A presentation at European Broadcasting Union Workshop in Basle, December 10, 1984   

New Values at the Workplaces of Europe

By Hans L Zetterberg  


High prosperity and high unemployment  

 Today we look back at several years of bleak economic outlook and we look ahead to a growing economy.

 On the job front we are faced with a legacy of high unemployment from the long recession. In spite of the current upturn, unemployment will remain close to 40 million in the OECD countries during the rest of the 1980s. If we include the poor countries we have some 400 million unemployed according to the World Bank. In most countries the prospect that unemployment will decline significantly during the good economic years we now see ahead is very dim. The debate about unemployment may subside, but not the phenomenon. We are entering a paradoxical era of high prosperity and high unemployment.

 Employment becomes Employability

 Politicians in nearly all advanced countries are vaguely embarrassed – at least in private – about the promise of full employment that was so freely written into every party platform in the past three, four decades. And the entitlement to work that was written into the UN Declaration of Human Rights and into many constitutions in the post-war era sound very lofty today. Contemporary politicians have also begun to use a language and adopt measures which show that they want to promise employability rather than employment. It is rather like telling youngsters: "You will get driver's training and a lot of driving practice, and you will also get a driver's license. But we won't promise you a car during your adult life; you will have to take care of that detail yourself in some way."

 Job Scarcity Parallel with Job Improvement

 The jobs we have and are creating are being upgraded. In the advanced countries some 30­40 per cent of the working population report that during the past five years their jobs have been redesigned, changed through technology, or are entirely new jobs that did not exist five years ago. The pace of change at the workplace is extremely rapid.  These new or newly restructured jobs are generally reported to be better than the old ones. They allow the jobholder more freedom and discretion in carrying out his or her work, and they allow for the development of individual potentials. In the main, the research findings on this score run contrary to the common assumption of Marxian scholars that jobs in our economies get more controlled from above, more subdivided, and more void of human content. The contrary is true, which brings us to a paradox: in an era when there are too few jobs to go around, much effort is put into existing jobs, with the result that they are improving and becoming more interesting.

 The Climate of Opinion

 During the past hundred years those values which we describe as material success have been in ascendancy replacing the values of sustenance SLUT KURSIV , i e survival security, and faith in authorities. These values of material success include an admiration of the entrepreneurial spirit, a desire for material success, for degrees, titles, and status, the welcome acceptance of technological advances, an emphasis on punctuality and pragmatism, as well as confidence in authority and in the market economy. A central theme that runs through material success values is "the standard of living." These values fit well with the idea of economic growth. Outward­oriented values and economic growth are allies that reinforce one another. Their alliance was notably robust during the 1950s.

 The past two decades have witnessed the emergence of other clusters of values.  We call them expressive success values SLUT KURSIV .

 This cluster comprises values such as self­actualization, creativity, fellowship, a sense of harmony with nature, self-­government, and an awareness of mental and physical health and environmental concerns. Here we also encounter a polysensualism, that is, the use and enjoyment of all the senses; touch and smell are regarded as important as sight and hearing. The central theme that runs through expressive success values is "quality of life."

 These new values – and their novelty lies more in their impact than in their content – are not the self-evident partners of economic growth that material success values are. Today, the climate of values and the economy may strain in different directions.[1]

Parallel Trends of Personality

 It is obviously true that individuals are not fashioned from whole cloth. They do not embrace all the values and attitudes of a one specific value orientation but are rather "tapestries in which one or two weaves emerge predominant" (Greta Frankel), it is also true that not even the predominant weave may remain the salient one throughout a lifespan. Here is an illustration of a change brought about by a job shift.

 A 53­-year ­old man in Sweden who had worked on an assembly line for 35 years was a typical security­minded individual 20 years ago and regarded his job as his duty as the family breadwinner. Recently, however, he was forced to quit his old job because of back injury and take a position as a janitor at a local high school. His obligations to his now­grown children no longer fetter him, and he finds himself thriving in the reproductive sphere. He describes his former and present work thusly:

  Interviewer: It was perhaps a duty? 

