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Critical CitizensGlobal Support for Democratic Government$

Pippa Norris

Print publication date: 1999

Print ISBN-13: 9780198295686

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2003

DOI: 10.1093/0198295685.001.0001

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Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, But Increases Support for Democracy

Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, But Increases Support for Democracy

Chapter:
(p.236) 12 Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, But Increases Support for Democracy
Source:
Critical Citizens
Author(s):

Ronald Inglehart (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/0198295685.003.0012

Abstract and Keywords

Presents an analysis of the reasons for the post‐modern shift to declining respect for/deference to authority among the publics of advanced industrial societies, and of the accompanying growing support for democracy. The early sections discuss: the changing emphasis on key aspects of life during the shift from modernization to post‐modernization; the authoritarian reflex that occurs in periods of rapid change and insecurity—in contrast to the greater emphasis on individual autonomy and diminishing deference to authority under conditions of prosperity and security that occurs in the post‐modern shift; and declining confidence in hierarchical institutions in post‐modern societies. The later part of the chapter examines predicted and observed changes in cross‐national norms concerning the authority using data from the three waves of the World Values Survey (1981–1997). Using these same data, it also examines the decline of confidence in the most hierarchical institutions of the survey countries over this time period—i.e. the armed forces, the police, and the church, and looks at support for strong leadership in relation to percentage priority to post‐materialist goals.

Keywords:   advanced industrial societies, armed forces, authoritarian reflex, authority, church, hierarchical institutions, institutional confidence, leadership, modernization, police, post‐modern shift, post‐modern societies, post‐modernization, respect for authority, strong leadership, support for democracy

The post‐modern phase of development leads to declining respect for authority among the publics of advanced industrial societies—but at the same time, it gives rise to growing support for democracy. This phenomenon has contributed to declining trust in government in the United States and other advanced industrial societies. Governing has become more difficult than it used to be: the tendency to idealize authority that characterized societies of scarcity has given way to the more critical and demanding publics of post‐modern societies. Authority figures and hierarchical institutions are subjected to more searching scrutiny than they once were. But does this mean that people are losing confidence in democratic values? The analysis presented here indicates that the answer is an unequivocal ‘No’. On the contrary, the same publics that are becoming increasingly critical of hierarchical authority, are also becoming increasingly resistant to authoritarian government, more interested in political life, and more apt to play an active role in politics. Although hierarchical political parties are losing control over their electorates, and elite‐directed forms of participation such as voting are stagnant or declining, elite‐challenging forms of participation are becoming more widespread, as Inglehart (1997a) has demonstrated. And though they tend to distrust political authority and big government, the publics of advanced industrial societies value democracy more, not less, than the publics of economically less secure societies. In the terms used elsewhere in this book, respect for the political leaders is generally declining in advanced industrial societies; but support for democratic principles is rising. These changes do not undermine democracy; they tend to make it more secure.

But these changes do make life more difficult for the governing elites. During the past forty years, a massive decline in trust in politicians has taken place among the US public. This phenomenon has given rise to a good deal of scholarly discussion (for an early view, see Miller 1974a; for more recent ones, (p.237) see Craig 1993, and Nye et al. 1997). But there is sharp disagreement about why it has occurred. Has the public become fed up with the waste and ineffectiveness of big government? Has the public's sense of entitlement grown to the point where it outstrips anything government can realistically do, as Samuelson (1995) argues? Or are today's politicians more corrupt than ever before? While there is little evidence that today's public officials are less competent than previous ones, there are some indications that the growth of government has reached natural limits and people are less likely to see government as the solution to their problems. But this chapter argues that the decline of trust in political leaders has roots that go beyond these factors. It reflects a pervasive decline in deference to authority that is taking place throughout advanced industrial society.

Modernization, Postmodernization and Cultural Change

Why is deference to authority declining throughout advanced industrial society? In a recent book (Inglehart 1997a) I tested the hypothesis that economic development leads to specific, functionally related changes in mass values and belief systems. This revised version of modernization theory argues that once a society has embarked on industrialization, a whole syndrome of related changes, from social mobilization to diminishing differences in gender roles, are likely to occur. Though any simple, iron‐law version of modernization theory has long since been refuted, we do endorse the idea that some scenarios of social change are far more probable than others.

Furthermore, modernization is not linear. In advanced industrial societies, the prevailing direction of development has changed in the last quarter‐century and the change of direction is so fundamental that it seems appropriate to describe it as ‘postmodernization’, rather than ‘modernization’. Modernization was facilitated by the emergence of a worldview of materialistic rationality. The rise of advanced industrial society leads to a second fundamental shift in basic values—a shift from the instrumental rationality that characterized industrial society, toward increasing emphasis on individual self‐expression.

