In sociology, post-materialism is the transformation of individual values from materialist, physical, and economic to new individual values of autonomy and self-expression.
The term was popularised by political scientist Ronald Inglehart in his 1977 book The Silent Revolution, in which he discovered that the formative affluence experienced by the post-war generations was leading some of them to take their material security for granted and instead place greater importance on non-material goals such as self-expression, autonomy, freedom of speech, gender equality and environmentalism. Inglehart argued that with increasing prosperity, such post-material values would gradually increase in the publics of advanced industrial societies through the process of intergenerational replacement.
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 (such as security, sustenance and shelter) 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.
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 (all things being equal) place a high value on meeting economic needs (such as valuing economic growth above protecting the environment) and on safety needs (will support more authoritarian styles of leadership, will exhibit strong feelings of national pride, will be strongly in favor of maintaining a large, strong army and will be more willing to sacrifice civil liberties for the sake of law and order). 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.
Characterization of postmaterialist values
The attitude scale aims to examine the degree of identification of respondents with respect to materialistic values and postmaterialist values. This scale includes 12 questions in which the respondent is asked if they are a priority for him:
Maintain order in the country.
Fight against the rise in prices.
Maintain a stable economy
Fight against crime.
Maintain a high rate of economic growth.
Ensure that the country has powerful armed forces.
Give people more opportunities to participate in the decisions that concern their work and their community.
Give people more opportunities to participate in important political decisions.
Protect freedom of expression.
Try to make our cities and the countryside more beautiful.
Achieve a less impersonal and more human society.
Progress towards a society in which ideas are more important than money.
The first group expresses typically materialist (material) ideals and the latter typically postmaterialist (immaterial). This questionnaire repeated from the 70s to the present has revealed a cultural change in process characterized by the preference of priorities of the first group to priorities of the second group (something that among other aspects is reflected in the electoral programs of the parties):
When the survey was applied in 1970 and repeated in 1971, the results were very similar (although only four of the 12 items were used, in 1973 the result was repeated once again with the 12 items). At that time the percentage of citizens with primarily materialistic priorities was between 20-40% according to the countries. The percentage of people with postmaterialist priorities was between 7-14%.
Some ten years later, by the 1980s, people with post-materialist priorities had increased, although no country was found where post-materialists outnumbered people with materialist priorities.
In the World Values Survey, in 1991, people with post-materialist priorities outperformed those who had materialist priorities in the countries with greater economic development, that is, in countries with higher per capita income and greater material and economic security. (This last survey comprised 43 countries that exceeded 75% of the world population).
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 (e.g., General Social Survey, World Values Survey, Eurobarometer, ALLBUS, Turning Points of the Life-Course). The time series in ALLBUS (German General Social Survey) 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 (Terwey 2000: 155; ZA and ZUMA 2005). The ALLBUS sample from the less affluent population in East Germany show much lower portions of post-materialists (1991: 15%, 1992: 10%, 1998: 12%). International data from the 2000 World Values Survey show the highest percentage of post-materialists in Australia (35%) followed by Austria (30%), Canada (29%), Italy (28%), Argentina (25%), United States (25%), Sweden (22%), Netherlands (22%), Puerto Rico (22%) etc. (Inglehart et al. 2004: 384). 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 (Pappi and Terwey 1982).
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 (2001–2005).
Explanation of the postmaterialist turn
The increase of complex technology and economic and social organization in the ecosystem:
It has increased in the population the social, aesthetic and solidarity relations or system of post-material values of belonging and intellectual freedom, transmitted mainly by the means of social communication, instead of a society based primarily on material well-being, on physical security and economic survival.
Establish the priorities and relationships between people (age, educational level, economic level, social class, etc.) and the explanatory or independent variables: materialism (material goods) and postmaterialism (spiritual goods) to be measured by the attitude scale of the indicator of the change of values:
Material – Spiritual
Maintain order in the country. Give people more opportunities to participate in important political decisions.
Fight against the rise in prices. Protect freedom of expression.
Maintain a high rate of economic growth. Give people more opportunity to participate in the decisions that concern their work and their community.
Ensure that the country has powerful armed forces. Try to make our cities and the countryside more beautiful.
Maintain a stable economy Achieve a less impersonal and more human society.
Fight against crime. Progress towards a society in which ideas are more important than money.
The results for Spain in the last application, year 2000, were:
The change of orientation toward postmaterialist values is related to the social class, the higher, and that has been subjected to an information process. Spiritual values are more important the greater the social class and the exposure to information grows.
The relationship with age is negative or inverse and with education upside down.
Age is a better predictor than education.
Material well-being is not the cause of the reason (justification) of environmental movements.
As for the system of values, culture, which are instruments of adaptation in the social ecosystem. There is a certain stability in the value system with slow changes and it is due to a generational change. There is an equation between material and spiritual in the class of very high position.
Postmaterial values do not coincide with traditional religious beliefs, which are more typical of the social periphery.
Membership in volunteering is small.
Solidarity does not depend on postmaterialism or social position.
Social position is a better predictor than socioeconomic status or ideology.
The youngest are postmaterialists.
The educational level and social position have different predictive value.
The importance of the family grows with materialism.
Postmaterialism and high social status do have to do with interest in politics.
Postmaterialism has to do with discrimination as ‘degree of nuisance towards a group’ or rejection.
There is a negative correlation between postmaterialism and unemployment.
The study is a fixed longitudinal design, with analysis of patterns or ‘path analysis’, graphical analysis, matrices of correlations, regressions, with tables, priority indexes, references of objectives, diachronic and exhaustive commented literal analysis.
The change of values in Spain
In Spain, the change of orientation towards postmaterialist values is directly related to the social class, how much, higher and that has been subjected to an information process. Spiritual values are more important the greater the social class and the exposure to information grows. The relationship with age is negative. Age is a better predictor than education. Material well-being is not the cause of the reason (justification) of environmental movements. The value system, culture, are instruments of adaptation.
There is some stability in the value system with slow changes. Membership in volunteering is small. The youngest are postmaterialists. The educational level and social position have different predictive value. The importance of the family grows with materialism. Postmaterialism and social position does have to do with interest in politics. Postmaterialism and social position do not coincide. Postmaterialism has to do with discrimination, as a degree of nuisance towards a group. The number of conclusions, graphs and tables is exhaustive.
The complete basic text in Spanish and on Spain: The scale of postmaterialism as a measure of the change of values in contemporary societies, by Juan Diez Nicolas
Source from Wikipedia