  Earlier, yes. Then I said to myself "Ugh, I have to go to work again."

   I: Then it was just a necessary evil to earn a living.

  Yes. It was something you forced yourself to do. Of course, it wasn't quite that bad all the time.

  I: What is it that makes you thrive so at your present job? 

  I work with young people. It's hard to explain. It's a feeling I have inside.

  I: Would you try to describe that feeling?  

  It's very hard; it's a feeling of you. The spontaneity the young show.

 In the sphere of Material Success this man counted his blessings in terms of being able to maintain his security and living standard and his self-esteem was based primarily on being a good provider. When he switched to the sphere of work with expressive values his blessings became feelings held inside. There seems little doubt that his latter work helped evolve aspects of his personality that had been there also during earlier years.

Parallel Value Currents.

 While the prosperous welfare states have created conditions for values of Expressivism on an unprecedented scale, it must be pointed out that the surge of inner-directedness is not unique to our times. The study of earlier periods of value change may help us think more clearly about contemporary ones. History indicates that dissonant value currents may coexist.

 In the midst of the Enlightenment of the 18th century, when the Encyclopaedists felt that their final victory over all sorts of superstition, prejudice, and emotional nonsense was close at hand, mysticism, gushing religiosity, and romanticism rose to put an end to the century of enlightenment and reason. In the main, the thus victorious values were not a reaction against the Enlightenment; they were actually a stream of values parallel to the Enlightenment that rose to hegemony. Zinzendorf and Swedenborg – not to speak of Rousseau – were as typical sons of the 18th century as were Voltaire and Diderot.

 The prevalence of parallel but dissonant streams of values fighting for hegemony in the media, in conversation, in the appraisal of products for purchase and in judging persons for promotion also applies to our times.

 Values of Expressivism and inner-­directed personalities were actually rather common during the heydays of the values of Material Success in the 1950s. They took the form of a "bourgeois sentimentality" which is well documented in the mass consumption of popular magazines and movies and many opinion and market surveys. Mostly, these values were to be found among middle­class housewives. Here the concern with such Material Success values as family status and cleanliness, mixed with concerns about romance, beauty, love, care, and, naturally, the romance, beauty, and love of their media idols. Advertising agencies experienced much scorn, not only from intellectuals but also from top management, for relating to such values – but most of the time they were absolute justified in doing so.

 The surfacing of inner­-directedness in the late 1960s and 1970s – taking the form of environmental concern, cultivation of inner life etc – means that bourgeois sentimentality took new forms and became acceptable, rather than rejected, by the younger generation of the educated middle class.


 How The Currents Are Running

 The three currents of values that we have sketched are not new.  But their relative strength varies over time and from place to place with demographic changes.  In the course of the past half century a dramatic shift has occurred in the developed countries of the West.  Since the 1930s the proportion of people with values chiefly related to earning one's daily bread has receded. Values of material success crested in the 1950s but ebbed in the 70s ­– a decade when expressive values rapidly gained.

 People who are governed by basic needs have been shaped by sustenance values and are usually either older or younger, seldom middle-aged.  The older ones most often live in rural areas or in towns.  The family farm in the country and the family store in town are typical backgrounds. Farm workers, servants, and odd jobbers are typical among the sustenance-­oriented who do not own their own small business. The main dividing line in this category runs between those who own no property and have no security on the one hand and those who own a little piece of land or a small store, have an unassuming job or a pension to get by on. Urban environments or a breakdown in the welfare system create a breeding ground for a new sustenance type. Here we encounter aimless urban youth whose past is characterized by poor education and unemployment and who are accustomed to a chaotic lifestyle.  (We call them "chaotics," not because they create chaos but because they have learned to live with it.)  They have no family farm or store to fall back on in order to make a living.

