An updated version of this paper is available here.


The Sociology of Values: The Swedish Value Space* 


by Hans L. Zetterberg




Values are generalized, relatively enduring and consistent priorities for how we want to live.[1]


Our values may be more or less articulated. When we use survey research to measure values we assume that they are reasonably well articulated. When we use literary or cultural criticism to ascertain values we may also discover unarticulated or unconscious values.


Values are fundamental to one of the main modalities in which modern man finds himself:


What is the situation? Which role do I have? What is expected of me?


What is the situation? Which values do I have? What can I do to realize my values?


To people or organizations operating in the former mode – the compliant mode of "being" the norms in society are fundamental. To people or organizations in the second mode – the actualizing mode of "becoming" their own values are fundamental.


Sociologists have generally concentrated their work on the former mode. When James S. Coleman on the front page of the program for this conference states that sociology "has been implicated in a major failure of social reconstruction, that is, Lenin's attempt to apply Marx's theories in the Soviet Union, and subsequent attempts in Eastern Europe", he cites sociology in the service of a society in which the citizens are expected to ask only the first question. If you ask the second question you promote a more spontaneous order, the end result of which may be rational but unpredictable. The first question is most appropriate when you deal with organizations designed for specific purposes as well as primordial organizations. The second question is most appropriate when you deal with persons in networks and markets. This paper addresses the second mode.


Cardinal Values


Before reviewing the values of the Zeitgeist let us consider some of the more basic values of mankind, namely, prosperity, knowledge, order, beauty, virtue, and meaning.

Max Weber spoke of seven Lebensordnungen (life-orders) and Wertsphären (value-spheres). They are the economic, political, intellectual (scientific), religious, familial, and erotic life-orders and spheres of life-activity and values, each with an "internal and lawful autonomy." We cope rentlessly with them through our manipulations and escapes and above all by the never-ending process of rationalization.

You may argue about the number of life-spheres and their delineation.[2] If we leave out the microsociological familial and erotic value spheres from Weber's list and add an ethical realm to the remaining we obtain the six value-spheres about which it might be possible to reach consensus. They are the pursuit of wealth, order, truth, the sacred, virtue, and beauty. Let us call them the cardinal values. All are products of society.[3]

The cardinal values are embedded in the major institutional realms (Lebensordnungen or cardinal institutions), i.e., the economy, polity, science, religion, ethics, and the arts. The economy seeks and produces wealth, the polity order, science truth, religion meaning, ethics virtue, and art beauty.

It is generally accepted that wealth is preferable to poverty, that order is preferable to chaos, that truth is preferable to falsehood, that a life with transcendent or sacred meanings is preferable to a life devoid of meaning, that virtue is preferable to iniquity, that beauty is preferable to ugliness.

We can learn about the cardinal values by studying economic, political, and juridical history, the history of ideas and learning, the history of religion, of customs, and of art. Most value research is embodied in the humanities, not in anthropology or sociology.


Figure 1.

A major decision, usually made in our youth, concerning the way we want to live is the choice among cardinal values, i.e., the pursuit of riches, the search for knowledge, the fight for political causes, the pursuit of religious piety, artistic development, civic virtue. This decision commonly coincides with our occupational choice — we decide whether to go into business, civil service or politics, academia, art, the clergy, or welfare work. Sometimes several cardinal values can be combined in one's occupational choice. — an architect can, for example, pursue both beauty and wealth. But only a renaissance character can effectively pursue all the cardinal values at once.

The economy, the polity, science, religion, ethics, and art have each a set of organized activities, for example, business firms, courts, universities, churches, museums. Each supports the development of its cardinal value. Values that are strongly supported by organized activities (social structures as we usually call them) survive more easily and longer than values that lack support in society's structures. Political and economic structures are strong in our civilization. Aesthetic and ethical structures are weaker. Hence it is understandable that money and power are more in evidence than beauty and virtue in a modern society.

The ideal of our contemporary American and European civilization is an all-round society that affords people the opportunity to freely pursue the cardinal values. Thereof the importance of free enterprise, civic liberties, academic freedom, artistic freedom, freedom of religion, and of thought[4].

The cardinal values have sometimes mistakenly been described as "eternal" because they are said to have existed in every society and in every age. In reality, they survive mainly because they have institutional structures that support them. When institutional support is weak, so is the corresponding cardinal value. The dearth of ethical institutions in the Western world has, for example, resulted in a dearth of environmental ethics, at least until very recently.


Ethical and aesthetic values are those cardinal values that are at present advancing the most, making up for much lost ground. Diminishing religiosity with accompanying secularization, represents the most marked long-term decline in a cardinal value in my country.

In a 40-year span the following percentages of Swedes answered in the affirmative the question "Do you believe in God?"

          1947. . 80%

          1968. . 60%

          1981. . 48%

          1988. . 48%


Sensate and Ideational Values


The Russian-American sociologist Pitirim A. Sorokin, classified the history of ideas using a scale that ranged from sensate culture to ideational culture. In a sensate culture most symbols have a clear, close reference to the evidence of the senses or refer to gestalts of biological and physical existence. In an ideational culture most symbols and cultural expressions are removed from the sensory data or gestalts of everyday experience and mainly allude to other symbols.


Sorokin's work, Social and Cultural Dynamics[5] shows how Western civilization has fluctuated between sensate and ideational cultures. An ideational culture in 600 BC. had changed into a sensate culture by the time the Roman empire was at its height. This, in turn, developed into a new ideational culture in the Middle Ages, which was followed by the sensate culture of our times.

