The best way to understand behavior and social change is to identify people’s values, their most important priorities, according to author Paul Ray.[i] Values are deeply felt and so changes happen rarely, instigated by major life changes such as going to college, having a baby, or a trauma. Groups can be understood by their different worldviews, beliefs about “how life is,” and what’s real and important. Thus, cultural differences are based on values and worldviews held by a group shared through common discussion, reading, and exposure to the same events. Drawing on hundreds of focus groups and more than 100,000 survey responses in the US, Paul Ray identified a new cultural group that’s been growing since the 1960s, the Cultural Creatives (CCs were about 35% of the US population in 2008).
Their values aren’t for the most part shaped by their demographic characteristics, although they are more likely to be female. In a 2008 survey, 27% of the people age 18 to 29 were CCs, compared to 22% over age 60. They value authenticity, spirituality, self-actualization, seeing the world as interconnected, interest in other cultures, ecology, activism, and what are called “women’s issues” such as concern for women, children and family. CCs consist of two branches, the spiritual social activist leaders at the core and the more secular greens. CCs are both inner-directed and socially conscious. They’ don’t like materialism, intolerance and inequality.
Older cultural groups are the conservative Traditionalists (their views date back to the 19th century) and the progressive Modernists (dominated the 20th century) who have a scientific worldview and believe in the neoliberal free market and financial success. Ray finds the same three categories in Western Europe and Japan, with again the CCs around one-third of the population, according to surveys by different researchers. Their values are more similar to CCs in other countries than to Traditionalists or Modernists in their own countries, creating what Ray calls a “trans-modern” culture.
[i] Paul Ray, “the Potential for a New, Emerging Culture in the US,” 2008.
Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson. The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World. Harmony Books, 2000.