 Those shaped by values of material success and who are responsive to external cues are more frequently male.  One encounters them everywhere, but more frequently in towns than in large cities or rural areas. Many work in commerce or industry or in public administration.  They can be found in all classes, from the traditional, unionized working class to groups composed of prosperous businessmen. This category is stratified primarily according to profession or occupation. It can accordingly be divided politically into a traditional left and a traditional right.  Some strive for equality in a socialist spirit and others strive for entrepreneurship in a conservative spirit.

 Those who take their cues from signals within themselves and who have been shaped by expressive values are most often young and female. They are more common in large cities than in small towns or rural areas.  Many work in health care, in social work, or in education. They are stratified primarily according to educational level.  A high educational level ­– and then more frequently in the humanities or social sciences than in business or technology ­– is characteristic of the more articulate in this category. The River of Time In the value streams the whole society structure is crystallized.

 Our representation of the present can be likened to three currents in the river of time. They run parallel and do not exclude one another. One, which we call the World of the Apparatus is the main current.

 Here decisions are reached on the basis of the values of Material Success. Political life is corporative, that is, the big organizations, ponderous public authorities, and major corporations, to a lesser extent by parliamentary parties and the media, and hardly at all by intellectuals, consumers, and voters, dominate it. The apparatus are organized on a hierarchic principle. The chief aim of its present politics is to break economic stagnation. To shape working life in order that it attains greater productivity is an important goal.

 Alongside this mainstream is a smaller current, the World of the Networks. Here the values of Expressive Success prevail.

 It is important to note that the economically bad times of the early 1980s do not mean a retreat for these values. Decentralized local groups and informal network flourish. Self-­government is the principle of organization. Politics takes usually the form of protests against the elites in the World of the Apparatus, through, for example, the environmental movement, women's liberation, and the peace movement. Few live solely in the World of the Networks, and many in this world commute to the World of the Apparatus.


 BILD The River of Time.


 These "commuters" effect working life in the World of the Apparatus, which at present is being reorganized in planned and unplanned ways to meet the demands of the Expressives, for example, the demands for part-time work and for "meaningful" tasks.

 We also have a third current, the World of the Chaotics. Here the prevailing values are those of sustenance as they have been shaped by the .pi /values/of sustenance growing legions of aimless drifters in big cities; the unemployed, the rootless, the homeless. Lacking a sense of continuity in their view of themselves and the world around them, these lost individuals lead a life that is chaotic, rough, and marked by rising crime rates. Politics in the World of the Chaotics is anarchistic; it may also be a growing ground for fascism (as Adolf Hitler once demonstrated).

 In most western countries in the early 1980s, the Apparatus do not create enough jobs, nor do they seem to generate enough to pay for decent and full services to the unemployed, the students, the pensioners, and others outside the places of employment. Some of the unemployed can be absorbed in the World of Networks. Some make a living in the informal economy thus avoiding the curse put on the jobs in the Apparatus: the heavy taxes paid by employers on payrolls and by job­holders on their earnings. Others – particularly the young ones – end up in the World of the Chaotics.

 In the territory bordering on the World of Networks and the World of the Apparatus we find the new entrepreneurs of Europe.


The New Entrepreneurs of Europe

 Every seventh adult in Europe (14%) describes himself or herself in an international RISC poll as follows: "I am  the kind of person who could start a business of my own". They say this without hesitation: they "strongly agree" that they could start a business. Since entrepreneurship can generate both prosperity and jobs this finding spells hope for the European economies.

 The persons with an entrepreneurial mind are numerous in France and Spain.







W Germany




United Kingdom  







 The low share of persons with an entrepreneurial bent in the Federal Republic of Germany (6%) is noteworthy. Many Germans are pessimistic about the prospects of creating new business and more jobs, and they want to ration and share the existing jobs. But the German attitude is not typically European.


 Of special interest is the fact that 11 percent of the interviewed women described themselves as being potentially able to start a business of their own. For many of them this may appear a more certain way to realize economic and occupational ambitions than to take a job as an employee in a man's world. For the new entrepreneurs the sex roles are blurred.


