December 27, 2020

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People's Motivations are Changing,
and Reshaping the World

by Ronald F. Inglehart
Cambridge University Press, 2018
(288 pages; illustrated)

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note = Numbers in parentheses refer to pages
    Quote = "This book argues that whether one has grown up perceiving survival as precarious or secure, together with historical cultural differences, has a major impact on people’s behavior — but we should consider a major alternative theory: rational choice. Two contrasting theories are competing to explain how individuals and societies behave: rational choice theories and cultural models." (19)
LIST OF FIGURES (page ix-xiii)



INTRODUCTION --- An Overview of this Book (1-7)
    [1] Pushing the envelope (5-6)

    [2] Graphs but no equations (7)
    Quote = "A society’s culture is shaped by the extent to which its people grow up feeling that survival is secure or insecure. This book presents a revised version of modernization theory — Evolutionary Modernization theory — which argues that economic and physical insecurity are conducive to xenophobia, strong in—group solidarity, authoritarian politics and rigid adherence to their group’s traditional cultural norms — and conversely that secure conditions lead to greater tolerance of outgroups, openness to new ideas and more egalitarian social norms. It then analyzes survey data from countries containing most of the world’s population, showing how, in recent decades, changing levels of economic and physical security have been reshaping human values and motivations, and thereby transforming societies. (8)

    Quote = "For most of history, survival was insecure, with population rising to meet the food supply and then being held constant by starvation, disease and violence. Under these conditions, societies emphasize strong in—group solidarity, conformity to group norms, rejection of outsiders, and obedience to strong leaders. For under extreme scarcity, xenophobia is realistic: if there is just enough land to support one tribe and another tribe tries to claim it, survival becomes a zero-sum struggle between Us and Them. Under these conditions, a successful survival strategy is for the tribe to close ranks behind a strong leader, forming a united front against outsiders — a strategy that can be called the Authoritarian Reflex." (8)

    Quote = "Conversely, high levels of existential security open the way for greater individual autonomy and more openness to diversity, change and new ideas. The concept that deference to authority was linked with xenophobia and other forms of intolerance was first presented in the classic 'The Authoritarian Personality,' which viewed authoritarianism as a personality trait caused by harsh child—rearing practices. The Authoritarianism concept was controversial from the start, giving rise to an enormous literature. Its original theoretical basis and the instrument originally used to measure it have been largely superseded, but over the past seven decades, scores of studies have confirmed that there is a strong tendency for deference to authority to be linked with xenophobia, intolerance and conformity to group norms. This seems to reflect a deep-rooted human reaction to insecurity." (9)



5) CULTURAL CHANGE, SLOW AND FASTThe distinctive trajectory of norms governing gender equality and sexual orientation (77-101)

6) THE FEMINIZATION OF SOCIETY AND DECLINING WILLINGNESS TO FIGHT FOR ONE’S COUNTRYThe individual-level component of the long peace (102-113)



9) THE SILENT REVOLUTION IN REVERSEThe rise of trump and the authoritarian populist parties (173-199)


note = “Artificial intelligence is making greater resources available, but government intervention will be required to reallocate a significant part of these resources to create meaningful jobs that require a human touch, in health care, education (from pre-school to post-graduate levels), infra-structure, environmental protection, research and development, care of the elderly, and the arts and humanities — with the goal of improving the quality of life for society as a whole, rather than maximizing corporate profits. Developing well-designed programs to attain this goal will be a crucial task for social scientists and policy-makers during the next 20 years.” (page 214)

CONCLUSION (214-216)

“Whether survival seems secure or insecure shapes a society’s world-view. One of the great achievements of the 19th and 20th centuries was the emergence of political movements that represented the interests of the industrial working class. In the course of a long struggle, they helped elect governments that brought higher salaries, greater job security, retirement security, education and health care to most people. This eventually brought high levels of existential security that led to another great achievement — the Cultural and political changes of the Silent Revolution era. High-income societies became more open, trusting and tolerant, emancipating women, ethnic minorities and gays, giving people more freedom of choice in how to live their lives — encouraging the spread of democracy and producing higher levels of happiness.” (216)