For Weber, the key to Modernization was the shift from a religion‐oriented world‐view to a rational‐legal world‐view. Key components of Modernization were:

  1. c Secularization: The rise of the scientific worldview was one factor that led to the decline of the sacred/pre‐rational elements of religious faith. Religious orientations were central in most pre‐industrial societies. In the uncertain world of subsistence agriculture, the need for absolute standards and faith in an infallible higher power, filled a major psychological need. One of the key functions of religion was to provide a sense of certainty in an insecure environment. Physical as well as economic insecurity intensifies this need: the old saying that ‘there are no atheists in

  2. (p.238)
foxholes’ reflects the fact that physical danger leads to a need for belief in a higher power. More recently, the rise of a sense of security among mass publics of advanced welfare states has become an equally important factor in the decline of traditional religious orientations.
  1. c Bureaucratization: This reflects the rise of ‘rational’ organizations, based on rules designed to move efficiently toward explicit goals, with recruitment based on impersonal goal‐oriented achievement standards. During the first phase of industrialization, it seemed (to Marxists and non‐Marxists alike) that the direction of social evolution was toward the increasing subordination of the individual to a ‘leviathan’ state having superhuman powers. The state would become an omnipotent and benevolent entity, replacing God in a secular world. And for most of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the dominant trend (the wave of the future, as it was sometimes called) was a shift from societal authority toward state authority, manifested in the apparently inexorable growth of the economic, political, and social role of government.

The Postmodern Shift

The socialist ‘leviathan’ state was the logical culmination of the modernization process, but it did not turn out to be the wave of the future. Instead, the expansion of the bureaucratic state eventually approached a set of natural limits, and change began to move in a new direction. Figure 12.1 illustrates what happened. From the Industrial Revolution until well into the second half of the twentieth century, industrial society underwent modernization. This process transformed political and cultural systems from traditional regimes legitimated by religious belief systems, to rational‐legal states legitimated by their claim to maximize the welfare of their people through scientific expertise. It was a transfer of authority from family and religious institutions, to political institutions.

Within the last few decades, a major deflection in the direction of change has occurred that might be called the ‘Postmodern shift’. Its origins are rooted in the economic miracles that occurred first in Western Europe and North America, and later in East Asia and now in Southeast Asia. Coupled with the safety net of the modern welfare state, this has produced unprecedentedly high levels of economic security, giving rise to a cultural feedback that is having a major impact on both the economic and political systems of advanced industrial societies. This new trajectory shifts authority away from both religion and the state to the individual, with an increasing focus on individual concerns such as friends and leisure. Postmodernization deemphasizes all kinds of authority, whether religious or secular, allowing much wider range for individual autonomy in the pursuit of individual subjective well‐being. (p.239)

                      Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, But Increases Support for Democracy

Fig. 12.1. The shift from Modernization to Postmodernization: changing emphasis on key aspects of life.

Source: Inglehart 1997a: 75.

The findings from the World Values Surveys indicate that in global perspective, a wide range of seemingly diverse orientations go together in coherent patterns. For example, certain societies place relatively heavy emphasis on religion—and the people of these societies also show high levels of national pride, and prefer to have relatively large families, and would like to see more respect for authority; furthermore, the peoples of these societies tend to rank relatively low on achievement motivation and political interest, oppose divorce, and have a number of other distinctive cultural orientations. The people of other societies consistently fall toward the opposite end of the spectrum on all of these orientations, giving rise to a dimension that reflects traditional vs. secular‐rational orientations. This dimension reflects cross‐national variation linked with varying degrees of modernization.

In the Postmodernization phase of development, emphasis shifts from maximizing economic gains to maximizing subjective well‐being. This gives rise to another major dimension of cross‐cultural variation, on which a wide range of orientations are structured. Postmaterialist values are a central element in this broader Postmodern syndrome. Societies with large numbers of Postmaterialists are characterized by relatively high levels of subjective well‐being. Their publics emphasize tolerance and imagination as important (p.240) qualities to teach a child, rather than hard work. They emphasize careers for women more and the role of mother less, than societies located near the left‐hand pole. The people of societies emphasizing well‐being values tend to have relatively little faith that scientific advances will help, rather than harm, humanity, and they tend to doubt that more emphasis on technology would be a good thing. Conversely, the people of these societies have relatively high levels of support for the ecology movement. The fact that societies with high levels of security tend to de‐emphasize economic growth, science, and technology, is a major departure from the basic thrust of Modernization: this dimension reflects change in a Postmodern direction.

Both modernization and postmodernization are linked with economic development. We find coherent differences between the belief systems of rich and poor countries: though the process of modernization is not quite as automatic or linear as Marx claimed, economic development clearly is linked with major changes in world‐views.

One of the most basic of these cultural changes is a shift in orientations toward authority. As Figure 12.1 indicates, we find that:

  1. c Modernization brings a shift from traditional‐religious authority, toward rational‐bureaucratic authority and the rise of the modern state; and that

  2. c Post‐modernization brings a shift away from both traditional and state authority.

If economic development is indeed conducive to declining respect for authority, it should show up in cross‐sectional comparisons: the publics of rich societies should be less likely to emphasize authority than those of poorer ones. Inglehart (1997a) tested this proposition, finding that it was true. The idea that ‘More respect for authority would be a good thing’ is part of a coherent world‐view that is much less likely to be found in rich societies than in poor ones. The data from the third wave of the World Values Surveys enable us to test this finding in a considerably larger number of societies than have ever before been available. As Figure 12.2 demonstrates (using the latest available data from a total of 57 societies), the finding is confirmed strongly. The correlation between the percentage who feel that ‘more respect for authority would be a good thing’ and the society's per capita GNP is −.62, significant at the .0000 level. This suggests that as economic development takes place, respect for authority tends to decline.

