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In sociology, post-materialism is the
transformation of individual values from materialist, physical and economic to
new individual values of autonomy and self-expression.
Post-materialism is a tool in developing an understanding of modern culture. It
can be considered in reference of three distinct concepts of materialism. The
first kind of materialism, and the one in reference to which the word
post-materialism is used most often, refers to materialism as a value-system
relating to the desire for fulfillment of material needs and an emphasis on
material luxuries in a consumerist society. A second referent is the
materialist conception of history held by many socialists, most notably Marx
and Engels, as well as their philosophic concept of dialectical materialism. The
third definition of materialism concerns the philosophical argument that matter
is the only existing reality. The first concept is sociological, the second is
both philosophical and sociological, and the third is philosophical.
Depending on which of the three above notions of materialism are being
discussed, post-materialism can be an ontological postmaterialism, an
existentialistic postmaterialism, an ethical postmaterialism or a
political-sociological postmaterialism, which is also the best known.
History The sociological theory of
post-materialism was developed in the 1970s by Ronald Inglehart. After
extensive survey research, Inglehart postulated that the Western societies
under the scope of his survey were undergoing transformation of individual
values, switching from materialist values, emphasizing economic and
physical security, to a new set of post-materialist values, which instead
emphasized autonomy and self-expression. Inglehart argued that rising prosperity
was gradually liberating the publics of advanced industrial societies from the
stress of basic acquisitive or materialistic needs.
Observing that the younger people were much more likely to embrace
post-materialist values, Inglehart speculated that this silent revolution
was not merely a case of a life-cycle change, with people becoming more
materialist as they aged, but a genuine example of Generational Replacement
causing intergenerational value change. The theory of intergenerational change
is based on two key hypotheses: The Scarcity Hypothesis
The Socialisation Hypothesis=The Scarcity Hypothesis=
Inglehart assumed that individuals pursue various goals in something akin
to a hierarchical order. While people may universally aspire to freedom and
autonomy, the most pressing material needs like hunger, thirst and physical
security have to be satisfied first, since they are immediately linked with
survival. According to Inglehart’s interpretation of Maslow’s hierarchy of
human goals, while scarcity prevails, these materialistic goals will have
priority over post-materialist goals like belonging, esteem, and aesthetic
and intellectual satisfaction. However, once the satisfaction of the survival
needs can be taken for granted, the focus will gradually shift to these
‘non-material’ goods.=The Socialization Hypothesis=
The relationship between material conditions and value priorities is not
one of immediate adjustment. A large body of evidence indicates that people’s
basic values are largely fixed when they reach adulthood, and change relatively
little thereafter. Therefore, cohorts which often experienced economic
scarcity would ceteris paribus place a high value on meeting economic needs and
on safety needs. On the other hand, cohorts who have experienced sustained
high material affluence start to give high priority to values such as
individual improvement, personal freedom, citizen input in government
decisions, the ideal of a society based on humanism, and maintaining a clean and
healthy environment. Together, these two hypotheses carry the
implication that, given long periods of material affluence, a growing part of
society will embrace post-materialist value systems, an implication which has
been indeed borne out internationally in the past 30 years of survey data. The
post-material orientations acquired by each cohort during socialisation have
been observed to remain remarkably steady over the time-frame of multiple
decades, being a more stable value-system in contrast to the more
volatile political and social attitudes.=Measuring post-materialism=
There are several ways of empirically measuring the spread of post-materialism
in a society. A common and relatively simple way is by creating an index from
survey respondents’ patterns of responses to a series of items which
were designed to measure personal political priorities.
If you had to choose among the following things, which are the two that seem the
most desirable to you? Maintaining order in the nation.
Giving people more say in important political decisions.
Fighting rising prices. Protecting freedom of speech.
… On the basis of the choices made among these four items, it is possible
to classify our respondents into value priority groups, ranging from a ‘pure’
acquisitive type to a ‘pure’ post-bourgeois type, with several
intermediate categories. The theoretical assumptions and the
empirical research connected with the concept of post-materialism have
received considerable attention and critical discussion in the human
sciences. Amongst others, the validity, the stability, and the causation of
post-materialism has been doubted. The so-called “Inglehart-index” has been
included in several surveys. The time series in ALLBUS is particularly
comprehensive. From 1980 to 1990 the share of “pure post-materialists”
increased from 13 to 31 percent in West Germany. After the economic and social
stress caused by German reunification in 1990 it dropped to 23 percent in 1992
and stayed on that level afterwards. The ALLBUS sample from the less affluent
population in East Germany show much lower portions of post-materialists.
International data from the 2000 World Values Survey show the highest
percentage of post-materialists in Australia followed by Austria, Canada,
Italy, Argentina, United States, Sweden, Netherlands, Puerto Rico etc.. In spite
of some questions raised by these and other data, measurements of
post-materialism have prima facie proven to be statistically important variables
in many analyses. As increasing post-materialism is based
on the abundance of material possessions or resources, it should not be mixed
indiscriminately with asceticism or general denial of consumption. In some
way post-materialism may be described as super-materialism. German data show that
there is a tendency towards this orientation among young people, in the
economically rather secure public service, and in the managerial middle
class. Recently, the issue of a “second
generation of postmateralism” appearing on the scene of worldwide civil society,
to a large extent conceived as their “positive ideological embodiment”, has
been brought up by cultural scientist Roland Benedikter in his seven-volume
book series Postmaterialismus. See also
Antonio Gramsci Postmodernity
Reflexive modernization Self-expression Values
Consumerism Affluenza
To Have or to Be? Gross National Happiness
Abraham Harold Maslow John Kenneth Galbraith
Anthony Giddens World Values Survey
Material feminism Neo-Marxism
Historical revisionism Integral Theory
Generational Replacement Notes
References External links
Fifty Possible Ways to Challenge Over-Commercialism by Albert J. Fritsch,
SJ, PhD An ontological-existential

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