use; in 1990, this figure had risen to 90%. It is not surprising that in 1999 some 40% of the younger generations in France and Belgium should believe that marriage is an ‘antiquated institution’. Much of Europe has experienced a swift change in the sphere of relations between men and women.

If we look at France and Ireland, two countries with a very different past, we can see that in 1981, 29% of French people viewed marriage as an antiquated institution, as compared with 36% in 1999; for the Irish population, these figures stand at 12% and 23% respectively. With regard to homosexuality, on a scale of 1 to 10, in which 1 equates to viewing homosexuality as completely unjustifiable and 10 as fully justifiable, the French stood at 3.1 and in 1999 at 5.2; for the Irish, these figures were 2.7 and 4.4 respectively. In Holland, where both homosexual men and lesbians have been marrying for some time, these figures have risen from 5.6 to 7.8, the highest figures for the whole of Europe.These three countries have a long Christian past and Ireland and Holland a history of very strict moral code. It is not surprising that the title of the Belgian analysis of the latest survey should be called Lost Certainty.

When we come to analyse the issue of children, a factor deemed to be important in the success of a marriage, we can see that this entire evolution has enormous geopolitical consequences.We find in Europe that Christians and non-Christians alike believe the ideal number of children in a family to be 2.5. This figure has not been reached anywhere in the continent, nor has the birth rate reached the figure of 2.1 children per woman under the age of 45, the number required to replace the population. As is well known, the figure has barely reached a single child in countries such as Germany, Italy and Spain, implying that the population of Europe will gradually fall.

The United Nations and the European Community have recently published an estimate according to which Europe will need 100 million immigrants by the year 2025 in order to maintain an acceptable ratio of active to inactive members of the population, meaning that we will have to open our doors to Africa and Asia. Russia faces the same challenge. In recent years, the population of the Russian Federation has been dropping by almost a million a year. All the countries to the south of Russia are Muslim.

The largest of them is Turkey, which is at the gates of the European Community and is already a member of the Council of Europe and NATO. There are 200,000 more births in Turkey than in Russia every year. It is calculated that by 2025, the Turkish population will number 87 million, in other words, many more than Germany, the European Community member with the largest population at the present time. If Turkey were a member of the Community now, other members would have to bear in mind the most populous and Muslim member. The issue considered as most important after the family is employment. In this case, there is a surprising tendency to assess work in terms of qualitative or expressive aspects, rather than purely instrumental aspects.

This is unquestionably due to the impact of the fact that owners and workers alike are better qualified and have specialist skills, and because salaries have risen impressively in many western European countries since the war. In a number of countries, such as France and Belgium, the tendency to protest increased between 1981 and 1990 and between 1990 and 1999. Every year has seen a rise in the signing of petitions, the organisation of strikes, even wildcat strikes, and boycotts. There has, on the other hand, been a significant increase in available free time since the ‘golden sixties’. Is it possible that the discontent is expressing a more profound frustration born of the acceleration of economic life that demands new knowledge of technology and which leads to stress? This does not mean that the large majority of employees declare that they are satisfied with their jobs.

A more profound sensation that seems to be spreading is perhaps a lack of trust in others, in institutions and in the future in general. We will return to this theme later. There are two areas that have undergone continuous change during the two decades that our surveys cover. These are ethics and religion. It would seem that most of those surveyed have lost the traditional references related to these two issues. Let us consider ethics first. I have mentioned the examples of France, Ireland and Holland, but throughout western Europe as a whole, where it is possible to make comparisons over a period of time, we can see that people are increasingly viewing as justifiable certain behaviour that would have been condemned not that long ago. This is above all true in behaviour to do with bioethics and sexuality in people’s private lives. People are demanding increasing freedom—even total freedom—in their private lives. Most young people in every country in western Europe expressed a preference for complete sexual freedom.

Abortion was accepted in many countries. And at the other extreme, acceptance of euthanasia is spreading at a dramatic pace, above all in Scandinavian countries, Holland, Belgium, France and even in Orthodox countries, excluding Greece. This does not mean that people have lost interest in life: we have observed that of the Ten Commandments, the fifth, “thou shalt not kill”, has the highest approval rating. People everywhere have become more prudent as regards ‘principles’. A typical example of this is unquestionably the fact that a relative majority of Europeans think it is permissible for a woman to have a child without necessarily having to be in a relationship with a man, by means of artificial insemination or other method.