It is not a matter of simple economic determinism, however. The five Nordic societies (all relatively rich, and characterized by the most Postmodern values of any group of countries in the world) all rank low on this variable. But the four Confucian societies also tend to rank low on this variable, despite the fact that Japan is rich, while Taiwan and South Korea are much less so, and China is somewhat relatively poor. Nevertheless, the overall correlation with economic development is strong and highly significant.

With modernization, people increasingly looked to the state, rather than to a Supreme Being, to provide security. During the past several decades in (p.241)

                      Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, But Increases Support for Democracy

Fig. 12.2. Support for authoritarian values, by level of economic development. (r = −.62 p 〈 .000).

Note: Percentage of respondents wanting ‘more respect for authority’ by level of economic development.

Sources: World Values Surveys 1981–96.

advanced industrial society, peace, prosperity and the welfare state have produced an unprecedented sense of security that one will survive. This has diminished the need for the strong authority that religion and the centralized nation‐state provided. Insecurity is conducive to xenophobia, a need for strong decisive leaders and deference to authority. Accordingly, the Great Depression gave rise to xenophobic and authoritarian politics in many societies around the world. A sense of security concerning one's survival has the opposite effect: people with Postmodern values are relatively tolerant of out‐groups and may even regard exotic things and cultural diversity as stimulating and interesting, instead of finding them threatening. They seek out foreign restaurants and spend large amounts of money on travel to exotic places. The (p.242) Postmodern world‐view emphasizes self‐expression, rather than deference to authority. It is linked with declining acceptance of rigid religious norms concerning sex and reproduction, and a diminishing need for absolute rules. It also reflects a growing rejection of bureaucratic authority.

The Authoritarian Reflex and the Postmodern Shift

Some observers have interpreted the decline of trust in government as a sign of general alienation. Pointing to declining rates of voter turnout, they argue that the American public has become disenchanted with the entire system and withdrawn from politics completely. The empirical evidence contradicts this interpretation. Though voter turnout has stagnated (largely because of weakening political party loyalties), Western publics have not become apathetic: quite the contrary, in the last two decades, they have become markedly more likely to engage in elite‐challenging forms of political participation. Furthermore, the erosion of trust does not apply to all institutions: it is specifically a withdrawal of confidence from authoritarian institutions. During the same period that trust in political authority was fading, environmental protection movements rose from obscurity to attain remarkably high levels of public confidence. In the 1990–1 World Values Survey, fully 93 per cent of these publics approved of the environmentalist movement—with 59 per cent approving ‘strongly’. But support for certain types of institutions is sharply differentiated according to whether one has Materialist or Postmaterialist values, with Materialist being much more likely to support authoritarian institutions; and with the emergence of Postmaterialist values, authoritarian institutions suffered a decline in mass confidence throughout advanced industrial society.

Declining trust in government seems to be part of a broader erosion of respect for authority that is linked with the processes of modernization and postmodernization. Rapid change leads to severe insecurity, giving rise to an Authoritarian Reflex that may bring fundamentalist or xenophobic reactions or adulation of strong leaders. As we have argued, insecurity leads to a need for strong authority figures to protect one from threatening forces, and breeds an intolerance of cultural change, and of different ethnic groups.

Conversely, conditions of prosperity and security are conducive to greater emphasis on individual autonomy and diminishing deference to authority. Until recently, existential insecurity was a usual part of the human condition. Only recently have societies emerged in which most of the population does not have any fear of starvation (which is still a very real concern for much of humanity). Both pre‐modern agrarian society and modern industrial society were shaped by survival values. The Postmodern shift has brought a broad de‐emphasis on all forms of authority.

A major aspect of the Postmodern shift is a shift away from both religious and bureaucratic authority, bringing declining emphasis on all kinds of authority. (p.243) Deference to authority has high costs: the individual's personal goals must be subordinated to those of a broader entity. Under conditions of insecurity, people are more than willing to do so. Under threat of invasion, internal disorder or existential insecurity, people eagerly seek strong authority figures who can protect them. Conversely, the shift toward well‐being values is linked with declining emphasis on political, religious and economic authority.

Declining Confidence in Hierarchical Institutions

Modern industrial society was made possible by two key institutions: the mass production assembly line and bureaucracy. These institutions made it possible to process huge numbers of products and huge numbers of people, using centrally controlled standardized routines. They were highly effective, but they sharply reduced individual autonomy. These hierarchical, centrally controlled institutions are becoming less acceptable in Postmodern society.

The rise of Postmodern values is bringing a move away from acceptance of both traditional authority and state authority. It reflects a declining emphasis on authority in general—regardless of whether it is legitimated by societal or state formulae. This leads to declining confidence in hierarchical institutions. For the past several years, political leaders throughout the industrialized world have been experiencing some of the lowest levels of support ever recorded. This is not simply because they are less competent than previous leaders. It reflects a systematic decline in deference to authority, and a shift of focus toward individual concerns.

