Account for the growth of post material values in western Europe and asses the consequences of their development Post-material values have been a prominent characteristic of the West European political climate for a period stretching beyond the previous decade. The cultural ascendancy of post-materialism has been evident more so in Western Europe than anywhere else and its impact more profound in some European countries, for e. g. Germany than lets say Britain. Several arguments and theories have been developed to explain why this may be.
One basic point to look at is the concept of political socialization which breeds value change. In this case the values of the current generation who have helped carry the post materialistic values to the forefront of politics. Values denote a partiality for certain persona and social goals and also some kind of a method to achieve them. Therefore any change in the value system of people will be contagion on the way our society perceives and reacts to particular events. By political socialization we mean the process by which people learn political values; as in this case post materialistic values.
Different social background are at the heart of varying political values. Those of us that were brought up in times of uncertainty and economic hardship tend to have much more materialistic goals than perhaps those who have had an affluent up bringing. This can be validated by a comparison of the values of the contemporary society and those held by the society in the immediate post war era, who were much more concerned with monetary security above all else. The agents of political socialization are parents, school, peer group, media and government.
Their influences vary temporally, affecting the way we choose to live at different points in our lives. These agents dominate the value system at different stages of our lives. Beginning with parents, as the most influential in our pre-adult life. However, as the individual progresses through life they open themselves to other sources of influence. This approach mirrors Ingelhart hypothesis on socialization. He believes that "to a large extent, ones value priorities reflect the conditions that prevailed during one's pre-adult years" (Ingelhart).
This seminal climate includes a combination of family's state of affairs and the prevailing political and social environment that one is brought up in. Also the process of socialization is not without influences from religious teachings, peers and what social class they identify with. The second strand of Ingelhart's hypothesis is value change. He suggests that individuals are motivated by the opportunity to own something that is in scarce supply. That is when something is in short supply its value is enhanced making it more attractive to those who don't have it.
If the supply increases to satisfy the demand for the good then over time the object will come to be taken for granted, for e. g. up till recently everyone took petrol for granted. However, during the strike the quantity of petrol allowed per individual was limited to 15 liters. Following the strike drivers were much more eager to stock up, panic buying incase of a second strike. So according to Ingelhart our values correlate with our economic situation. The better the state of the economy the more likely we are to acknowledge post material issues.
Another approach pioneered by Maslow is the hierarchical order to individuals needs. Individuals first priority is to attain such items as food, shelter, water etc. When these needs are satisfied the individuals seeks to poses material goods to obtain a comfortable level of living. Only after these needs and wants are accomplished will the individual move on to "higher order goals". Ingelhart incorporated Maslow ideas to form a "hierarchy of political issues".
He believes that material goals, such as financial security, law and order and economic prosperity, receive much greater emphasis in times of social unrest or an economic depression. As a society moves towards addressing the unrest or recovering from the depression a shift takes place to other non-materialistic issues. These issues are "higher order goals" which reflect an individuals preference for quality rather than quantity, such as, their desire for freedom of speech, self expression etc.