For a number of years, very interesting research in cultural studies has been produced by the World Values Survey. This survey measures the slippery notion of value as belonging to four types: Survival, Traditional, Self-Expression, and Secular-Rational.
Individual and social values are quantified, resulting in two pairs of value types that are independent, and for each pair, the two types are dependent and inversely proportional:
- Survival values ⇔ Self-expression values
- Secular-rational values ⇔ Traditional values
In other words, if survival values are high (say one), self-expression values are low (say zero), and if survival values are low, self-expression values are high. Similarly, secular-rational values are higher if traditional values are lower, etc. So a pair of numbers each between zero and one indicates how an individual or society considers the importance of these values.
These social values are measured and compared in countries around the world, resulting in the Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map. This map is a scatter plot that clusters similar countries by value pairs, rather than geography. However, countries close in geography are also often fairly close as “value” neighbors on this cultural chart.
One might try to claim that self-expression values and secular-rational values are more “advanced” than survival and traditional values. As a culture obtains more material wealth they are less dependent on using resources for survival, and so can foster more self-expression. Then perhaps as self-expression grows and so independent thought, less dependence on or even tolerance of traditional values encourages increased secular-rational values. But that would be too easy!
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