“But history rarely moves in a straight line. The working-class base of the classic Left melted away, and the coming of Artificial Intelligence Society brought a winner-takes-all economy that is concentrating wealth and political power in the hands of a small minority — undermining existential security for most of the population. High-income societies are currently regressing toward the xenophobic authoritarian politics linked with insecurity. But — unlike the Xenophobic authoritarianism that surged during the Great Depression — this does not result from objective scarcity. These societies possess abundant and growing resources, but they are increasingly miss allocated from the standpoint of maximizing human well-being. Insecurity today results not from inadequate resources but from growing inequality — which is ultimately a political question. With appropriate political realignment, governments could emerge that play the role the classic Left once performed.” (214-215)

“Developed societies could become dystopias controlled by a small minority. Or their growing resources could be used to produce confident and tolerant societies with high levels of existential security. There is no objective reason why support for xenophobic authoritarianism should continue to increase. The world is not in the depths of another Great Depression. Resources are plentiful and increasing. Between early 2000 and late 2016, the estimated net worth of American households and nonprofit institutions more than doubled, from $44 trillion to $90 trillion — an average of over a million dollars for every family of four. “This upsurge of wealth took place despite the crash of 2008. Widespread insecurity in high-income societies does not stem from inadequate resources — it reflects the fact that economic gains are going almost entirely to those at the top, and secure, well-paid jobs are disappearing. Whether they continue to do so is a political question. It depends on whether a new coalition emerges that restores political power to the majority.” (215)

“It took decades for the industrial working class to become literate, cognitively mobilized and organized as an effective political force. But today’s knowledge societies already have highly educated publics who are accustomed to thinking for themselves. A large share of the 99 percent are articulate and have political skills. All that is needed is an awareness that the key economic conflict today is between them and the one percent. Constructing a new political coalition will not he easy. The abstraction of “inequality” does not mean much to most voters. Inequality is hard to visualize and hard to measure. It is unlikely that one citizen in a thousand could calculate or explain a Gini Index of Inequality. It is much easier to blame foreigners for the fact that life has become insecure. Foreigners are easy to visualize — we see them every day (especially on television) in ways that reinforce a deep-rooted tendency to view them as dangerous. Doing so obscures the fact that the key conflict in contemporary high-income societies is between the majority and the one percent.” (215)

“Foreigners are not the main threat. If developed societies excluded all foreigners and all imports, secure jobs would continue to disappear, since the leading cause — overwhelmingly — is automation.” (215)

“Once artificial intelligence starts learning independently, it moves at a pace that vastly outstrips human intelligence. Humanity needs to devise the means to stay in control of artificial intelligence. I suspect that unless we do so within the next 20 years or so, we will no longer have the option. Developing successful strategies to cope with artificial intelligence is a crucial task that will require imagination, persistence and experimentation.” (216)

“And building a political coalition that represents the 99 percent will not occur automatically. But in democracies it reflects the interests of the overwhelming majority, and it is likely to emerge.” (217)

“During the first half of the 20th century a major component of cultural evolution consisted of learning the benefits of government intervention, as industrialized societies adopted universal compulsory education, child labor laws, public health programs, pure food and drug laws, old age pensions and social security systems. During the Great Depression capitalism collapsed, giving way to fascism or communism in many countries and probably would not have survived in the remaining ones without the evolution of New Deals and postwar welfare states. During the second half of the 20th century, the world learned that state — run economies do not function well. Communist regimes from East Berlin to Beijing collapsed or moved toward market economies because successful politics is a balancing act between too much and too little government intervention. In the 21st century, we are in the process of learning that artificial intelligence society has strong, inherent winner-takes-all tendencies that can only be offset by government intervention. Developing the right balance between market and state will also require experimentation and insightful innovation, but when survival is at stake, humans usually rise to the occasion.” (216)

APPENDICES (217-230)

[1] Appendix 1 — The Easterlin Paradox (218-220)

[2] Appendix 2 (221-225)

note = Global cultural map from 1995 - Survival vs. Self-Expression (221)

note = Global cultural map from 2000 - Survival/Self Expression Values: Factor Score (222)

[3] Appendix 3 — Six aspects of tolerance, by level of economic development (226)

[4] Appendix 4 — Xenophobia and intergenerational change (227)

