Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values

Type Journal Article - American Sociological Review
Title Modernization, cultural change, and the persistence of traditional values
Volume 65
Issue 1
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2000
Page numbers pp. 1-0
Modernization theorists from Karl Marx to Daniel Bell have argued that economic development brings pervasive cultural changes. But others, from Max Weber to Samuel Huntington, have claimed that cultural values are an enduring and autonomous influence on society. We test the thesis that economic development is linked with systematic changes in basic values. Using data from the three waves of the World Values Surveys, which include 65 societies and 75 percent of the world's population, we find evidence of both massive cultural change and the persistence of distinctive cultural traditions. Economic development is associated with shifts away from absolute norms and values toward values that are increasingly rational, tolerant, trusting, and participatory. Cultural change, however, is path dependent. The broad cultural heritage of a society-Protestant, Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Confucian, or Communist-leaves an imprint on values that endures despite modernization. Moreover, the differences between the values held by members of different religions within given societies are much smaller than are cross-national differences. Once established, such cross-cultural differences become part of a national culture transmitted by educational institutions and mass media. We conclude with some proposed revisions of modernization theory.

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