Declining confidence in leaders and authoritarian institutions is not worldwide. We do not necessarily find it in developing nations. But declining respect for authority is pervasive throughout advanced industrial societies.

This phenomenon is not a decline of trust in all institutions. It is specifically linked with the emergence of Postmaterialist values and Postmodern values more generally. In virtually all advanced industrial societies, Post‐materialists are less likely to consider more respect for authority desirable, than are Materialists in the same society.

The decline in respect for authority seems to be taking place through a process of intergenerational change. As Figure 12.3 demonstrates, throughout advanced industrial society, the young are less likely than the old to feel that more respect for authority would be a good thing. The results from 18 societies having 1993 per capita incomes over $15,000 are generally similar, and for the sake of conciseness are combined into one category of ‘advanced industrial societies’ in this figure (these societies are: Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, German Democratic Republic, Federal Republic of Germany, Iceland, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, and the United States). Throughout these societies, the older respondents are much more likely to say that ‘more respect (p.244)

                      Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, But Increases Support for Democracy

Fig. 12.3. Support for authoritarian values, by birth cohort.

Note: Percentage saying ‘more respect for authority would be a good thing’, by birth cohort.

Source: 1990 World Values Survey.

                      Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, But Increases Support for Democracy

Fig. 12.4. Support for authoritarian values, by educational level.

Note: Percentage saying ‘more respect for authority would be a good thing’, by educational level.

Source: 1990 World Values Survey.

(p.245)
                      Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, But Increases Support for Democracy

Fig. 12.5. Support for authoritarian values, by value type.

Note: Percentage saying ‘more respect for authority would be a good thing’, by value type.

Source: 1990 World Values Survey.

for authority would be a good thing’ than are younger respondents. Weighting each country equally, we find a mean 19 percentage point gap between the attitudes of those over 50 and those under 30 years of age.1

We do not find significant age‐related differences in the three low‐income societies included in the World Values Surveys, India, China and Nigeria. In these societies, the young remain about as likely as the old to favour more respect for authority. In China, there is a modest tendency for the young to differ from the old, but in India and Nigeria, there is no difference whatever between the attitudes of old and young concerning respect for authority. The tendency for the old to place more emphasis on respect for authority is not something inherent in the human life‐cycle; it reflects specific historic changes in specific societies.

If, as our theory implies, a shift toward less emphasis on respect for authority is linked with the rising levels of security, then we would expect to find less emphasis on authority among the more educated, since they tend to come from the economically more secure strata. As Figure 12.4 demonstrates, this is indeed the case—in advanced industrial societies, but not in low‐income societies. Indeed, in low‐income societies, the more educated place slightly more emphasis on respect for authority than do the less educated. Apparently, the intergenerational shift away from respect for authority is not inherently linked with education. In all three low‐income societies, the most educated group is more likely to say that ‘more respect for authority would be a good thing (p.246) than is the less educated group. This might be interpreted as a straightforward consequence of self‐interest: the more educated tend to be the ones in authority. But this pattern applies only to low‐income societies. Throughout advanced industrial society, the more educated are less likely to favour more respect for authority.

Theoretically, Materialist/Postmaterialist values are an even more direct indicator than is education, of the degree to which one experienced existential security during one's formative years. And as Figure 12.5 demonstrates, Materialist/Postmaterialist values are even more strongly linked with attitudes toward authority than are age or education. Since Postmaterialists are rare in the low‐income societies and the few Postmaterialists present there have weakly crystallized values, the impact of Postmaterialism is mainly found in advanced industrial societies—but it is powerful there. Across the 18 advanced industrial societies examined here, we find a mean difference of 31 percentage points in attitudes toward authority (as compared with a spread of 19 points linked with birth cohort and, again, 19 points linked with education).

These findings have clear implications for social change. It has been demonstrated that Postmaterialist values have become increasingly widespread in advanced industrial societies; consequently we would expect to find growing acceptance of the entire broad range of post‐modern orientations that are closely correlated with these values. Postmaterialists have less trust in certain institutions: as Inglehart (1997a) demonstrated, they show lower levels of confidence in their society's most hierarchical and authoritarian institutions—in particular, the armed forces, the police, and the church.

The hierarchical and authoritarian nature of the military and police is self‐evident: they are based on unquestioning obedience of subordinates to superiors, and differences in rank are blatantly explicit: one can identify another person's rank at a glance. Though it deals with spiritual rather than secular power, the hierarchical nature of traditional churches is equally clear (indeed, the word ‘hierarchy’ itself, originally referred to the priesthood). Traditional religious institutions are anything but democratic. They explicitly require obedience to higher authority. Crucial decisions are decided by those in authority, not by discussion among equals or by majority vote.

As younger, more Postmaterialist cohorts have replaced older ones in the adult population, confidence in the most hierarchical institutions—the military, the police and the church—has declined over time in most advanced industrial societies.2

But Postmaterialism is not a form of paranoia. On the contrary, throughout advanced industrial society (but not necessarily in low‐income societies, (p.247) where Postmaterialists are few), Postmaterialists have relatively high levels of trust in people in general. In the USA in 1990, for example, 43 per cent of the Materialists said that ‘most people can be trusted’, while 63 per cent of the Postmaterialists did so. Furthermore, Postmaterialists show relatively high levels of confidence in non‐hierarchical, non‐authoritarian institutions such as the environmentalist movement and the women's movement. And they generally show as much or more trust in labour unions and the European Union as do Materialists.