 The new potential entrepreneurs of Europe share the need to achieve with entrepreneurs in earlier generations. They want to prove themselves in an obstacle race, beginning with small hurdles and going on to more difficult ones. To make money in the process is not so much a goal in itself as a sign that you are successful and skilled in your chosen field. It is typical of the new entrepreneurs that they look upon status and consumption in exactly the same way as the typical citizen. They are no more and no less motivated by the big house, the prestigious neighborhood, the great car, the good table, and the material amenities of life than their fellowmen who do not pursue a business of their own.


 What drives the new entrepreneurs more than anything else is a desire for a full rich life and full use of all senses. They do not hold a narrow view of life as totally guided by the profit motive. Of course, a profit is necessary to the survival of any business, but the view taken here is that entrepreneurship is a way of life, not merely a way of making a living or building a fortune. Daniel Yankelovich has observed the same vision in the new entrepreneurs in America:
 In the past, the entrepreneur’s pursuits were money and recognition. Today, they are autonomy, creativity, and adventure. Entrepreneurship has been redefined to focus on the expressive side of life.



 Here are some statistics showing how Europeans with an entrepreneurial bent rate on social trends. 25 is the mean for the whole population, and the entrepreneurs are ahead on these trends

Need for achievement    47%    22% above mean

Full rich life          46%    21% above mean Polysensuality          44%    19% above mean Irrationality           38%    13% above mean

Blurring of sexes       37%    12% above mean

Roots­-rurality         36%    11% above mean

 On the status motive the entrepreneurs scored 26 percent an insignificant deviation from the total population average of 25 percent.


 Entrepreneurs – both old and new – are an absolute minority in any population studied. It is easy for a political majority to adopt rules and taxes that discourage entrepreneurship. Whether the European body politic is going to create a political atmosphere in which the new entrepreneurship can thrive is still an open question. It would require a restraint with regulations and taxes that does not come easily to the politicians of Europe.

Non­economic Factors in Contemporary Economic Performance

 A hundred years ago – and on the authority of the great economist Rikardo – a country's competitive advantage was thought to rest on having raw material and cheap labor. My country of Sweden was intrinsically rich with all the minerals and all the timber one could wish. It was thought that we would prosper at least so long as the wages of miners and lumberjacks remained reasonably low.

 We are now in an entirely different ballgame. In today's economies, the availability of raw material and cheap labor do not give a very significant advantage. What counts is access to capital and to technology. Japan, the most successful of the post-war economies, has neither raw material of its own, nor cheap labor. But it has technology and capital ­ the latter in part supported in the post-war period by an undervalued yen.

 What makes Japan unique in post-war capitalism is its marriage of high technology and an unflagging willingness to work hard. The willingness to work has always figured in folklore about the rise and decline of nations. In every nation and at any period in modern history one can document a tendency to claim that the older generation has worked harder than the younger one. And most nations entertain notions that the peoples of some regions or tribes work harder than others. The saying "Southerners are lazy" is found in many countries.

 The category "will to work" falls outside the ones dealt with by mainstream economists. They talk about the price of labor and they treat wages as the one and only force driving us to work more or less hard. A very striking fact in our research, however, is that in most countries there is little immediate correlation between good pay and hard work.

 Majorities in every country report from their workplaces that there is little or no difference in pay between those who work hard and efficiently and those who don't. This came almost as a shock to the economists in our research teams.

 This combination of jobs moving toward high discretion for the jobholder and jobs that pays the same irrespective of how one uses that discretion puts the will to work into focus.

 In Japan older generation give their discretionary effort to the company, but younger Japanese are increasingly reluctant to do so. The Japanese researchers called this phenomenon the "Europeanization of the labor force". Seen in a perspective of some fifteen to twenty years this will have an effect on Japan's competitive position.  It will have little or no effect within the next few years.