The view is that a woman should be able to judge her own situation and make her own choice. Every year, we see a greater preference for ethics based on the situation rather than ethics founded on principles. There are two reasons for this: firstly, people are better informed and so are in a better position to take a more qualified approach to traditional approaches; and secondly, the various Churches have lost much of their former influence in the sphere of ethics, as demonstrated by the limited acceptance of the encyclical Humanae vitae. This does not, however, mean that Europeans have lost all sense of morality; nor can we talk of a unilateral evolution. Of those countries for which comparisons can be made between 1981 and 1999-2000, there are four in which the percentage of those who place the emphasis on the situation has risen, and five in which the percentage of people who prioritise principles has grown, in particular in Great Britain.The number of those who are undecided has fallen everywhere, except in Italy, in many cases by a significant amount, meaning that the polarisation between the two opinion groups has, overall, grown. What matters are the subtle variations.

Thus, the insistence on freedom in one’s private life is countered by a clear preference for relatively strict public moral standards. It is reasonable to claim that this choice is based on the need for a reliable social framework with which to protect freedom in citizens’ private lives, and in part this is true. The behaviour that is most severely disapproved of everywhere is ‘joyriding’. This does not necessarily mean that opposition to this kind of theft is a sign of public morals, but perhaps quite the opposite: a car is an sacrosanct symbol of individual freedom and should be at our disposal day and night.

This does not contradict the fact that we frown more readily on behaviour related to public life, such as theft or tax fraud, than on behaviour in people’s private lives, such as sexuality and issues to do with bioethics. It is as if people want to say that the theatre in which they live out their private lives ought to remain stable, whereas the way in which they play their part ought to be free and unaffected by prohibitions. Many, however, doubt the solidity of this theatre, which is reflected in a certain loss of confidence in a number of institutions. Even though by far the majority of Europeans view democracy as the best system of government, despite its shortcomings, these selfsame people have little confidence in their parliaments, their administration and their legal system.

There is a widespread distrust of everything related to the state. Even in European Union countries—where 86% believe that democracy is a very good system of government—44% see delegating power to experts as a good thing and 20% support the idea of a government led by a “strong figure who does not need to worry about parliament or elections”. This last option is even supported by the majority of people in some countries in Central and Eastern Europe such as Latvia, Lithuania, Romania and the Ukraine. In contrast, countries such as Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary and Croatia are firmly opposed to this notion. In Romania, 28% would prefer the army to govern (in Russia, this figure stands at 19%), a very different mental outlook to that of western Europe.

The consequences of this are that democracy is often fragile and that active populism is to be found in quite a few countries. It is not surprising, therefore, that a civic sense should have developed to only a very limited degree, though our long history once again plays a part in this. Those most wary of the state in western Europe are the Belgians and the Italians, citizens of countries that came very late to know what a state is. Within the European Union, being leftwing does not imply significantly greater trust in parliaments (43% confidence amongst the leftwing, 42% amongst the rightwing), nor significantly clearer support for the democratic system (13% of anti-democrats are leftwing, 19% are rightwing).

Even so, the results of the surveys do not allow us to claim that there has been a widespread fall in confidence in institutions. Robert Putnam recently published his book Bowling Alone in order to warn the public of the danger of a gradual decline in what is usually termed ‘social capital’, the body of networks and attitudes that underpin a society. Putnam believes that it is possible to observe a certain fall in this capital. A comparison of the results of the surveys from 1981 and 1999 reveals that Putnam’s theory lacks a solid foundation, at least as far as those western European countries for which we have comparative data are concerned. Even the level of trust in the Church has not diminished. It is true that trust in parliaments has fallen, for example in Great Britain, France and above all in Ireland, but it has risen elsewhere, such as in Holland, Belgium, Denmark and Italy.

The same is also true of administration, in that confidence in it has, broadly speaking, risen. In virtually all countries, confidence in the education system has grown, in some instances to a notable degree, demonstrating that both countries and parents want to invest in a future they believe in. Confidence in the legal system, however, has fallen throughout Europe, but this often means that people’s expectations of justice are much higher today than in the recent past. In any case, the notion of a widespread decline in confidence in institutions would not seem to be justified. It is nevertheless true that Europeans have very little trust in their fellow citizens, excluding the Scandinavians and the people living in Holland, which has a Protestant background. In other countries and in all three surveys, most people report that there is a need to be very cautious. Yet this lack of trust is not new but the consequence, once again, of a long history.