[5] Appendix 5 — Net household income inequality trends: Russia, China, and the West, 1981-2007 (229-230)

NOTES (231-251)

REFERENCES (252-269)

INDEX (270-273)
    Classic modernization theory
    Cultural backlash
    Cultural evolution
    Economic insecurity
    Existential security
    Fertility rate
    Gender equality
    Individual-choice norm
    Knowledge society
    Life expectancy
    Life satisfaction
    Marx, Karl
    Muslim-majority countries
    Rational choice theories
    Same sex marriage
    Secular rational values
    Self-expression value
    Sexual orientation
    Social liberalization
    Subjective well-being
    Survival values
    Trump, Donald
    Western democracies
    Winner-takes-all economy
    Winner-takes-all society
    World War II
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR = Ronald F. Inglehart is the Lowenstein Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He holds honorary doctorates from Uppsala University, Sweden; the Free University of Brussels, Belgium; and the University of Lueneburg, Germany. Inglehart helped found the Euro-Barometer surveys and is founding president of the World Values Survey Association, which has surveyed representative national samples of the publics of 105 countries containing over ninety percent of the world's population. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. In 2011, he won the Johan Skytte prize in Political Science, often considered the highest prize awarded in the field.

SUMMARY = Cultural Evolution argues that people's values and behavior are shaped by the degree to which survival is secure; it was precarious for most of history, which encouraged heavy emphasis on group solidarity, rejection of outsiders, and obedience to strong leaders. This book explains the rise of environmentalist parties, gender equality, and same-sex marriage through a new, empirically-tested version of modernization theory.

BOOK DESCRIPTION = Written for a non-specialist audience, the book presents and tests a theory that helps explain the causes of the changes in people's motivations that have led to the rise of environmentalist parties, gender equality, and same sex marriage --- and the reaction that led to Brexit and the election of Trump. High levels of existential security encourage openness to change, diversity, and new ideas. The unprecedented prosperity and security of the postwar era brought cultural change, the environmentalist movement, and the spread of democracy.

But in recent decades, diminishing job security and rising inequality have led to an authoritarian reaction. Evidence from more than 100 countries demonstrates that people's motivations and behavior reflect the extent to which they take survival for granted --- and that modernization changes them in roughly predictable ways. For under extreme scarcity, xenophobia is realistic: if there is just enough land to support one tribe and another tribe tries to claim it, survival may literally be a choice between Us and Them.

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[1] This book is the product of an extremely ambitious project - ambitious in terms of the broad scope of the various aspects of society that its theoretical insights purport to explain, but also in terms of the range of the social science disciplines that are swept up and integrated into this 'Evolutionary Modernization theory'. One could even regard this enterprise as striving towards what would be the equivalent of 'unified field theory' in physics. What Chutzpah! And what a burden of proof such an ambitious enterprise would face. Remarkably, Inglehart succeeds in this demanding task, the ultimate product of which I regard as one of the most important works in the social sciences in decades. = Richard Gunther, Ohio State University.

[2] Cultural Evolution culminates a remarkably productive half-century's exploration of cultural change by Ronald F. Inglehart. This renowned scholar now extends the reach of his theory to global history, while honing his concepts to dissect, for example, the emergence of right-wing populism and LGBTQ activism. This is Inglehart at his most ambitious and most astute. It is a powerful book. – Robert D. Putnam, Harvard University.

[3] Cultural Evolution is an intellectual tour-de-force. Drawing on insights from years of research in societies representing ninety percent of the world's population, the renowned political scientist Ronald F. Inglehart traces the most important changes taking place across the globe - the shift from Materialist to Postmaterialist values. His brilliant new Evolutionary Modernization theory explains changes in religion, conflict, gender equality, democracy, happiness, among other phenomena, through the same parsimonious scientific lens. It is a fantastic read for anyone interested in understanding the dynamics of culture change. – Michele Gelfand, University of Maryland.

[4] This timely book will certainly become one of the most significant books of the first part of this century - every library should have a copy. – J. S. Taylor, Choice.

[5] Inglehart is one of the last great postwar exponents of modernization theory, which sees economic development as leading to shifts in society toward liberal democracy. – G. John Ikenberry, Foreign Affairs.


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