Prof. Dr. Christian Welzel
School of Humanities and Social Sciences
International University Bremen
VALUES DISSOLVE IN AN EMANCIPATION-BASED SOCIETY. PROFESSOR DR. CHRISTIAN WELZEL ON THE CHANGE FROM OLD BONDS TO THE NEW VALUES BASED ON SELF-EXPRESSION
Society is tending to become more demanding. This development is reflected among other things in the challenges which people have to face. Examples of this are the demands for life-long education, to be inventive and for people to remain active on their own initiative. This trend towards emancipation encourages the creativity which innovative knowledge-based societies require, if they are to control their futures – that reflects the results from the current World Values Survey Project (WWS), which were described by Professor Dr.Christian Welzel, School of Humanities and Social Sciences, International University of Bremen at the GfK 2006 Annual Conference. It was organized by GfK-Nürnberg e.V. and held in
Nuremberg on July 14, 2006.
When a single mother says today that she has voluntarily separated from the father of her child, because their ideas on life no longer coincide, that does not generate a great deal of attention. Even 30 years ago, such frankness would have been regarded as shocking. In Professor Dr. Welzel’s view, these and other changes in norms represent a basic change in the values of the western world: it is a change amounting to an emancipation which is resulting in a steady increase in people’s freedom to decide and conduct their lives as they see fit.
The change in values results from demographic developments which reflect
increased life expectancy so that the expectation of a long life is now a universal experience. Secondly the change in values results from socioeconomic developments which manifest themselves in a world of work characterised by greater knowledge, the experience of creativity and technological change. These developments have resulted in old bonds like religion, patriotism, authority, obedience and the sanctity of marriage being increasingly questioned. Instead we are living and demonstrating the new emergence of ideas such as freedom, protest, tolerance, autonomy and trust in other people. The change from bonds and the move to personal expression based values lead us from conformity to emancipation. Professor Dr. Welzel concluded that the faster a society moves towards the new emerging trends and abandons the old obligations, the greater people’s freedom to express themselves in the way they live their lives.
Sweden leading in innovation, Russia still bound to tradition
Although emancipation describes the general trend in all post-industrial societies, there are important differences between individual countries on a worldwide basis. For instance old bonds remain stronger in the USA than in other comparable societies. In Japan the move to values based on selfexpression is developing more slowly than in other advanced societies. Modern values such as tolerance, fantasy, personal independence and permissiveness are strongest in Sweden, followed by neighbouring countries, Norway, Finland and Denmark. Countries such as Germany, France, U.K. and the Netherlands are in the middle of the innovative table. They show an even balance between bonds and emancipation values. In
the Netherlands, the emancipation movement has slowed down somewhat. In the Mediterranean area, Italy and Spain have rapidly accelerated in their acceptance of modern values. Economically weaker countries such as Russia or Mexico also orientate themselves on the values of western societies, but are not able to put them into effect on a systematic basis. Russia is in fact moving in the opposite direction and seems to be experiencing difficulty in building a firm foundation for democracy, tolerance, creativity and an innovative knowledge-based society.
According to Professor Dr. Welzel, it is mainly young people aged under 35,
who are developing an awareness of the new values and live them out. Particularly in Sweden, Poland and Italy, this generation is driving current developments in values. The Silver Generation too is identifying itself increasingly strongly with values such as tolerance, permissiveness and personal responsibility. This particularly applies in countries such as France, Italy, Sweden, U.K., USA and the Netherlands. In Spain and Poland there is in fact in all generations a general move away from the old bonds, but there is a certain scepticism towards modern values. In Mexico and above all in Russia people are waving “Back to the roots” banners.
Summarizing, Professor Dr. Welzel emphasizes that the move to emancipation values is a result of economic development and offers a cultural breeding-ground for further economic progress; particularly in relation to a modern knowledge- based economy.