Over 20 years ago, the famous French historian Jean Delumeau published his important studies on Fear in the West and Sin and Fear, in which he described the fears of Europeans between the 13th and the 18th centuries: the fear of war, plague, hell, the devil and God’s judgement. Most people lived short lives full of dangers; for them, the Church and heaven were means of salvation. These fears have disappeared, at least in part, in Europe, unlike in the United States, where more than 60% of people believe in hell and the devil, for example, which clearly gives rise to anti-Islamic symbols in the speeches given by President Bush. Fewer than 40% of Europeans believe in hell and the devil, the extremes being Malta, with 81%, and Sweden, with 9%. New fears—ageing, disease, unemployment, a lack of adequate training, crime and, very recently, terrorism— have, however, appeared.Those institutions responsible for protecting the population from these fears have managed to earn a high level of trust, though this varies from country to country.

These institutions are firstly the education system and then the health system, social security, the army and the police. This level of trust has been observed in all the surveys. We must recognise, however, that every fear has a scapegoat. A list of people that we would not choose to have as neighbours reveals certain information regarding these scapegoats, who are viewed as a threat. Throughout Europe, these scapegoats are, in descending order, drinkers, people with criminal records, people on the far right, people on the far left, drug addicts, homosexuals and lastly immigrant workers, Muslims and Jews. It may be that a new survey, after the terrorist attacks of 11th September 2001 in the United States and the Chechen attacks in Moscow in October, would place Muslims at the top of the list. This needs to be borne in mind for future surveys.

There can be no doubt that globalisation is prevailing, a process influenced by the economy and the media.Yet in their thinking, people do not support this and sometimes rebel against it. In effect, history is written in people’s heads, the place where tolerance and intolerance gestate. We were able to conduct the survey in Turkey for the first time in 2000. The results proved to be somewhat surprising. Turkey, which neighbours Russia, remains a very closed world, as can be seen in the following examples: 11% of Russians do not want immigrants as neighbours, whereas this is true of 54% of Turks; 13% of Russians do not want Muslims as their neighbours, whereas 47% of Turks do not want Christian neighbours; 11% of Russians are anti-Jewish, whereas this is true of 38% of Turks.

With regard to the values to be passed on to children in the home, the highest figures (70%) were obtained by tolerance and a sense of responsibility, whereas these values obtained 42% and 37% respectively in Turkey. Another indicator of closed thinking is the tremendous trust in the army, which obtains 83% in Turkey, as opposed to 56% support in Europe. Even so, 83% of Turks prefer a democratic government, while approximately 60% declare that they want a leader who does not have to take into account elections or parliament. These figures enable us to draw the conclusion that a series of sweeping changes are required in Turkey before it can be admitted as a member of the European Union, something the Turks are extremely keen to see.

Alongside ethics, the second area where there has been undeniable change is religion. Everyone is of course aware that there is a need to distinguish between the Church, the Christian faith and religion. While the first two are in retreat—though not everywhere—religion in general terms has remained much more stable, as man is a ‘religious animal’. Let us begin by analysing trust in the Church. Ever since the first survey, conducted in 1981, and in countries where it is possible to make comparisons, it can be seen that apart from in Italy, trust in the Church has declined throughout Europe and often to a considerable degree. As a result, in countries with a longstanding Catholic tradition, trust has been seriously damaged.

To mention but one example, in Belgium there has been a decline from 63% in 1981 to the present level of 43%, and amongst young Flemings aged between 18 and 30, the figure has fallen to 20%. Even in Ireland, a swift decline has been observed from 78% in 1981 to 52% in 1999. Traditional Christian beliefs have also declined. In general terms, belief in God has fallen but only to a very limited degree. In countries that we are able to compare, we can see that there has been a rise in the belief in life after death, somewhat on a par with the belief in reincarnation. The impression is that man wants to survive one way or another, but typically Christian beliefs, such as in the Resurrection, heaven and hell, seem excessively myth-like and are in decline everywhere. Furthermore, the problem of evil remains a stumbling block: many people who do not believe in God, or in life after death, declare that they believe in sin, somewhat as if it were the symbol of inexplicable evil. Meanwhile, most Europeans declare themselves to be religious, a proportion that has remained stable over the various surveys.

The importance of religious feeling has even increased in northern and eastern Europe and in Scandinavian countries, but has declined in western Europe. The percentage of those who declare themselves to be committed atheists has also remained stable, standing at 5% in 1981 and 5% in 1999 of all those interviewed. The number of agnostics in western Europe has without question risen. Some of these people still consider themselves to be religious but without reference to a transcendent god. There has been a considerable decline in belief in a personal god, above amongst the younger generations, who see God as a faceless force of nature who will no longer call them to account. Increasing numbers of Europeans are building a kind of personal religion or Weltanschauung. It is important to note there are very significant differences between countries: Lithuania is very different to its Baltic neighbours Estonia and Latvia; and the Czech Republic has virtually nothing in common with Slovakia and two countries of Orthodox tradition, Romania, a country that continues to hold very strong religious beliefs, and Bulgaria. A number of conclusions can be drawn from the above.