 We have learned only very recently to measure the will to work and compare nations on this score. The comparisons we have made in our research include three quite separate measurements that only have one thing in common: they get at the non­-economic aspects of the will to work. The three aspects are


The Implanted Work Ethic

 Some people have an inner need to do a good job regardless of pay– Their religion, upbringing, and education have imbued them with a work ethic. These are the people who feel that they absolutely must do things well. The famous Protestant work ethic is an example of an implanted urge to do a good job for its own sake, not for the sake of worldly gain, pay, or honor.

 The prevalence of the implanted work ethic differs greatly between countries. In centers where tradition would have us expect to find a strong work ethic – Germany, the home of the Lutherans, and Britain, the home of the Methodists – very few people today say in our interviews say that they "have an inner need to work hard regardless of pay". Japan, the United States, and Sweden show higher figures. The US figure is high enough – about 40 per cent – so that a discussion has started there about putting the work ethic to work. Since the implanted work ethic is something that has its roots in upbringing there is not much managers can do about it. The most conscious efforts to make use of it are reported in the hiring practices of some Japanese firms operating in the United States. They try to choose for their American work force people with an intrinsic interest in quality work and in fast, hard work.

 Closing the Mismatch between Values and Jobs

 It is with jobs as with marriages: what is a mismatch for one may be a good match for another. One person may desire a husband or wife who is stylish and elegant. He places less importance on emotional depth and intelligence. Another puts a premium on deep emotional contact and attaches  less importance to external attributes. As in marriage, however, some of us are unwilling to forego some attributes in our jobs in favor of others. One has not learned to make all the trade­offs that are necessary in various areas of life. On the job, as in a marriage, the chances for disappointment ­– and therewith such reactions as frustration, bitterness, or even apathy ­– very likely await the person who expects a mate or a workplace to fulfill a preponderance of often-irreconcilable desires. Just as a mate may not be both sufficiently fashionable and sufficiently profound, a job may not be able to offer both the fullest opportunity for creativity and maximum security.

 Depending on what values we hold certain jobs will be mismatched and others will be matched to us.

 The mismatches are pronounced among the young ­­ those under 30. It seems as if society has not redesigned its jobs at the same pace as values have changed. In all countries the young with the newer values of Expressive Success are frequently mismatched.

 A good match between your values and your work is a daily reward. A fortunate half of the working population in the advanced industrial democracies enjoys this experience.  They agree with one of our respondents, who in no way would work without pay since she carried a burden of family support, but nevertheless said: "I have this job that is so good to me, and on top of it I also get paid."

 Where you have a good match between values and jobs you also have an automatic will to work. Our values motivate us on the job.

 To sum up this argument:

 Sustenance-oriented people give their best to jobs with steady remuneration and complete job security. The older blue­-collar generation of industrial workers fit here.

 People with outer-directed values of material success give their best to jobs with incentive pay, advancement opportunities, and clear and fair rules for promotion.

 People with inner­-oriented values of expressivism give their best at what they call interesting jobs that allow for personal growth, not just material growth. Their interviews are full of phrases such as "my job is so good to me". They give their best when the job allows for creativity and self­development.

 We were surprised to find that nearly half of the work force we interviewed had a mismatch between jobs and dominant values. To an amazing extent the various labor markets offered insecure jobs to the sustenance-­minded, sustenance jobs to those who wanted material success, material success jobs to those who wanted expressive success and vice versa.

 In the 60s and 70s most people with the new values of expressivism gave up on their work places and thought they could only realize their values of self-actualization during leisure – by being close to nature, by walking in the mountains, sailing on the deep waters, meeting with close friends. The values were a drain on working life. In the 80s the story is different. People with these values are increasingly looking for work that allows them to live out their values on the job rather than outside the job. And they love the new jobs with their high discretion and room for creativity. They also look with favor on the many small computers they operate on these jobs. They see the computers as extensions of their personality: to learn the computer - is like learning to play the piano – you can express more of yourself and so much better with such a tool.

 Those countries and companies that can quickly teach their managers to be aware of differences in values, allocate personnel accordingly, and redesign jobs to fit the values will win the competitive race of the 80s and 90s. The burden lies mainly on those engineers and organization officers who shape and design jobs.