Orientations toward various other institutions shows no consistent linkage with Materialist/Postmaterialist values: the relationship is situation‐specific. In the USA, the Nordic countries, and the Netherlands, Postmaterialists have more trust in the educational system than do Materialists; but in the newer democracies and in authoritarian countries, Postmaterialists see the educational system as dominated by hierarchical authority, and have less trust in it than do Materialists. A similar pattern holds true of trust in parliament.

Predicted and Observed Changes in Norms Concerning Authority

Let us examine some actual changes that were predicted and observed in the three waves of the World Values Surveys. In the 1981 survey, we found a substantial correlation between attitudes toward authority and Materialist/ Postmaterialist values across nearly all of the 21 countries for which we have data. Materialists tend to support the proposition that ‘more respect for authority would be a good thing’, while Postmaterialists tend to reject it. Consequently, we predicted a gradual shift toward the values of the Postmaterialists—that is, toward less emphasis on respect for authority.

Table 12.1 tests this prediction. It shows that from 1981 to 1997, emphasis on more respect for authority became less widespread in 28 of the 36 countries for which we have time‐series data. The absolute levels of support for authority, and the size of the changes from 1981 to 1997, vary a good deal from country to country.

Our prediction that this shift toward declining respect for authority would occur, is based on a simple population replacement model: as the younger, more Postmaterialist birth cohorts replace the older, more Materialist cohorts in the adult population, we should observe a shift toward the Postmodern orientation. Moreover, since the size of the respective cohorts is known from demographic data, and since we have survey data on the attitudes of the various birth cohorts, we can also estimate the size of the attitudinal shift that population replacement should produce over a 10‐year period. We do this by simply removing the oldest 10‐year cohort from our sample and replacing it with a new 10‐year cohort at the youngest end. In creating this new cohort, we assume that it will have values similar to those of the youngest cohort in (p.248)

Table 12.1 Respect for Authority, 1981–1997

Country

1981

1990

1996

Change

Slovenia

66

37

−29

Chile

80

54

−26

W. Germany

45

30

23

−23

Italy

63

44

−19

E. Germany

57

39

−18

Switzerland

46

31

−15

Lithuania

53

38

−15

Canada

77

64

−13

Nigeria

91

79

−12

Hungary

72

61

−11

USA

85

77

76

−9

Sweden

30

22

21

−9

Russia

70

62

−8

Iceland

50

42

−8

Belgium

57

50

−7

Norway

37

32

31

−6

Spain

77

68

72

−5

N. Ireland

87

82

−5

Netherlands

54

51

−3

Mexico

68

65

65

−3

Belarus

71

68

−3

Japan

7

6

5

−2

Great Britain

74

72

−2

Finland

29

26

27

−2

France

60

59

−1

Turkey

65

65

0

Ireland

80

81

+1

Brazil

81

83

+2

Argentina

61

69

64

+3

Australia

68

73

+5

Denmark

29

35

+6

S. Korea

10

14

16

+6

S. Africa

66

88

80

+14

China

21

41

+20

Sources: World Values Surveys carried out in 1981–3, 1990–3, and 1995–7.

the sample—a conservative assumption, since younger cohorts usually show more Postmodern values than older ones (for a more detailed discussion of how to estimate the effects of population replacement on mass attitudes, see Abramson and Inglehart 1995).

When we perform this calculation it indicates that, for most of these countries, we would expect to find a decline of only four or five points in the percentage favouring more respect for authority. This is a small shift. If we found it in only one case, it would be an unimpressive finding: a difference between samples of this size is statistically significant at only about the .05 level. But if we observed several such consecutive shifts over 30 or 40 years, the finding would be highly significant, both statistically and substantively: over that time it could convert a 60 : 40 division of attitudes into a 40 : 60 split.

(p.249) The same principle applies to a pattern of cross‐cultural findings. Such a finding from only one country would hardly be worth mentioning. But if data from three or four countries all showed shifts of this size in the predicted direction, it would be highly significant. And when we find that the predicted shifts in values or attitudes generally hold true across a score of societies, the probability of its being a random event dwindles to the vanishing point.

With attitudes toward authority, our theory predicts a shift of only 4 or 5 percentage points per country during this 9‐year period. This is modest. In the short run, the impact of current economic or political events (or even sampling error) could easily swamp it in a given society. Thus, it would be astonishing if our predictions did hold up in every case. They don't: we find that in some countries, attitudes concerning authority moved in the predicted direction, while in others they didn't. Moreover, some countries show shifts in the predicted direction which are too large to be due to population replacement alone: in these cases, situation‐specific factors must be adding to the results of population replacement, exaggerating the shift.

We can predict only one component of what is shaping mass attitudes, but we know that a number of factors are relevant. Consequently, we cannot predict precisely what will happen in every country. Nevertheless, because we do have information about one component of the process, our predictive power across many societies should be considerably better than random. And since there is a good chance that in the long run, situation‐specific factors or period effects will cancel each other out, in the long run, over many countries, our predictions should point in the right direction.