The main forces behind the shifts in cultural mentality are immanent, i.e., residing in the symbol-system itself. In the virtuoso swing towards ideational culture, the symbol-system loses touch with everyday realities and a sensate mode gets a new opportunity. In the virtuoso swing toward sensateness the symbol system loses touch with spiritual reality and the ideational mode gets a new chance. And so on.


There may, however, also be external forces behind the swings. In a comely but imperfect coincidence with Sorokin's main cycle, Marshall McLuhan also finds turning points in the cultural development at about the third or fourth century before Christ, the mid-fifteenth century and at the time of the late twentieth century[6]. McLuhan's criterium for change is the vehicle by means of which the important symbols travel: oral prior to Plato, written until the end of the Middle Ages, printed until the mid-twentieth century, and pictorial (or electronic) in our days. The medium, he argues, affects the message: the values of oral culture are those of wisdom, the values of written culture are those of knowledge and information. The use of the "hot" medium of printed text is manly, and drives forward instrumental tasks, while the values of pictorial culture are womanly, using the intimate or "cool" medium of television to express internal states, evoke emotions, maintain harmony and well-being.


  Figure 2.

In an ideational culture ethics is concerned with unconditional moral principles. In a sensate culture ethics is concerned with the pursuit of happiness. The former thus preaches value fidelity, the latter preaches pragmatism. In a sensate culture human activity is extroverted; in an ideational culture it is introverted. The former preaches the inner-directed values of humanism, the latter preaches the outer-directed values of materialism. Life view in a sensate culture stresses becoming; in an ideational culture it stresses being. The former thus preaches progress and modernity, the latter preaches the stability of tradition. Sorokin also holds that technology and engineering flower as a sensate culture reaches its apogee.

According to Sorokin's presages in the late 1930s, the sensate culture of our civilization was then at its apogee. Its vigorous empiricism, unquenchable thirst for knowledge, and estimable striving for material progress are degenerating to a lax and carnal sensuality, a shallow consumerism, and orgies of violence. At the time of writing, Sorokin predicted that the direction of developments would soon change and that Western civilization would head toward a new ideational culture. He would have agreed with the Swedish poet Nils Ferlin:


En dag skall det varda sommar har visorna tänkt

En dag skall det tornas rymd över landen

Rätt mycket skall vara krossat som vida har blänkt

Men människorna skola lyftas i anden


One day, the ballads sing, summer will come

One day, when heavens vault high ov'r the land

Much built to shine will crumble down dumb

But the spirit of man soars to heaven's rand


Forewarnings of the tidal changes can be detected in the sciences. The theoretical architecture of the sciences becomes more elegant than concrete. The instances where theory is grounded in the sensate culture of observation and practical experiments become ever more rare. Many experiments today are replaced by exercises in higher mathematics, and reality is often simulated with the aid of a computer. Ideational culture is thus infiltrating the strongholds of empiricism. A telling example is the idea of global warming due to carbon dioxide from oil heating and combustion engines. This warming cannot be proven by the temperature readings we have on record, but is a conclusion drawn from models. Such is the intellectual basis for the contemporary radical environmentalism that demands our immediate conversion to a more frugal life style. It is almost a new religion; the penance of mankind and the salvation of the earth are on its agenda.

Ferlin resignedly notes that ballads are poor sibyls, and Sorokin, himself, is vague about the actual point in time when the turnaround will take place. Yet his theory reminds us of something essential — that there is more to man than that which is obvious in the Zeitgeist of our own times.


Systematization of der Zeitgeist


The concept of the spirit of the times (Zeitgeist) was introduced by Friedrich Hegel (1770-1831). It has since been used mainly as a term to designate the "predominant ideas" of a period, for example, the spirit of romanticism. Sometimes the term is also used to designate "predominate structures," such as the character of the era of constitutional monarchy or of industrialism. One should, however, try to avoid deriving in the very definition the spirit of a certain era from its structures; it is a matter of investigation, not definition. Here we will use the term Zeitgeist values as a loose designation of those values of a period that are not cardinal values.

The Zeitgeist values of the latter part of the twentieth century do not lend themselves to simple enumeration, as did the cardinal values. Their content varies, seemingly unpredictably, like fashion trends; it has also been said that fashion follows the temper of the times.

But the apparent arbitrariness of the value dispositions of different eras is due to our lack of knowledge. In the Middle Ages people thought that comets followed a "wild and lawless" path, but we do not think so today because we have learned that their path follows physical laws and is fully predictable.

The contents in the values of an era may be hard to foresee, but the different attributes they take can be systematically classified. The coordinates that we shall use to get a reading on the values prevalent today were implicit in Sorokin's analysis.

The first dimension, here depicted from south to north, runs from traditionalism, where one upholds stability, to modernism, where one welcomes change.

Since the eighteenth century modernism has been associated with the belief in reason, but during the 1900's modernism also came to be equated with the affirmation of one's drives and with self-realization. The prominent figures of modernism are Descartes and Voltaire (belief in reason), Freud (affirmation of the existence of drives and of unconscious desires) and Nietzsche (creative self-development).

Modernism is and always has been a movement without a definite end. The direction change to modernity, as we labeled the northern end of our axis, thus has different meanings at different points in time. You could also say that each year in modern times has its own notion of "postmodernity". In 1990, for example, modernism in Sweden contained a large component of cosmopolitan values.

Regional and nationalistic values stressing the importance of your roots — while much in vogue these days — are not modernistic but express the desire for stability. They are located to the south in the value space. The notion of social security (such as the overriding desire for "trygghet" in Sweden) was considered a modern value by the first generation in the welfare state, but today it is a traditional value.