If we compare Europe with the United States, we are forced to recognise that thinking in Europe is largely characterised by doubt of some degree or other, the opposite of the situation on the other side of the Atlantic. In America, there is less questioning of things and a certain national and religious fundamentalism reigns. In the United States, there is far greater confidence in institutions, in particular in the army and the various Churches, than in Europe and Russia. The future looks brighter for Americans than for Europeans, despite the prospects of terrorism. Americans are instinctively much more optimistic and believe that every obstacle along the way can be overcome, a mental outlook that President Bush managed to make the most of. We will now go on to consider some of the issues for the future. The first issue is to do with our studies in themselves.

It is a fact that people feel harassed by many institutes whose function it is to sound out public opinion. People are increasingly tired and pollsters are faced by widespread rejection amongst the selected candidates when it comes to interviewing them. Consequently, we need to consider whether other means for finding out popular opinion should be sought. The second issue is to do with the possibility of making comparisons. Is it true that the concepts of the family, democracy, Europe, the Church and faith are understood in the same way in Italy, Sweden, Iceland and Latvia? We have seen that in the field of politics, ‘left’ and ‘right’ mean different things from country to country, which leads us to question whether we are comparing identical realities when we compare answers.

There is a third issue that is somewhat worrying that is due to the ageing of the populations and which is found in countries such as Belgium and Spain: there is the danger that people of a certain age are underrepresented in surveys, yet it would be extremely interesting to know what their expectations, doubts and fears are. This is something that future surveys should take into account. Poorer groups are also underrepresented in surveys and this is something that has also concerned those in charge of Eurobarometer, which conducts surveys for the European Commission. The fourth issue is to do with the political influence of the results of our surveys. Many of the people who have collaborated with us will of course have published books and numerous articles, and they will have given lots of talks and speeches throughout Europe, yet the question remains: what is the real impact of all this work on society, the world of politics and the Churches.

We then come to a whole series of questions related to intercultural affairs. In many countries, where there are nevertheless numerous immigrants, most of them Muslims, interviews have been conducted solely with nationals. This is not the case in Belgium, where the region of Brussels, the capital of the European Union, emerges as the most religious region, undoubtedly due to the presence of Muslims. Consequently, there is a need to find a mean, for example by means of over-representation: we will have to select non-Europeans, as a result of which it will be possible to find out where a European Islam really is developing and what proportion of the population prefers segregation to integration. Without a shadow of doubt, the costs of such an undertaking would be a serious drawback, but more difficult still would be the organisation of surveys in Muslim countries.

Ronald Inglehart tried to conduct such surveys, the World Values Surveys, in Iran and Jordan, but knowing Jordan, we have to ask ourselves whether he obtained answers that can be relied on.Very often, public opinion is gagged to such an extent that people are afraid to say what they really think. During a number of visits to Jordan, some colleagues at the University of Amman commented that it was impossible to ask about certain issues such as the existence of God, democracy, the role of women, homosexuality, etc. Nevertheless, Prince Hassan bin Talal said that he was very much in favour of conducting a comparable survey to those done in Europe. The basic hypothesis supported within the framework of this analysis is that the man and woman on the street have exactly the same hopes and fears wherever one looks in the world: they want their families to be protected; they want to see greater concern for justice; and they want women’s rights to be better respected. In his book East and West, Chris Patten, the last governor of Hong Kong and currently the EU Commissioner for External Relations, showed that the Chinese, at bottom, profess the same values as the British.

If one could demonstrate the existence of worldwide public opinion, it might force the political world to include other priorities in its programmes. The surveys conducted in Argentina and Chile, for example, reveal that the citizens of these countries in general share the same values as the Italians and Spaniards. There were other countries in Latin America where the surveys were conducted amongst Spanish-speaking people; nothing is known of the opinions of the Indian peoples, a situation that demands the employment of other methods. The same can be said of Japan, as the terminology of the existing questionnaires is not suited in the least to a culture that is so different to ours, as was made plain by a survey conducted by Japanese researchers who had simply translated the questionnaire and who obtained disappointing results.

These observations may help us to better understand an increasingly globalised world in which we must, therefore, take into account very different views. This is where sociologists can play the part of ‘prophets’ by giving a voice to those subject to the law of silence. At this point, the prophets would become liberators. These are undoubtedly nothing more than dreams, but only those who dare to dream are able to open the way to a happier mankind that is more considerate of others.