The Invisible Contract

Practically everywhere interviewed we found bits and pieces of what we came to call "the invisible contract". Here we are not talking about a willingness to work because work allows you to live out your values, not are we talking about an ethical commitment to work hard irrespective of the reward. We are talking about a give and take of a non­-economic kind that is more or less developed at every place of work.

 The usual visible written work contract says that I put in so and so many hours for so and so many dollars. The invisible contract says I help you because I know that you would help me. I care about my fellow workers, and my fellow workers care about me. I am loyal to my company and my company is loyal to me.

 The invisible contract fares poorly in many countries. In Britain it is poorly developed, and workers may withhold efforts above the minimum required by the formal contract. In Germany, the workers feel exploited and do not want to give much of themselves. In Japan, there are growing signs that the invisible contract is abused and that workers feel cheated. The best invisible contracts we found – to my delighted surprise – in Sweden. Swedes have a high rate of absenteeism, but when on the job they give it a lot.

 Good invisible contracts are more common at small places of work than at large ones, more common among white-­collar workers than blue-­collar workers, more common in the private sector than in the public sector.

 The small place of work can develop a good invisible contract almost by itself. As with a hockey or soccer team or the fishing and hunting teams of olden days there should be no more than seven to eleven members to a work group. Jesus Christ tried with twelve and that proved to be one too many.

 But good invisible contracts can develop also in large organizations, provided they have a good leadership sensitive to issues of values, interpersonal relations and performance.

 A Case in Point

There are examples of leaders in the business world who have the ability to rally their employees to marshal their best efforts in a common cause, despite factious rivalries and conflicts. Leaders who can imbue others with a sense of purpose so that each feels his contributions are important. Leaders who can arouse others to draw upon untapped resources.

 Such leadership is an elusive but potent force in the invisible contract.

 One work leader in another field of endeavor may provide some clues as to how he inspires a work crew – albeit on a small scale, with a very special cast of workers, and in a rarefied field.

 Ingmar Bergman has long known the secret of stirring his co-workers to strive for excellence and to surmount conflicts in the interest of a common goal. How many men would even contemplate bringing together a number of their ex-­wives and lovers on the premise that they will work in harmony and deliver optimal performances in the same project? What is his secret?

 Bergman is not only an accomplished director of motion pictures; he is also an intuitive guide of human potential. According to interviews made with his imposing collection of "exs" – each of whom is a distinct personality in her own right – frictions that might plausible be expected to arise on the set are dissipated by an even more impelling force. To each member of his cast Bergman seems able to give a unique gift: to gain access to the undiscovered and richest lodes within one's being and be guided in mining them to one's own delight. This is a reward of an entirely different quality and power than conventional praise or tangible compensations for performance. It spurs one to the highest level of accomplishment because of the sheer pleasure in developing the self. And, unlike traditional incentives, the effects are long lasting and cumulative.

 And so Bergman can orchestrate his players so that each strives to summon the finest tones out of his own instrument – himself – in the creation of the final total product.

 What more can we want?

 Thank you very much.


 This presentation is based on ideas found in two recent publications:

 * Work and Human Values: An International Report on Jobs in the 1980s and 1990s by Daniel Yankelovich, Hans Zetterberg, Burkhard Struempel, Michael Shanks with John Immerwahr, Elisabeth Noelle-­Neumann, Tomatsu Sengoku, and Ephraim Yuchtman­Yaar

 * Det osynliga kontraktet (The Invisible Contract) by Hans L Zetterberg, Karin Busch, Göran Crona, Greta Frankel, Berth Jönsson, Ivar Söderlind, and Bo Winander.

Both publications emanate from the international research program "Jobs in the 1980s" initiated by Aspen Institute for Humanistic Studies and The Public Agenda Foundation. The research covered Japan, USA, Britain, West Germany, Sweden, and Israel


[1] Daniel Bell, The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism, Basic Books, New York, 1976.