The second dimension, which runs from west to east, spans the field from value fidelity, where "one dramatizes one´s values," to pragmatism and instrumentality, where "one compromises one's values".

Value fidelity — which can be called idealism if you approve of the value or dogmatism if you disapprove of it — embraces values that one will not compromise. They typically include matters of conscience, such as loyalty toward one's family, solidarity with the weak, compassion for the ill, saving planet earth for future generations. Instrumentality — that can be called pragmatism if your approve of it or opportunism if you disapprove — includes values that we can experiment and compromise with to obtain an optimal result; they typically include practical deliberations and calculations in business or politics and the selection of technical solutions. The distinction between value fidelity and instrumentality was drawn by Max Weber in the early 1900s. A wertrational action (value rationality) was separated from a zweckrational action (instrumental rationality)[7].

The third dimension runs from the valleys to the mountains in our diagrams. It separates a concern with material things from a concern with human beings, thus bridging the poles of materialism and humanism. Such labels have many connotations and there are several other designations that can be used, for example "values of production" such as order, punctuality, ambition, efficiency and other values promoting economic growth as opposed to "values of reproduction" such as self-exploration, empathy, sensitivity to and concern for others, and other qualities necessary for personal inner growth and a genuine understanding of other people.


Arnold Mitchell refined and re labeled the opposite poles of this dimension in his distinction between Outer-directed and Inner-directed[8]. Values that appeal to external cues are outer-directed values. Values that appeal to internal cues are inner-directed. Sometimes the same behavior may be motivated by different values: the Outer-directed may lose weight because it makes him or her look better to others. The Inner-directed may lose weight because it makes him or her feel better.


For a hundred years, sociologists and others have had an understanding that society has moved from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft. The three-dimensional view of values proposed here can show that this is not the only possible path. Gemeinschaft is traditional stability, value fidelity, and humanism. Gesellschaft is change to modernity, pragmatism, and materialism. But a modern society may embrace humanism rather than materialism — this is the message from the feminist movement. And it may embrace fidelity rather than pragmatism — this is one of the messages from the environmentalist movement. And the peace movement often claims that the change to modernity is compatible with both humanism and value fidelity.


Value Segments


The scheme we have developed allows us to divide the population into eight distinct value segments. Let us list them and fill them with content provided by impressions from contemporary Sweden.


1.   Southwest Valleys:

     stability, fidelity, materialism.

This segment consists of people who are rural or small-town in their minds if not always in their actual residence. "You must!" and "You must not!" are important words in their vocabulary. They are patriotic and often suspicious of strangers and immigrants. They hate inflation and love law and order. As consumers they are cautious and apprehensive about experimenting. They like tried and true products.



Figure 3.

2.   Southwest Mountains:

     stability, fidelity, humanism.

This segment emphasizes where you as a person come from, your ancestry. It is is more concerned with family and relatives than with the material base of existence; old-fashioned religion thrives here. Love of the home community and the preservation of its tradidions and surrounding nature are important concerns. Service to the next of kin is self-evident. In this segment one is particularistic: nothing is as fine as one's own garden and nothing beats mother's meatballs.


3.   Southeast Valleys:

     stability, pragmatism, materialism.

In this segment one seeks practical and technical rather than traditional solutions. Prescription medicine and obedience to doctor's orders are evident. Your car and residence, not your family, signal who you are. Cheers resound for the hometown sport team as it tries to advance in the league. Union membership is common. As consumers the people in this segment are more ambitious than their southwestern neighbors. More than others they go for big brands and standard products.


4.   Southeast Mountains:

     stability, pragmatism, humanism.

Here are the joiners who belive that friends and clubs, not only possessions, signal who you are. As joiners in unions and reform efforts they have learned to influence their conditions. They have others than relatives and old schoolmates as dinner guests but are usually uncomfortable with cosmopolitans and foreigners. As consumers they are also joiners; they often shop in coop stores.


5.   Northwest Valleys:

     modernity, fidelity, materialism.

Here are the people who like the comfort of modern living but do not use material goods as status symbols. They are very active in promoting their health. They are eager to recycle products. They are committed to radical egalitarian values which they equate with democracy and anti-commercialism. They are convinced of the merits of their values and want to change society to correspond to their values, not to adjust themselves to society. The plight of the environment and of the Third World is on their minds; they want the government to take care of such issues through the use of tax revenues. They often prefer single-issue groups to political parties. They are fairly big consumers but they are usually suspicious of advertising.


6.   Northwest Mountains:

     modernity, fidelity, humanism.

Here people are in tuch with their inner selves. Emotion and intuition are meaningful words for them. They form networks rather than join formal associations. They may participate in adult education programs, but any other form of self-development is also of value to them. Like their neighbors in the northwest valleys they question tradition, hierarchy, and authority. They embrace not only environmental and Third-world causes but are also strong on peace, feminism, racial equality, gay rights, and animal rights. And they get personally involved. They are very critical consumers who tend to look for personal experiences rather than material things in the market place .


7.   North East Valleys:

     modernity, pragmatism, materialism.

This segment became known as "the yuppies" in the 1980s. It is conscious of fashion in clothing, of cars, and of interior design. These people enjoy the modern, risky lifestyles such as those centered around the surfboard, the parachute, the hangglider or the financial markets. Here is a breed of individualists who are less afraid of complexity in life than those in other segments. They are entrepreneurial, yet are far from Weber's Puritan entrepreneurs. Their bonds to products, causes, and people are generally short-lived. They continualy ask "What works for me?" and are ready to discard anything that is no longer flashy or profitable any more.


