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Social location and value priorities. A European-wide comparison of the relation between socio-demographic variables and human values


Meuleman, Bart; Davidov, Eldad; Schmidt, Peter; Billiet, Jaak (2012). Social location and value priorities. A European-wide comparison of the relation between socio-demographic variables and human values. In: Gabriel, Oscar W; Keil, Silke I. Society and Democracy in Europe. Abdingdon, Oxon ; New York: Routledge, 45-67.

Abstract

Since the inception of the social sciences, scholars have been convinced of the theoretical and empirical usefulness of the value concept. Canonical sociologists, such as Durkheim or Weber, already noted the crucial role values play in the organization of social life (Schwartz 2006). Human values have been described as pivotal components of the individual’s personality, acting as guiding principles for both attitudes and behaviour (Inglehart 1977, 1990; Mayton, Ball-Rokeach & Loges 1994; Rokeach 1973). Past research demonstrated that values are good predictors for numerous other variables, such as attitudes toward out-groups (Davidov et al. 2008; Sagiv & Schwartz 1995), political tolerance (Golebiowska 1995), voting behaviour (Barnea & Schwartz 1998; Rokeach 1973) or life styles (Rokeach 1973).

Despite its paramount importance, the value concept has not always received the scientific attention it might deserve. It is remarkable that certain aspects of value theory have been tested only very rarely. In this sense, Hitlin and Piliavin (2004) speak of values as a dormant concept that needs to be revived. These authors give several reasons for the relative neglect of values in social science. Besides the incoherence in the way values have been conceptualized in the past, value research has also suffered from the absence of an agreed-upon scale to measure values.

In this contribution, we focus on one of these aspects of value theory that has remained relatively underexposed, namely the relation between individual social location and human values. Does one’s position in the social structure—indicated by socio-demographic variables such as age, gender, education and income—affect the values that one prioritizes? We pay special attention to the cross-cultural robustness of the relation between social location and values: Can similar patterns be detected in various European countries? Or do cross-national differences in the relation between structure and values depend on elements of the national context?

We depart from Schwartz’ (1992, 1994, 2006) theory of human values, and make use of the value scale included in the European Social Survey (ESS). We believe that this study adds up to existing research in various ways. First, an exceptionally wide range of European countries is taken into account, including various Eastern European countries. Second, we take up the issue of the cross-cultural equivalence of the measurements. Prior to substantive analysis, we test to what extent different cultural interpretations of values affect the validity of cross-national comparisons. Third, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that explicitly addresses the question whether national context affects the relation between social location and values.

Abstract

Since the inception of the social sciences, scholars have been convinced of the theoretical and empirical usefulness of the value concept. Canonical sociologists, such as Durkheim or Weber, already noted the crucial role values play in the organization of social life (Schwartz 2006). Human values have been described as pivotal components of the individual’s personality, acting as guiding principles for both attitudes and behaviour (Inglehart 1977, 1990; Mayton, Ball-Rokeach & Loges 1994; Rokeach 1973). Past research demonstrated that values are good predictors for numerous other variables, such as attitudes toward out-groups (Davidov et al. 2008; Sagiv & Schwartz 1995), political tolerance (Golebiowska 1995), voting behaviour (Barnea & Schwartz 1998; Rokeach 1973) or life styles (Rokeach 1973).

Despite its paramount importance, the value concept has not always received the scientific attention it might deserve. It is remarkable that certain aspects of value theory have been tested only very rarely. In this sense, Hitlin and Piliavin (2004) speak of values as a dormant concept that needs to be revived. These authors give several reasons for the relative neglect of values in social science. Besides the incoherence in the way values have been conceptualized in the past, value research has also suffered from the absence of an agreed-upon scale to measure values.

In this contribution, we focus on one of these aspects of value theory that has remained relatively underexposed, namely the relation between individual social location and human values. Does one’s position in the social structure—indicated by socio-demographic variables such as age, gender, education and income—affect the values that one prioritizes? We pay special attention to the cross-cultural robustness of the relation between social location and values: Can similar patterns be detected in various European countries? Or do cross-national differences in the relation between structure and values depend on elements of the national context?

We depart from Schwartz’ (1992, 1994, 2006) theory of human values, and make use of the value scale included in the European Social Survey (ESS). We believe that this study adds up to existing research in various ways. First, an exceptionally wide range of European countries is taken into account, including various Eastern European countries. Second, we take up the issue of the cross-cultural equivalence of the measurements. Prior to substantive analysis, we test to what extent different cultural interpretations of values affect the validity of cross-national comparisons. Third, to the best of our knowledge, this is the first study that explicitly addresses the question whether national context affects the relation between social location and values.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Book Section, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Sociology
Dewey Decimal Classification:300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
Language:English
Date:2012
Deposited On:15 Feb 2013 13:16
Last Modified:05 Apr 2016 16:27
Publisher:Routledge
Series Name:Routledge Advances in European Politics
ISBN:978-0-415-52384-4
Related URLs:http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415523844/
http://opac.nebis.ch/F/?local_base=NEBIS&CON_LNG=GER&func=find-b&find_code=SYS&request=007200702

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