Schwartz’s Theory of Cultural Values

Posted on September 18, 2014 by


September 18, 2014 (OpEconomica) — Schwartz argues that societies confront basic problems in regulating human activity. Societal responses to basic problems emphasize certain values and sacrifice others. These emphasized values are expressed in daily practices, ways of thinking and ways institutions function. Values emphases generate, justify and support societal institutions

In light of this if a culture values ambition and success it may support competitive legal,
market and education systems. Value emphases also set implicit standards, action priorities and policies in everyday settings.

Schwartz’s theory of cultural values proposes three cultural dimensions:

  1. Harmony vs. Mastery. Our place in the world and society: is it our role or duty to actively shape (change) the world, or is it our role to fit into the system, allowing change to occur?
  2. Intellectual Autonomy vs. Traditionalism. Where our ideas stem from: an intellectual
    independence and creativity or embeddedness in social groups or traditions?
  3. Hierarchy vs. Egalitarianism. Distribution of power and responsibility: Should power be
    sanctioned to maintain order (top down, unequal distribution) or should bottom up voluntary
    cooperation lead to equality and freedom?

The three dimensions construct the following diagram.

schwart_culturevalueIn the diagram, comfortable cultural space for innovation is made by autonomy and mastery. Then I wonder what happens to innovation in other pairs – for example, harmony and traditionalism or hierarchy and mastery.

Posted in: Food for thought