8.   North East Mountains:

     modernity, pragmatism, humanism.

In this segment one thrives on cosmopolitan contacts, on networks and markets. Eating a foreign or ethnic dish a day is a matter of course. Interest in new expressions of personal life is intense. Familiar fragments are combined in unexpected ways as in a music video. Mentors are heroes, but no mentor lasts forever. Here we find the sophisticated consumer.


Let us now argue for the usefulness our scheme by using it two ways. First to guide us in a review of changes in youth values over the past fifty years. Second to show that it is easily operationalized in survey research.


Cohorts of Swedish Youth after World War II[9]


Value change leaves few unaffected, but the amplitude of change comes early and is most visible among the young."We see one young generation after the other step into the arena, like a bull that we know will be killed." This reflection of Francois Mauriac's is quoted in Lars Ahlin's first novel, Tåbb, with the manifesto, from 1943. (Ahlin is Sweden's foremost postwar novelist.) Tåbb belonged to the young Swedish generation of the 1940s that embraced Marxism, conforming to the spirit of the time. The Depression was a recent memory. The Soviet Union had conquered Nazi Germany in the world war, and the Communists obtained 11.2 per cent of the vote in Sweden's 1946 general election — and a somewhat higher proportion among the youngest voters.


In the 1940s Sweden was a hierachial society with a clear class structure. The war years had emphasized its nationalistic and patriotic traditions. The population valued security and order. The postwar appeal of Communism  rested mainly on its rhetoric advocating classlessness and international solidarity. A majority of Swedish youth, however, did not adopt Communism but stayed within the more nationalistic sentiments of the war years. Tired of wartime central planning they embraced private entrepreneurship.


Tåbb the bull was defeated — in reality, if not in the novel. In the early 1950s, youth broke with both Communism and the rallying to nationalism that had prevailed in the war years of the 1940s, and embarked on a cosmopolitan track. The new cosmopolitanism was of a Western brand and it won over the Soviet brand of internationalism. The youngsters who put EU (European Union) stickers on their motorcycles were keen on expansion and interested in international affairs. They were slightly embarrassed about the limitations of their home ground, and loved the big wide world. Getting out of Sweden was the great event in life. They discovered the developing countries, and they approved of the USA, the second great victor of the war. They were delighted with their living standards, and thought it was important to market themselves, their country, and its products.


External forms meant a great deal in the early 50s. Miss Sweden beauty contests were actually regarded as important occasions. The prevailing values were outer-directed. Pro-technology attitudes were much in evidence. Sweden was early steps in taking steps to develop nuclear power, both for military and domestic purposes. In this climate of ideas, the Social Democratic party was able to govern only by showing its most liberal side, entering a coalition with the Agrarian party and relying on the electoral lag in the upper chamber of Parliament.


The period 1958-66 has been termed (by Stefan Dagler) one of "trustee liberalism." Young students increasingly often enrolled in the natural sciences, and the status of the liberal arts subjects and classical languages declined. Innocuous musical groups, such as the Beetles and Hep Stars, were popular among teenagers. Trusteeship replaced adventure, and a certain indolence spread among young people. The leading Swedish publicist of those times, Herbert Tingsten, wrote a book with the evocative title From Ideas to Idyll, propounding the thesis that politics had left ideology behind and become a matter of administering and selling.


But there was movement beneath the tranquil surface, and a youth revolt was brewing. An anarcho-liberal period took hold among young people in 1966-68. Hedonism seeped into every corner of society. The cultural pages of the press discussed infidelity. Copulation was depicted at the cinema. Now, people could make love — for friendship's sake or for pleasure without forming ties. Pornography was countered with increased goodwill. Young Swedish women travelled to Poland for the abortions that were freely available there but not yet in Sweden. The youth cult penetrated the country. Throughout the West, being young was now beginning to be thought of as being better than being a mature adult — a dangerous situation for any civilization. A mood of exhilaration began to prevail among young people.


The backgrounds for these developments were the record years of the economic prosperity and the war in Vietnam. Young people protested not only against superpower violence in a developing country, but also against the violence they felt that schools and employers, police and social-welfare authorities exercised against those who dressed differently (in jeans!), smoked differently or went on strike at times other than those agreed upon. The stress was on informality, not on order and hierarchy. There was a reaction against big cities, big companies and big organizations, and a call for general decentralization.


Out of the youth revolt, two waves emerged: the "red" and the "green." The red wave, in 1968-71, politicized adolescence, and students flocked to socially oriented university courses, such as sociology and government. The support for a mixed economy advocated by previous Social Democratic leaders such as Per Albin Hansson's and Tage Erlander was regarded as a capitalist blunder and added to the targets of anti-capitalist protests: "Palme and Geijer, Lyndon's lackeys!" (Palme was head of government and Geijer head of the labor unions.) Young students, often from a middle-class background, joined the anti-capitalist wave and a massive generation gap arose. The dominant values were anti-authoritarian: hierarchies should give way to heterarchy, bureaucracies to networks, and social relations should be egalitarian. This was a period of intense value change, particularly among university students.


Thus, Tåbb's children turned red, and succeeded where Tåbb had failed — in vitalizing the socialist elements in the Swedish climate of opinion. Among intellectuals, Marxism emerged from its ghetto and became respectable. In politics, socialist proposals gained more of a hearing. On the left, the Communists enlarged their share of young voters, while the Social Democrats' share diminished.


