Values in East and West

Date of publication: April 1, 1995

Author: Loek Halraan

Abstract:

This paper explores differences and similarities in a few basic value orientations in Eastern and Western European countries. Since knowledge about Eastern European countries is scarce or even lacking, no clear hypotheses with respect to these differences and similarities are formulated. The only very broad expectation was that in general Eastern European countries would be less modem and consequently less individualised than Western European countries. The data used to explore these differences and similarities are gathered in 1990 in the European Values Study, covering all Western European countries and many countries in Eastern Europe. Value orientations are compared in the domains of religion, morality, politics, work, family, marriage and sexuality. The comparisons did not yield strong evidence for the assumed backwardness in modernisation of Eastern Europeans. As far as work orientations are concerned. Eastern Europeans are slightly more traditional, whereas in orientations regarding marriage, family and sexuality most Eastern Europeans express more modem preferences than many Western Europeans. Further, Eastern Europe appears to be a rather heterogeneous area, as is, of course, the case of Western Europe, too. Both areas are no cultural entities which can be separated clearly from each other. They appear far from homogeneous. Previous studies demonstrated that there still exist profound cross-national differences in Western Europe and the results presented in this paper yield a similar conclusion. In general, Northwestern European countries are more individualised than Southern European countries. In Eastern Europe Polish society appears to be least modem in many respect. An important conservative factor seems to be the Catholic church, for countries in East and West in which the Catholic church is still dominant and in a privileged position, are least modem.

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