Sunday, September 14, 2008

The World Cultural Map

In case you folks haven't seen this, here's a very interesting world cultural map based on the World Values Survey:

"This map reflects the fact that a large number of basic values are closely correlated; they can be depicted in just major two dimensions of cross-cultural variation.

"The World Values Surveys were designed to provide a comprehensive measurement of all major areas of human concern, from religion to politics to economic and social life and two dimensions dominate the picture: (1) Traditional/ Secular-rational and (2) Survival/Self-expression values. These two dimensions explain more than 70 percent of the cross-national variance in a factor analysis of ten indicators-and each of these dimensions is strongly correlated with scores of other important orientations.

"The Traditional/Secular-rational values dimension reflects the contrast between societies in which religion is very important and those in which it is not. A wide range of other orientations are closely linked with this dimension. Societies near the traditional pole emphasize the importance of parent-child ties and deference to authority, along with absolute standards and traditional family values, and reject divorce, abortion, euthanasia, and suicide. These societies have high levels of national pride, and a nationalistic outlook. Societies with secular-rational values have the opposite preferences on all of these topics.

"The second major dimension of cross-cultural variation is linked with the transition from industrial society to post-industrial societies-which brings a polarization between Survival and Self-expression values. The unprecedented wealth that has accumulated in advanced societies during the past generation means that an increasing share of the population has grown up taking survival for granted. Thus, priorities have shifted from an overwhelming emphasis on economic and physical security toward an increasing emphasis on subjective well-being, self-expression and quality of life....

"A central component of this emerging dimension involves the polarization between Materialist and Postmaterialist values, reflecting a cultural shift that is emerging among generations who have grown up taking survival for granted. Self-expression values give high priority to environmental protection, tolerance of diversity and rising demands for participation in decision making in economic and political life. These values also reflect mass polarization over tolerance of outgroups, including foreigners, gays and lesbians and gender equality. The shift from survival values to self-expression values also includes a shift in child-rearing values, from emphasis on hard work toward emphasis on imagination and tolerance as important values to teach a child. And it goes with a rising sense of subjective well-being that is conducive to an atmosphere of tolerance, trust and political moderation. Finally, societies that rank high on self-expression values also tend to rank high on interpersonal trust.

"This produces a culture of trust and tolerance, in which people place a relatively high value on individual freedom and self-expression, and have activist political orientations. These are precisely the attributes that the political culture literature defines as crucial to democracy."

Where do you fall on the map? I might not sound like it, but I'm a moderate on the traditional/secular axis, but I'm more of a worrier than most Western Europeans, and feel we can't afford the luxury of very much self-expression when disaster might be right around the corner.


  1. Anonymous3:58 PM

    Why do you think we can't afford self expression? Which threat is lessened by reducing self expression?

  2. The better question is, given the nature of life, why would anyone ever think they could abandon a concern with survival?

  3. Randall Parker -- "tolerance" of various out-groups that threaten to become dominant is a dagger aimed at the heart of any society. It also makes societies brittle to economic/social/technological changes. Such as mass immigration, nuclear proliferation, and so on.

  4. Anonymous5:02 PM

    ron, I certainly agree that our society is dangerously naive about survival.

    whiskey, I'm opposed to mass immigration and on my ParaPundit blog I've written hundreds of posts against mass immigration with all manner of evidence for my viewpoint. But I think the need to restrict speech is restricted to a small number of topics.

    We need to keep out the Muslims, the dummies, and pretty much people who culturally differ too much from us. I'm for stopping immigration entirely for a decade or two. Then start it up with real severe restrictions.

    "Tolerance" for outgroups: The problem here isn't lack of suppression of speech. The problem is failure to assert our dominance. Roissy says this is what happens when the men of a society fail to assert their masculinity.

  5. Randall, yes I've seen that, I think Roissy is wrong, "tolerance" is really just another form of social control, by elites, often in political/social alliance with women.

    "Tolerance" means effectively, prison terms for anyone criticizing mass immigration, or other "racist" speech. A blogger in the Netherlands is going to jail for advocating immigration restrictions ("it's racist") and the artist "Nackshot" I'm sure I spelled his name wrong, was arrested for cartoons he put on his website criticizing Islam.

    The various elites in each nation plus women form the electoral backing for these speech codes under the name of tolerance. Relating to Roissy's comments about how women hate the Beta male, it has the effect of dialing down the testosterone in the workplace and other public spaces so women find it more pleasant, and not coincidentally gives them social power to find "offense" in almost anything, and thus discourage interaction with men they don't want approaching them.

    Men could assert their masculinity all they want, it would do them no good with the electoral math the way it is in most nations, where women form the dominant bloc of voters due to living longer.

    I think it's most instructive to look at who backs these speech codes -- at least in the short term most groups are good at finding advantage to positions. Even if they are not obvious immediately to observers.

  6. Anonymous4:24 AM

    well.. it's like I thought!

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