Then followed a green wave in 1971-76. Among the social concerns of youth, environment came to the fore. The small Swedish Agrarian party changed its name to the Center party and promoted the green cause and its support among young voters quadrupled to over 30 per cent in 1972-73. The reassessment of the early 1960s continued; support for cosmopolitanism and large-scale technology was replaced by localism. Now, the local community — formerly so embarrassing that people preferred to avoid the subject — was to be revered, and multinationals hated. International trade was no longer exciting; handicrafts and barter were in fashion. The greatest achievements of technology — computers and nuclear-power plants — were evil, and should be banished.


Figure 4.


Beginning with debates on abortion feminist values took new hold among Swedes in the early 70s. Militant feminism soon gave way to a wave of coziness, particularly evident 1976-80. Young people now departed not to foreign countries, not to the revolution, nor to nature, but to pads not far from their parents. They sought sweet partners, and embraced the thesis that small is beautiful. They extolled confidence, not protest. They took jobs in the expanding social sector. Their quest was for a small workplace, a small cottage, a small kitty to spend, a small vision, a small love, a small child and a small change in society. The prodigious security they sought was thought to lie in smallness. The signals of the inner life became important, and people lost some interest in the outer world's conventions and ideologies. The self came to the fore; the mode was intraceptive, i.e. one listened to the signals from the inner world rather than to those of the outer world. The social critic Jan Myrdal complained that even the left wing had entered psychoanalysis. It became more important to understand deviants — both ideological renegades and ordinary criminals — than to judge them. Those who now set out to explore Europe on inexpensive train passes did so not to see other surroundings and great cities, as in the 1950s, but mainly to explore their own psyche and develop friendship with their travel companions. Self-actualization was the catchword of the day.


In the first half of the 1980s, many young people returned to cosmopolitanism and the values of the external world; there was a Fifties air in the world of youth. One embraced with zest a rich and complex life. There was less fear of fragmentation — many members (not all, of course) of this generation had learned to cope with the consequences of the sexual freedom of their parents; they had grown up in settings with changing patterns of step-parents and step-siblings. Complexity was actually to them a part of the joy of living. The excitation of the fragmented rock video catches this mentality very well. Entrepreneurship again tempted many, this time with a strong feeling that it was a road not only to riches but to self-development. No longer did more than one half the school leavers seek public-sector jobs. Only one-sixth (17%) did so, while 77 per cent wished to enter the private sector — 42 per cent as employees and as many as 35 per cent as entrepreneurs. This was "the blue wave" in politics inspired by Reagan and Thatcher. At its height, in 1984-85, the Swedish Conservative party had swelled to the same size as the Social Democratic party among those 18-24 years old: the former had 37 per cent and the latter 38 per cent in this age group. The life style among young Swedes became yuppie-ish.


The fall of the Berlin wall 1989 renewed the faith in the Western ideals of free markets and democracy. The European middle classes also renewed their pledge to Geist und Geld und Familie. The speculative excesses of finance capitalism during the 1980s had, however, created severe problems for traditional industrial capitalism. Thus the very moment of capitalism's triumph over communism became marred by a severe recession in the capitalist world. In Eastern Europe the most visible result of the end of the cold war was a resurgence of nationalist values. And in Western Europe the attitudes toward immigrants and refugees became more hostile.


Not all the children of the anarcho-liberal and red parents of the 1960s became blue; a minority turned green. These new greens evinced a pronounced pessimism. Their consciousness was heavy with cosmic evil as manifested by holes in the ozone layer and in the transformation of the atmosphere into an international rubbish dump. May Earth's sinners be punished for such evil! They fight not for small-scale quality of life, like the first green wave; now it is the very conditions of life, the most global concerns conceivable, that are their urgent concern.


The Swedes who attached EU stickers to their motorcycles when they were 18 in 1950 will perhaps experience the real European Union of the 1990s as pensioners. Despite the rapid changes, the world is moving far too slowly to match the changing values of the young.


The key emerging values among Swedish youth 1945-1990

have been entered our three-dimensional value space in Diagram 4. All the detail from our review cannot be fitted into the diagram. But there is enough there to indicate that our three dimensions are relevant to a historic review of values.


Mobility between Value Segments


There is mobility between value segments as few people stay in the same segment all their lives. Such mobility always entails problems of adjustment and risks of loosing one's bearings. This topic requires its own paper; here only two observations.


1. Movements toward the north.


The urbanization and industrialization of Western Europe brought about an upsurge in friendly voluntary association in the nineteenth century. Also the contemporary underdeveloped countries seem to emerge with a flora of associations and popular movements when their social structure changes toward that of a modern society. And long before, De Tocqueville, observing the settlers from aristocratic Europe in achievement-stressing America, was surprised by the abundance of voluntary associations they created in their newfound land.


In these instances, we might assume that new associations with humanistic values facilitate the transition. The south to north path of modernization has a half-way house in the southeastern mountains.


The movement northwards inevitably leaves some behind. After the fall of the Berlin Wall many people in Eastern Europe knew that they personally would never enjoy the good life in a market economy. Their age, education, and circumstances repeated the same message: that kind of modernity is not for you! Their consolation lies in turning to their roots, which often means a rampant nationalism.


In some contemporary Arab countries not only older people but also young and educated persons have grewn profoundly pessimistic about the journey into modernity. They turn to Muslim fundamentalism instead.


The road to modernity is always precarious and the calls to return to tradition abound at every turn.