In the present case, the predicted shift toward less emphasis on respect for authority is actually observed in 28 out of the 36 countries in which any change occurred (with one country showing no change). In other words, we find the predicted change in 78 per cent of the cases. Though well short of 100 per cent accuracy, this is far better than random prediction. Across the 37 societies for which we have time‐series data, we observe a mean decline of 5.7 points in emphasis on respect for authority. We will not attempt to identify the various nation‐specific effects that were also at work, but it is clear that the population‐replacement mechanism was not the only factor involved here. For example, in Nigeria, national elections were held in 1993 that were expected to bring a long‐awaited transition to democratic government. But the elections were nullified after the fact and a widely resented and increasingly repressive military government seized power. This authoritarian abuse of power almost certainly contributed to the substantial decline in respect for authority that was observed in Nigeria from 1990 to 1996. Our theory did not predict this event. It was due to factors outside our model. Nevertheless, the values of most publics did move in the predicted direction.

The evidence indicates that respect for authority actually is declining in most advanced industrial societies. We suspect that this has contributed to the erosion of institutional authority. Performance still counts. But the tendency (p.250) to idealize national leaders has been growing weaker; and their performance is being evaluated with a more critical eye.

Postmaterialists evaluate politics by more demanding standards than do Materialists. Though they live in the same political systems as Materialists, and are more able to make these systems respond to their preferences (being more articulate and politically more active), they do not register higher levels of satisfaction with politics. The rise of Postmaterialist values is one symptom of a broader Postmodern shift that is transforming the standards by which the publics of advanced industrial societies evaluate governmental performance. It brings new, more demanding standards to the evaluation of political life; and confronts political leaders with more active, articulate citizens. The position of elites has become more difficult in advanced industrial society. Mass publics are becoming increasingly critical of their political leaders, and increasingly likely to engage in elite‐challenging activities.

This leads to a paradoxical finding: even though they are better‐off in almost every respect, the publics of prosperous, stable, and democratic advanced industrial societies do not show higher levels of satisfaction with their political systems than do the publics of poor, authoritarian countries. Quite the contrary, astonishing as it may seem, the publics of rich democracies show less confidence in their leaders and political institutions than do their counterparts in developing countries. In the short run, economic development tends to bring rising levels of political satisfaction; in the long run, however, it leads to the emergence of new and more demanding standards by which governmental performance is evaluated—and to lower levels of respect and confidence in their authorities.

The Erosion of Confidence in Hierarchical Institutions

Let us now examine the shifts that took place in political values from 1981 to 1997, testing our deliberately over‐simplified prediction: that all orientations linked with Postmaterialist values should become more widespread. We find that pervasive changes are taking place in political, as well as social values. There is evidence of a long‐term shift in which the publics of advanced industrial societies are becoming more likely to act in autonomous, elite‐challenging fashion. These changes make mass publics less respectful of elites and more likely to challenge them. Confidence in established political and societal institutions is declining; but the participant potential of most publics is rising. Thus, we find two related trends: the erosion of institutional authority; and the rise of citizen intervention in politics.

These processes have both alarming and encouraging implications. On one hand, established institutions that have shaped industrial society for generations seem to be losing their authority over the average citizen. Public confidence is declining, not only in key governmental institutions such as (p.251) parliament, police, civil service, and armed forces; but also in political parties, churches, educational systems, and the press. We even find a weakening sense of attachment to that most basic of all Western institutions, the nation‐state itself.

When evidence of such changes emerged in given countries in the past, it was usually attributed to the fact that the specific government then in office was less effective, and instilled less confidence, than the previous government. This undoubtedly is part of the explanation: incompetent and corrupt governments tend to evoke less confidence than competent, honest ones. But we believe that a long‐term component is also involved here, in addition to fluctuations linked with specific office‐holders.

It has often been observed that in time of national danger the public tends to seek the security of strong leaders and strong institutions. Thus, during the traumatic insecurity of the Great Depression, a wave of upheavals took place in newly established democracies, from Italy to Germany to Hungary to Spain, which led to the rise of authoritarian leaders such as Mussolini, Hitler, Horthy, and Franco. Even in the United States, with its deep‐rooted democratic tradition, the American people rallied behind Franklin Roosevelt, who exercised exceptionally sweeping powers, and was elected for an unprecedented four terms.

Long‐enduring security paves the way for the reverse phenomenon: the public gradually sees less need for the discipline and self‐denial demanded by strong governments. A Postmaterialist emphasis on self‐expression and self‐realization becomes increasingly central.

There are potential dangers in this evolution. Societal institutions could become too atrophied to cope with a national emergency if one arose. But there are positive aspects as well. In the long run it seems to produce a declining sense of nationalism. More immediately, it is conducive to democratization. For the erosion of state authority has been accompanied by a rising potential for citizen intervention in politics. Partly this is due to a shift in values, with a weakening emphasis on the goals of economic and physical security that favour strong authority; but another factor that favours rising citizen intervention is the long‐term rise in educational levels and in mass political skills that have characterized all industrial societies. In the long run, industrialized societies of both East and West must cope with long‐term changes that are making their publics less amenable to doing as they are told, and more adept at telling their governments what to do.

