Changes in Values and Attitudes

One suspects that a small minority of citizens, and then only in post-industrialized societies, has embraced all three strands of the environmental philosophy. Yet we have evidence that values and attitudes toward the environment have been changing in fundamental ways, represented by the "post-materialist" concept, which is part of a far broader value shift represented by postmodernization.

The chief architect of this analysis is Ronald Inglehart who, beginning in the late 1980s, updated and revised modernization theory in four ways. First, he stated that change is not linear but instead reaches points of diminishing returns and moves in new directions. Second, instead of economic or cultural determinism, Inglehart posits that relationships among the economy, culture, and polity are mutually supportive—a pattern of reciprocal causal linkages. Third, he rejects the ethnocentric perspective of those who equate modernization with westernization, instead viewing it as a global process. Finally, he disputes the assertion that democracy is inherent in modernization, arguing that it becomes more likely as societies become postmodern.

Inglehart acknowledges the extent to which the concept of postmodernism may be a rejection of modernity and a revalorization of tradition. His work emphasizes the "rise of new values and lifestyles, with greater tolerance for ethnic, cultural, and sexual diversity and individual choice concerning the kind of life one wants to lead."52

Why the post-modern shift occurs requires investigation of broad-ranging transitions from agricultural to industrial and on to post-industrial societies. The trend toward bureaucratization, centralization of power, and government ownership and control has reached its functional limit and begun reversal, in Inglehart's view. Norms and expectations underlying human behavior have changed: from the politics of class conflict we move to "political conflict based on such issues as environmental protection and the status of women and sexual minorities." The origin of this value shift is the welfare state and the end of scarcity. Now, increasingly (at least in the West), people grow up with the feeling that one's survival can be taken for granted. The change is gradual and not abrupt for two reasons. First, scarcity— individual priorities reflect the socioeconomic environment. Second, socialization—a time lag is involved because basic values reflect the conditions prevailing during one's pre-adult years.

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