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CHAPTER 13 World Views and Global Change JJENEATH the frenzied activism of the 1960's and the seeming quiescence of the 1970's, a Silent Revolution has been occurring that is gradually but fundamentally changing political life throughout the Western world. This book has described two major aspects of this revolution: a shift from overwhelming emphasis on material consumption and security toward greater concern with the quality of life; and an increase in the political skills of Western publics that enables them to play a more active role in making important political decisions. The first of these changes can be traced to the fact that people have a variety of needs and give top priority to those that are in short supply. The needs most directly related to physical survival take top priority when they are not adequately met. A person lacking adequate food or shelter is likely to devote virtually full attention to obtaining them. But when at least minimal economic and physical security are present, needs for love, belonging, and esteem become increasingly salient; and when all of these are met, intellectual and aesthetic satisfaction take on central importance. We have seen evidence that some groups in advanced Industrial society have attained a sense of economic and physical security that enables them to give top priority to the belonging and intellectual -aesthetic needs. These Post-Materialists, as we term them, are a relatively small minority, comprising only 12 percent of the public in the United States, for example. But they occupy a strategic position for they are concentrated among the best educated and politically most active. They are heavily over-represented among the young. While they make up as little as 2 or 3 percent of the oldest age groups, among those born after World War II they are almost as numerous as the Materialist type in some countries. This heavy skew according to age suggests that a process of inter-generational value change is taking place. For the values acquired in childhood and youth tend to remain with one through- 364 — Cognitive Mobilization out adult life. For the most part, the Post-Materialists have grown up during times of economic and physical security; consequently they tend to take material security for granted and place more emphasis on other goals. Their parents and grandparents, on the other hand, grew up during the Great Depression or during one of the World Wars, when scarcity and physical danger was pervasive in many countries. Their value priorities today still reflect these formative experiences. The cross-national differences in the way values are distributed across the respective age groups reinforces the impression that they result from a process of generational change. For if generational change is taking place, we would expect these differences to reflect a given nation's recent history. Germany, for example, has undergone particularly extreme changes in the conditions prevailing during the formative years of her respective age cohorts: the older Germans experienced famine and slaughter during World War I, followed by severe inflation, the Great Depression and devastation, invasion and massive loss of life during World War II. Her youngest cohorts have been brought up in relatively peaceful conditions in what is now one of the richest countries in the world. If value types reflect one's formative experiences, we would expect to find relatively large differences between the older and younger German age cohorts. Great Britain represents the opposite extreme from Germany: the wealthiest country in Europe prior to World War II, she escaped invasion during the war, but has had a relatively stagnant economy ever since. For the last twenty-five years, her European neighbors have had economic growth rates about twice as large as Britain's. We would expect to find relatively small differences between the youngest and oldest British respondents. The data certainly verify these expectations. The age-related differences are larger in Germany than in any other country—almost twice as large as they are in Britain, where the smallest amount of value change seems to have taken place. The nine other Western countries for which we have data fall between these two extremes, and on the whole there is a very good fit between the economic history of a given country and the amount of apparent value change across that country's age groups. Multi-variate analyses indicate that formal education, one's current social milieu and life-cycle effects all seem to help shape one's value priorities. But the impact...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781400869589
MARC Record
OCLC
933516258
Pages
496
Launched on MUSE
2016-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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