Declining Confidence in Hierarchical Institutions

Evidence from the 1981, 1990 and 1996 surveys demonstrates the claims we have just laid out. Across nearly all of our societies, Materialists place more confidence in their country's most hierarchical institutions—the armed forces, police, and church—than do Postmaterialists.

(p.252) These findings are consistent with our argument that a sense of insecurity tends to motivate support for strong institutions and for strong authority in particular. Having experienced a relatively high sense of economic and physical security throughout their formative years, Postmaterialists feel less need for strong authority than do Materialists. Moreover, Postmaterialists place relatively strong emphasis on self‐expression—a value that inherently conflicts with the structure of hierarchical bureaucratic organizations.

The value‐related differences point to the possibility of a shift over time, toward the outlook of the younger and more Postmaterialist respondents. Do we find it? The answer is ‘Yes’. In most countries, we find lower levels of confidence in government institutions in 1997 than those that existed in 1981.

Our respondents were asked how much confidence they had in a dozen national institutions. Postmaterialists show lower levels of confidence in most established institutions than do Materialists, and in three cases, the correlations

Table 12.2. Confidence in the Armed Forces, 1981–1997

Country

1981

1990

1996

Change

S. Korea

55

31

18

−37

Nigeria

41

20

−21

Spain

24

8

8

−16

Canada

19

11

−13

Italy

18

7

−11

Norway

17

11

10

−7

Australia

22

15

−7

Great Britain

38

32

−6

Ireland

26

21

−5

Russia

33

28

−5

W. Germany

10

6

6

−4

Iceland

8

4

−4

Latvia

6

2

−4

USA

36

29

33

−3

France

15

12

−3

Belgium

8

5

−3

Mexico

21

9

18

−3

S. Africa

21

24

18

−3

Netherlands

5

3

−2

Brazil

32

31

−1

Denmark

9

9

0

Sweden

7

7

7

0

Slovenia

9

9

0

Japan

6

3

7

+1

N. Ireland

33

35

+2

E. Germany

1

3

+2

Estonia

4

6

+2

Argentina

3

9

6

+3

Chile

16

19

+3

Belarus

22

29

+7

Finland

20

13

27

+7

Turkey

59

67

+8

Sources: World Values Surveys carried out in 1981–3, 1990–3, and 1995–7.

(p.253)

Table 12.3. Confidence in the Police, 1981–1997

Country

1981

1990

1996

Change

S. Korea

29

10

7

−22

Great Britain

40

24

−16

Nigeria

30

15

−15

Norway

30

20

16

−14

USA

27

21

16

−11

Australia

27

18

−9

Spain

19

10

11

−8

W. Germany

16

12

10

−6

Canada

30

24

−6

Italy

18

12

−6

Mexico

12

7

6

−6

N. Ireland

37

33

−4

Brazil

13

10

−3

France

12

9

−3

Belgium

10

7

−3

E. Germany

6

4

−2

Slovenia

11

9

−2

Russia

8

6

−2

Sweden

16

13

15

−1

Japan

15

11

14

−1

Lithuania

2

1

−1

Latvia

3

2

−1

Argentina

4

5

4

0

Finland

24

10

24

0

Denmark

28

29

+1

Turkey

30

31

+1

Ireland

32

36

+2

Belarus

5

9

+4

Estonia

2

6

+4

Iceland

8

19

+11

S. Africa

19

25

31

+12

Sources: World Values Surveys carried out in 1981–3, 1990–3, and 1995–7.

were high enough to meet our criterion of ‘reasonably strong’: Postmaterialist values are especially strongly linked with low levels of confidence in their country's police, armed forces, and church. Consequently, we predicted that confidence in these institutions will decline.

Confidence in the country's armed forces shows a similar pattern (see Table 12.2). It declined in 20 of the 29 countries that registered change. As Table 12.3 demonstrates, from 1981 to 1997, confidence in the given society's police declined in 23 of the 29 countries in which any change was registered. Among the societies in which it rose by more than 2 points, three of the four societies had experienced regime changes.

Confidence in one's country's church also moved on the predicted trajectory, falling in 23 of the 33 cases where changes occurred, as Table 12.4 demonstrates. Here again, in four of the five countries where it rose by more than two points, the nation had undergone a regime change. (p.254)

Table 12.4. Confidence in the Church, 1981–1997

Country

1981

1990

1996

Change

Nigeria

82

65

−17

E. Germany

18

3

−15

W. Germany

19

12

5

−14

S. Korea

24

21

13

−11

Australia

21

12

−9

Belgium

22

14

−8

Spain

25

24

17

−8

Canada

30

24

−6

Norway

16

11

10

−6

U.S.A.