2. Movements toward the east.


Any movement eastwards in value space increases the risk of anomie in Durkheim´s sense. When people move this way their fixed values are replaced with more fleeting and changing values. Back in the west the values may at best allow you to negotiate the means to achive them. In the east, both means and ends are negotiable. This may, of course, be a great advantage to the individualists. But the flexibility may also lead to disorientation and confusion, particulary if the move toward the east is sudden.


In our type of society, the migration eastwards seems to be accompanied by an surge in the purchase of consumer goods. People apparently compensate for the firm values they have lost by aquiring material posessions.


The move toward pragmatism is also precarious. An eastward migration in value space benefits mainly the materialistic valleys of the northeast.





The Measurement of Zeitgeist Values


We need instruments with which to analyze values. Since the days of the Yankelovich Monitor in the late 1960's value surveys have entailed interviews of hour-long duration and a great many questions. In 1970 a pioneering measurement appeared: materialism-postmaterialism by Ronald Inglehart[10]. It used only one interview question requesting a choice of two out of four alternatives. This may be too sparse, but it suggested a scheme for questions about priorities according to our definition of values.

We need not measure all possible values in a Zeitgeist in order to calibrate its dimensions. Just a few value items will suffice if they cover a sufficient area of the value space. The following selection is easily recognized in our above comments on value developments 1945-1990. It is influenced by but not identical with the ones I used in working with Sifo and RISC in the first half of the 1980s. The numbers within parentheses refer to the corresponding question below.


  Active environmentalism (3j)

  Affinity with nature (1c,2e)

  Health (1g)

  Status and recognition (3c)

  Entrepreneurship (2c,3h)

  Fragmentation in the form of liking rock video (1h)

  Network (2f)

  Love and friendship (1f)

  Hedonism (3f)

  Self-actualization (3e)

  Creativity (3b)

  Sport (1i)

  Pro-technology (2d)

  Roots, familial and geographic (1b,2a,3g)

  Security (3a)

  Search for new experiences (3d)

  Cosmopolitanism (1d,2b,3i)


Calibration is based on priorities revealed in three situations which require that respondents determine their priorities: choice of a TV program, choice of a weekend companion, and choice of a wish from a good fairy.

1. One evening you have the time to look at two TV programs. You can choose among these programs:


a) National news[11] 

b) Local news

c) Program about conservationists' demonstration

d) Documentary about politics in other countries

e) Religious songs[12]

f) A film about love and friendship

g) A program on health and fitness

h) Rock video

i) Sports, national teams playing soccer


A. Which two programs do you chose?

B. Which two of the other programs being aired would you be most reluctant to watch?


2. Suppose that you have to spend a few days together with two people. You can choose among these people, all of whom are equally pleasant:


a) A person who knows a lot about your family and the neighborhood where you grew up

b) A person who knows a lot about foreign countries

c) A person who can recount a lot about big, profitable business ventures

d) A person who knows a lot about technological advances

e) A person who knows a lot about nature and the environment

f) Someone who has a lot of contacts with all kinds of different people


A. Which two people would you chose?

B. Of the above people, whom are you least interested in spending time with?



3. If a good fairy came and gave you three wishes, which of the following would you chose?


a) To gain greater security in life

b) To be able to create something new

c) To gain appreciation and fame

d) To experience something new and exciting

e) To achieve greater self-actualization

f) To obtain pleasure without guilt

g) To have a good family life with children and grandchildren

h) To start up and run your own business

i) To travel abroad and see the world

j) To be an uncompromising champion for the environment


B. Which of the above wishes would you find least appealing?



The arrangement of the response alternatives is such that the areas of entrepreneurship (2c,3h), roots (1b, 2a,3g), and cosmopolitanism (1d,2b,3) occur in more than one place. They enter with their principal components into a factor analysis. The others form simpler three-fold scales for the factor analysis: priority, neither-nor, and rejected.

The first fieldwork using these questions was conducted among Swedes 16 to 89 years of age between May 7 and June 7 of 1990 by Demoskop AB, a research firm in Stockholm[13]. A nationwide sample of 1.017 persons, random in all steps, was used. The interviews were done by telephone and centrally controlled (CATI). All our previous experience with value measurements had been in hour-long, face-to-face interviews with most questions requiring the respondent's affirmation or rejection of values one by one[14]. When preliminary analysis showed the new method of telephone interviews about choice situations successful, a supplementary sample of 512 persons was asked the three questions August 20-28, 1990 to stabilize the factor analysis. The coefficient from this total sample of 1529 persons from 1990 has since been used in every subsequent value study by Demoskop. This ensures comparability and enables researchers to use information from different samples in the same diagram of value space[15].

A varimax factor analysis gave the following results:


 Orthogonal Transformation Matrix


               1            2          3


     1     -0.89994     0.11284    -0.42117

     2      0.09511     0.99347     0.06296

     3     -0.42552    -0.01660     0.90480



 Rotated Factor Pattern


                                                FACTOR 1   FACTOR 2   FACTOR 3


Active environmentalism       0.53105    -0.03288    -0.07129

Affinity with nature          0.42970    -0.10034     0.32730

Health                        0.18322    -0.00983     0.05190

Status and recognition        -0.32877    0.09033     0.08186

Entrepreneurship              -0.35759    -0.16805    -0.11887

Fragmentation/rock video      -0.39366    0.19816    -0.24802

Network                       -0.11340    0.49372    -0.13621

Love and friendship           -0.16700    0.39863     0.01319

Hedonism                      -0.03219    0.09679     0.05885

Self-actualization            -0.01327    0.05882    -0.00841

Creativity                    0.01037    -0.23467    -0.12299

Sport                         -0.26221    -0.31366    -0.00814

Pro-technology                -0.20150    -0.49870    -0.03863

Roots                         0.10500    0.11401     0.49745

Security                      0.07080    0.08377     0.34054

Search for new experiences    0.00134    -0.00314    -0.10134

Cosmopolitanism               0.17925    0.11233    -0.39305


 Variance explained by each factor


      FACTOR 1    FACTOR 2    FACTOR 3

      1.157804    0.941456    0.792475

Factor 1 corresponds well to our value dimension "Stability versus Change to Modernity" if the signs are switched. It will be plotted as the X-axis. Factor 3 is our second dimension of value space, i.e. "Pragmatism versus Fidelity" and will be plotted as the Y-axis. Factor 2 is our third dimension of value space, i.e. "Materialism versus Humanism". It will be plotted as the Z-axis. So far the empirical matches the theoretical, and the survey data match the historical record of value change among youth that we have reviewed.

The factor scores near the origin represent the nearest we can come to the common man. In today's differentiated life styles and values we have the paradox that the common man with average values is not in the majority. We arbitrarily single out one tenth of the population 16-89 years old as a segment of persons with average values in Swedish value space. The rest will now show more clear differences when we divide them into the eight segments with distinct value profiles that we delineated from theory. The cutting-points are the factor score of zero on standardized scales running from -1 to +1.


Political Parties in Value Space


We now have nine value groupings that can be pinned down with precision and that can be used in survey analysis as readily as age, sex, occupation, or income. An example is found in Table 1 in which the Swedish party structure is tabulated in the value segments.

Table 1. Party Affiliation in Value Segments 1991                                                         Percent of eligible voters, 18-89.

                                                                                VALUE SEGMENT

                                  SW      SW             SE        SE              NW     NW            NE         NE  PARTY                     Valley..Mount                Valley  Mount       Valley..Mount       Valley  Mount       C

Conservatives      23            21            25            32            15            17            43            40            22

Liberals (fp)          13            6             15            19            23            19            13            25            10

CristDem (kds)     7             5             4             5             2             4             0             3             5

NewDem (nyd)    1             4             8             7             1             3             9             8             4

Center(c)               7             10            10            6             9             8             6             2             10

Greens (mp)         4             5             3              1             13            10            0             2             4

SocialDemocrats  40            35            32            20            25            26            18            17            36

Communists (vpk) 3             8             0             6             7             10            1             1             5


The value segments represent powerful political cleavages, equally as or more powerful than those related to class.


 Figure 5.

The main drift in a table like the preceding one can be represented by a correspondence analysis. In correspondence ansalysis we do not obtain information on the distribution of a party's voters in the various segments. We obtain instead its point of gravity. If the points of two parties are close, they compete for voters with similar values; if the points are at a distance they appeal to voters with mutually different values.

The nine value segments may enter such an analysis as active columns and the seventeen value variables as active rows. The calibration will thus not change as different new variables are entered as passive variables. When the political parties are entered as passive variables we obtain the results shown in Figure 5. The two major parties are labeled in English; we have used the customary Swedish abbreviations for the others.

The major parties, competing to lead the government, are both at the pragmatic end. Parliamentary democracy is a pragmatic institution. The Social Democrats of 1990 are clearly a party of stability while the Conservatives are a party of modernity. So much for the political labels when placed in the value space.


Affiliations and Media in Value Space


If values are the relatively enduring and persistent priorities for how we want to live, they should affect not only our choice of political parties but also our choice of voluntary associations to join and media to follow. Media and associations, furthermore, sustain and enhance values. Our choice of media and associations may be both cause and effect of our values.


Figure 6.

In Figure 6 we have entered a sample of associations memberships into the value space. The various voluntary associations cluster in a V-shaped pattern in the value space. Close to the bottom of the V in the south are the old popular movements of the last century: free churches, consumer cooperatives, temperance lodges, rifle clubs, and village associations (hembygdsföreningar). From that area stretches toward the northeast one leg of outer-directed associations for sports, golf, choral music, jazz, and rock. Toward the northwest stretches another leg of inner-directed associations that promote the arts, humanitarian causes, and  environmental concerns. The space map also shows that the northwestern valleys have fewer joiners than other regions.


Figure 7.

In Figure 7 we have entered the readership of a sample of Swedish print media in the value space. There seems to be a lack of weeklies catering to the values in the northwestern and southeastern segments. The various media cluster along a southwest-northeast path, probably the same as that which Robert K. Merton in a celebrated media study called local-cosmopolitan[16].


Demography in The Value Space


A quick way to discover the direction of change in the value space is to look at the age distribution in the various value segments. The position on the X-axis shows the extent to which one changes toward modernity, and it is no surprise that the older generation is found to the south and the younger one to the north (Figure 8).


In all age groups, Swedish men have, on balance, more materialistic values than women. This is usually not a cause for surprise. A striking fact, however, is that the values of the sexes become more divergent. The difference in materialism increases, the men drift toward pragmatism and the women toward value fidelity, and the gap grows. This happens in a period and in a country that pays much homage, in words and deeds, to the equality of the sexes. There appears to be a reversal of this trend in the youngest ages below 25, but this topic requires a special treatment with a larger sample.


Figure 8.

The retired reside mainly in the southwest of our value space. Figure 9 depicts the occupationally active population in Sweden. We note that agriculture today is manned mainly by materialistic people who have gone a long way toward changing to modernity. Holders of jobs in protective services, the police and the military are found in the valleys of the southeast. A major value cleavage appears between holders of jobs in construction, manufacturing, and trade on the one hand, and the holders of jobs in education, welfare, and public administration, on the other. The former are concentrated in the valleys of the east and embrace pragmatism and materialism. The latter reside mostly in the northwest and favor value fidelity and humanism. In the far northwest we also find journalists and clergy, but their numbers are too few for analysis using the present sample. It is undoubtedly a problem that educators (and journalists and clergymen) have values that dramatically depart from those in industry.


