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CHAPTER 2 The Nature of Value Change 1 HE basic value priorities of Western publics seem to be changing as their societies move into a Post-Industrial phase of development . This process of value change is likely to bring new issues to the fore. It may influence the public's choice of candidates and political parties. Ultimately, it will help shape the policies adopted by Western elites. In this chapter we will examine some of the evidence that value priorities are changing and explore the kinds of change taking place. We will try to answer the question, "What goals are likely to be given greater emphasis in the post-industrial era?" The process of change is not as ephemeral as the flow of events might suggest. Instead it appears to reflect a transformation of basic world views. It seems to be taking place quite gradually but steadily, being rooted in the formative experiences of whole generation -units. Its symptoms manifest themselves in a variety of ways; sometimes they are explosive, as was the case with the unexpected student rebellions of the late 1960's. But if, as we believe, the change is a basic, long-term process, we cannot rely solely on the more blatant manifestations such as these to give an accurate picture of the scope and character of value change among Western publics. Mass survey data offers a more systematic, if less sensational indication of what is happening. The evidence is still fragmentary, but a detailed examination of available data suggests that some profoundly important changes are occurring. I. SOURCES OF VALUE CHANGE: SOME HYPOTHESES Why is value change taking place? It seems to be linked with a cluster of socio-economic changes including rising levels of education , shifts in the occupational structure, and the development of increasingly broad and effective mass communications networks. But two phenomena seem particularly significant: 1. The unprecedented prosperity experienced by Western nations during the decades following World War II. Recent eco- 22 — Value Change nomic stagnation does not seem to have undone the effects of the twenty fat years from 1950 to 1970. 2. The absence of total war. The simple fact that no Western nation has been invaded for thirty years may have extremely significant consequences. In short, people are safe and they have enough to eat. These two basic facts have far-reaching implications. Our expectation that the value priorities of Western publics are changing is derived from two key hypotheses. The first is that people tend to place a high priority on whatever needs are in short supply. As a result of the two phenomena just mentioned, Western publics have for a number of years experienced exceptionally high levels of economic and physical security. Consequently, they have begun to give increasing emphasis to other types of needs. If we wish to go beyond this simple explanatory scheme, the work of Abraham Maslow is particularly interesting, for it suggests a specific direction in which value change will move under given conditions. Maslow argues that people act to fulfill a number of different needs, which are pursued in hierarchical order, according to their relative urgency for survival.1 Top priority is given to the satisfaction of physiological needs as long as they are in short supply. The need for physical safety comes next; its priority is almost as high as that of the sustenance needs, but a hungry man will risk his life to get food. Once an individual has attained physical and economic security he may begin to pursue other, nonmaterial goals. These other goals reflect genuine and normal needs —although people may fail to give them attention when deprived of the sustenance or safety needs. But when at least minimal economic and physical security are present, the needs for love, belonging , and esteem become increasingly important; and later, a set of goals related to intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction looms large. There does not seem to be any clear hierarchy within the last set of needs, which Maslow called "self-actualization needs." But there 1 See Abraham H. Maslow, Motivation and Personality (New York: Harper , 1954); important efforts to apply Maslow's theory to political analysis include James C. Davies, Human Nature and Politics (New York: Wiley, 1963); Davies, "The Priority of Human Needs and the Stages of Political Development," unpublished paper; Amitai Etzioni, The Active Society (New York: Free Press, 1968), Chapter 21; and Robert E. Lane, Political Thinking and Consciousness (Chicago: Markham, 1970), Chapter 2. A somewhat different...


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