Cultural Evolution: People's Motivations are Changing, and Reshaping the World by Ronald F. Inglehart
Written for a non-specialist audience, Cultural Evolution presents and tests a theory that helps explain the causes of the changes in people's motivations that have led to the rise of environmentalist parties, gender equality, and same sex marriage— and the reaction that led to Brexit and the election of Trump.
Cultural Evolution argues that people's values and behavior are shaped by the degree to which survival is secure; it was precarious for most of history, which encouraged heavy emphasis on group solidarity, rejection of outsiders, and obedience to strong leaders. For under extreme scarcity, xenophobia is realistic: if there is just enough land to support one tribe and another tribe tries to claim it, survival may literally be a choice between Us and Them.
Conversely, high levels of existential security encourage openness to change, diversity, and new ideas. The unprecedented prosperity and security of the postwar era brought cultural change, the environmentalist movement, and the spread of democracy. But in recent decades, diminishing job security and rising inequality have led to an authoritarian reaction. Evidence from more than 100 countries demonstrates that people's motivations and behavior reflect the extent to which they take survival for granted - and that modernization changes them in roughly predictable ways. This book explains the rise of environmentalist parties, gender equality, and same-sex marriage through a new, empirically-tested version of modernization theory.
'This book is the product of an extremely ambitious project - ambitious in terms of the broad scope of the various aspects of society that its theoretical insights purport to explain, but also in terms of the range of the social science disciplines that are swept up and integrated into this 'Evolutionary Modernization theory'. One could even regard this enterprise as striving towards what would be the equivalent of 'unified field theory' in physics. What Chutzpah! And what a burden of proof such an ambitious enterprise would face. Remarkably, Inglehart succeeds in this demanding task, the ultimate product of which I regard as one of the most important works in the social sciences in decades.'— Richard Gunther, Ohio State University
'This timely book will certainly become one of the most significant books of the first part of this century - every library should have a copy.' J. S. Taylor, Choice
Ronald F. Inglehart is the Lowenstein Professor of Political Science at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. He holds honorary doctorates from Uppsala University, Sweden; the Free University of Brussels, Belgium; and the University of Lueneburg, Germany. Inglehart helped found the Euro-Barometer surveys and is founding president of the World Values Survey Association, which has surveyed representative national samples of the publics of 105 countries containing over 90 percent of the world's population. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. In 2011, he won the Johan Skytte prize in Political Science, often considered the highest prize awarded in the field.