45

46

40

−5

Mexico

48

46

43

−5

France

17

12

−5

Great Britain

20

16

−4

Netherlands

10

7

−3

Japan

5

3

2

−3

Iceland

22

19

−3

Slovenia

14

12

−2

Italy

28

27

−1

Sweden

7

7

6

−1

Russia

24

24

0

Ireland

38

39

+1

Argentina

22

26

23

+1

Finland

11

8

12

+1

Lithuania

15

16

+1

Latvia

17

18

+1

N. Ireland

45

47

+2

Estonia

12

15

+3

Denmark

8

11

+3

Hungary

16

22

+6

Belarus

22

33

+11

S. Africa

48

59

60

+12

Sources: World Values Surveys carried out in 1981–3, 1990–3, and 1995–7.

Summing up the predicted and observed changes examined in Tables 12.1 through 12.4, we find that the predicted shift away from emphasis on respect for authority was observed in 78 per cent of the cases for which we have time‐series data; declining confidence in the police was observed in 79 per cent of the available cases; declining confidence in the armed forces was observed in 69 per cent of the cases; and declining confidence in the church was observed in 67 per cent of the cases for which we have data. Across the 127 cases for which we have time‐series data at two or more points, the predicted trend is observed 73 per cent of the time when any change occurred.

The old standards for evaluating elites no longer apply. A record that once would have ensured re‐election, is now insufficient. Thus in 1952, more than seven years after he had led allied forces to victory in World War II, a grateful nation elected Dwight Eisenhower President by a landslide margin. By contrast, in 1992, shortly after the Cold War had come to a sudden and (from an (p.255) American perspective) astonishingly successful conclusion; and immediately after a swift and (from an American perspective) almost bloodless victory in the Gulf War; and with an economy that was in the second year of the longest sustained expansion in post‐war history, George Bush failed to win re‐election. This was not just a failure of charisma on Bush's part. For within two years, his successor had become widely distrusted and his party had lost control of both houses of Congress. This happened though the economic indicators were doing even better than they were under Bush. It has become clear that the standard economic indicators no longer explain as much as they once did, in the realm of political behaviour. Postmodern publics evaluate their leaders by different, and more demanding, standards than were those applied throughout most of the modern era.

We find one striking exception to the decline of mass confidence in established institutions: during the period 1981–90, confidence in ‘major corporations’ did not decline. Though it started from relatively low levels in 1981, confidence in corporations showed a rising trend in most societies. This may have been linked with the collapse of state‐socialist economies, which made private enterprise look good by contrast. And in a sense, it is a logical reaction to the pronounced decline of trust in government: if the state is coming to be seen as the problem, rather than the solution, it becomes all the more important to have a strong countervailing force to offset the power of the state.

In keeping with this interpretation, we find that the publics of more developed societies show less support for a state‐run economy than those of low‐income societies. It seems clear that one of the most pervasive defining tendencies of the modernization era—the tendency to look to the state, as the solution to all problems—has reached its limits.

The bottom‐line question is, ‘Do these trends tend to undermine support for democratic institutions?’

The answer is ‘No’. They undermine support for hierarchical authority. This makes governance more difficult. But the Postmodern shift constitutes a move away from a deference to authority that can, under conditions of insecurity, give rise to authoritarian government. The third wave of the World Values Surveys contains a number of items designed to measure support for democratic institutions, including the following question: ‘I'm going to describe various types of political systems and ask what you think of each as a way of governing this country. For each one, would you say it is a very good, fairly good, fairly bad, or very bad way of governing this country?’ . . . ‘Having a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections’. Figure 12.6 shows the percentage in each country who clearly rejected this alternative, describing it as ‘very bad’. The societies are also arrayed according to the proportion of Postmaterialists in their public (with ‘Postmaterialists’ defined here as those who gave high priority to at least three of the five Postmaterialist goals in the twelve‐item battery).

There is a great deal of cross‐national variation in response to this question. In the Western region of Germany (the former Bundesrepublik), fully 70 per (p.256)

                      Postmodernization Erodes Respect for Authority, But Increases Support for Democracy

Fig. 12.6. Support for strong leadership.

Note: Percentage of people saying ‘having a strong leader who does not have to bother with parliament and elections’ is a ‘very bad ’ system, by percentage ‘postmaterialist’.

Source: World Values Surveys 1981–96.

cent of the public reject government by a strong leader, ruling without parliament or elections, as a ‘very bad’ system. In Russia, only 12 per cent do so, and in Lithuania, Ukraine, Moldova, Taiwan, and the Philippines, less than 10 per cent do so.

But we find a clear overall pattern. The publics of the most Postmaterialist societies (which, as we have seen, show relatively low levels of respect for authority) also tend to reject authoritarian government most strongly. The overall correlation is .60, significant at the .0000 level.

The Postmodernization phase of development leads to declining respect for authority among the publics of advanced industrial society—but it also gives rise to growing support for democracy.

Notes:

(1) For the detailed country by country results, see Basanez, Inglehart, and Moreno (1998, Table 268).

(2) In the USA, confidence in the armed forces shows a deviant trend: the earliest time point at which it was measured in US surveys was during an abnormally low level during the Vietnam era; consequently, in the USA the long‐term trend from the 1970s to the present is dominated by recovery from that extremely low level. But in most other advanced industrial societies, trust in the armed forces is clearly linked with materialist values and shows the same downward trend that we find in connection with attitudes toward the police and the church. And even in the USA, the World Values Surveys show a downward trend from 1981 to 1997.