Figure 9.


Markets in TheValue Space


A market is a network for the exchange of some products (goods or services) which continues until the products end up among those who appreciate them the most in the sense that they pay the most for them. Given our resources, the markets are frameworks for working out how we want to live. Markets may therefore be studied in terms of the values they help us realize.


Swedish buyers of domestic car makes, Volvo and Saab, are found in every value segment but their heavy concentrations are in the southeast valleys for Volvo and the southeast mountains for Saab. Volvo's main competition is German cars, and Saab's main competition on the Swedish market is French cars. Japanese cars sell best in the western spaces where value fidelity looms large.


 Figure 10.


This type of analysis can be made more sophisticated and operational by separating makes and models, new and old cars, the major uses of a car, et cetera. The point made here is simply that positions in the value space are the positions in the marketplace, and that value segments can be used as target groups in designing and marketing cars.


Value analysis also differentiates products that are generically identical but have different marketing histories. Ordinary bank services for a household do not differ visibly between different banks and the fees charged are virtually the same, but customers nevertheless bank at somewhat dispersed areas in the value space.


A general procedure in market research is to place data on product use (there is a preoccupation with heavy users), attitude toward product attributes, brand positioning, retail channels, and advertising media into the value space. Conclusions about product development and marketing then flow easily.


The author. Hans L. Zetterberg (born 1927), is a Swedish intellectual. He has been an associate professor of Sociology at Columbia University, professor and chairperson of the Department of Sociology at Ohio State University, Director of Social Surveys (Gallup Poll) LTD in London, long-term President of The Swedish Institute of Opinion Research (Sifo), and Editor-in-chief of the Svenska Dagbladet. Dr. Zetterberg is a past President of the World Association for Public Opinion Research (WAPOR). He is at present directing a research program into the welfare state at the City University (Timbro) in Stockholm.

Address all correspondence to Hans L Zetterberg, Murarvägen 9B, S-16145 Bromma, Sweden.

*This paper was presented at the 87th Annual Meeting, of the American Sociological Association, August 20-24, 1992, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in a session organized by Albert E. Gollin. I am grateful for comments by the discussant, Charles Kadushin. [A revised version was published 1997 as The Study of Values, ValueScope AB, Stockholm.]


[1]Compare Milton Rokeach' formulation: "I consider a value to be a type of belief, centrally located within one's total belief system, about how one ought or ought not to behave, or about some end state of existence worth or not worth attaining." The first part of this definition actually refers to norms ("how one ought or ought not to behave"). The second part refers to values in our sense ("some end state of existence worth or not worth attaining") Milton Rokeach, Beliefs, Attitudes, and Values, Jossey-Bass, San Fransico, 1972, p. 124.


[2]See, for example, Lawrence A. Scaff, Fleeing the Iron Cage, University of California Press, Berkeley, 1989, pp. 94-96.


[3]For long students of society believed that wealth consisted of things, (or servants, or gold), but nowadays one accepts that wealth is the evaluation that society puts on goods and services. It has also met with considerable resistence among students of society to absorb the idea that knowledge, beauty, and the sacred are products of society. A major work that paved the way for a new view was Émile Durkheim, Les formes elémentaire de la vie religieuse, Alcan, Paris, 1912 that firmly grounded both knowledge and sacredness in the stucture of society. On art and beauty as products of society, see for example Leo Loewenthal, Literature & the Image of Man, Beacon, Boston, 1963.


[4]This theme is developed in Hans L Zetterberg, "The Structuration of Europe", International Journal of Public Opinion Research, vol 3, no 4, pp 309-322.


[5]Pitirim A. Sorokin, Social and Cultural Dynamics, (4 vols), Bedminster, New York, 1962. Originally published. 1937-41 by American Book Company, New York.


[6]Marshall McLuhan, The Gutenburg Galaxy, University of Toronto Press, Toronto, 1962.


[7]Max Weber, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft, 1.Halbband, J.C.B.Mohr (Paul Siebeck), Tübingen, 1956, pp 12-13.


[8]Arnold Mitchell, The Nine American Lifestyles, New York, 1983, p. 32.


[9]This review has benefited greatly from Stefan Dagler, Liberalismens kris, Sifo förlag, Stockholm 1985, a book written in the spirit of Sorokin. The long series of youth surveys that Sifo (The Swedish Institute of Opionion Research) began in 1955 has also proved helpful.


[10]Ronald Ingelhart, "The Silent Revolution in Europe: Intergeneretional Change in Post-Industrial Societies", American Political Science Review, vol 65, 1971, pp 991-1017.


[11]This item is included only to facilitate interviewing.


[12]This item is not analyzed in this report. It was experimental and used to relate the Zeitgeist values to the cardinal values.


[13]This and subsequent surveys reported here were administered and analyzed by Karin Busch, Håkan Forsell, and Greta Frankel.


[14]An exception is the question-model of responding to a good fairy which had been pioneered by RISC .


[15] This is accomplished by processing every new sample by the procedure SCORE in the SAS statistical computer package. The data on social structures and markets in this paper thus comes from a survey of 1034 persons interviewed in January 1991.


[16]Compare Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure, Revised and enlarged edition, Free Press, Glencoe, Ill., 1957, ch. 10.