What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

127 - The Inglehart-Welzel Cultural Map of the World

June 3, 2007, 6:35 PM

0valuemap.gif

On this map, East and West Germany are next to each other, as one would expect. But Romania’s closest neighbour is Armenia? And Poland and India are side by side? Well, this is not a straightforward geographical map, but a cultural one. It plots out how countries relate to each other on a double axis of values (ranging from ‘traditional’ to ‘secular-rational’ on the vertical and from ‘survival’ to ‘self-expression’ on the horizontal scale). This makes for some strange bedfellows – for example: South Africa, Peru and the Philippines occupy almost the same position, although they’re on three different continents.

I’ve found this map on this site, with an accompanying article by Ronald Inglehart, after whom this map is half-named. Inglehart is a political scientist at the University of Michigan and director of the World Values Survey, which charts cultural differences and changes all over the world. The two dimensions mentioned earlier (‘traditional/secular-rational’ and ‘survival/self-expression’) apparently explain more than 70% of cross-national variance in 10 indicators.

Four survey-waves have been executed between 1981 and 2001 in 80 societies. Inglehart’s work demonstrates significant value shifts – and predictable ones at that – especially in those societies moving through a late industrial or to a post-industrial phase. One of those changes is the diminishing role of gender differences, but the predictability extends to attitudes towards religion, politics and family life.

For example, in societies near the ‘traditional’ side of the traditional/secular-rational axis, religion is very important. This usually always implies a strong emphasis on family values, deference to authority, rejection of abortion, divorce, euthanasia and suicide, and even seems to predict a very nationalistic outlook on life. In countries more to the ‘secular-rational’ side of this axis, the attitudes towards these topics is reversed.

The other axis represents the shift from a society dominated by the struggle for survival to one where survival is a given, and the emphasis of the ‘struggle’ is on subjective well-being, quality of life and self-expression.

These shifts from a materialist towards a postmaterialist culture should eventually lead to less dirigist, more democratic societies. And to less religious ones too, consistent with the thesis that an increase in secularism is a by-product of this development. This might have seemed to be the trend throughout most of the 20th century, but that trend has arguably reversed in recent years, in the Muslim world as in the Americas, among others (Europe still being a notable exception). Inglehart points out that secularism coincides with dramatically falling birthrates, thus explaining why the ‘triumph’ of secularism seems to be accompanied by a rising tide of religious traditionalism and fundamentalism: people in those categories constitute a growing proportion of the world’s population.

 

127 - The Inglehart-Welzel ...

Newsletter: Share: