Postmodern and Modern Value Orientations and Life Satisfaction among Hong Kong Chinese

Article excerpt

Despite incidents about postmodernization in Hong Kong society, the significance of postmodernization is uncharted. If postmodernization is significant, it will particularly satisfy people with greater orientation to postmodern values. This study examines the hypothesis by conducting a survey in 2000 of a random sample of the adult population in Hong Kong, China. Results indicate that those with higher postmodern value orientations were less satisfied in 2000. These findings do not demonstrate the significance of postmodernization in Hong Kong. Thus, Hong Kong may not be sufficiently postmodern even though some of its inhabitants hold high orientation to postmodern values.

Despite observable emphasis on postmodern features, including consumption, democratization, and environmentalism in Hong Kong (Ng, 1995; Wong, 1995), research evidence relating to the emphasis on Hong Kong citizens' life experiences is lacking. Such evidence, if available, serves to gauge the significance of postmodernization. This significance refers to the case that postmodernization makes postmodern values a norm for people to make sense of their lives. That is, if Hong Kong is a postmodern society, it will particularly attract and satisfy people with higher orientation to postmodern values. On the other hand, if Hong Kong is a modern rather than a postmodern society, people with higher modern value orientation rather than postmodern value orientation will be more satisfied with its modern conditions.

This expectation is justifiable in light of the profusion of evidence that has demonstrated Hong Kong as a modern society (Ho & Leung, 1995; Ng, 1995; Wan, 1992; Wong, 1995). The most prominent instance of modernization is the emphasis of Hong Kong on economic growth and utilitarian success and the uprooting of traditional institutions and norms about the family and religion (Cheng, 2001). It is therefore uncertain whether modern or postmodern value orientation is more relevant to Hong Kong people's satisfaction with their lives. The present research study is necessary to answer the question, so as to ascertain the significance of modernization and postmodernization in Hong Kong.

Postmodernization refers to change at a societal level that extends beyond modernization and pervades the economic, political, and cultural arenas (Crook, Pakulski, & Waters, 1992; Inglehart, 1997). Economically, postmodernization develops in terms of the deepening of media power, consumerism, decentralized industrial development, the service sector, flexible work, product differentiation, and contingent employment (Gartman, 1998; Jacques, 1998). Politically, postmodernization arises from transnational political influence, democratization, privatization, declining government and public welfare, and the end of uniform ideology (Inglehart, 2000; Leonard, 1997). Culturally, postmodernization relies on individuation, aestheticization (emphasis on the beauty and quality of life), particularization (emphasis on self-expression), and romanticization (emphasis on love and discounting of instrumental utility and economic concern) (Gartman, 1998; Inglehart, 2000; Seippel, 1999). These features of postmodernism contrast with modernization, which, in terms of economic growth, scientific and technological development, and promotion of material living standards features the substantial contribution of government, which supplants the influence of traditional institutions (Inglehart, 1997).

An important indicator of postmodernization is people's postmodernist or postmaterialist value orientation (Inglehart, 1997). Postmaterialist values include having more say in government decisions, a more humane society, protecting freedom of speech, progressing toward a society in which ideas count more than money, having more say about how things are done at jobs, and making cities and the countryside more beautiful. Postmodern values include romantic life, absence of truth, no need for a commodity to have value, no need for work to be useful to society, no need for money, no need for material possession, development of human qualities, free expression, expression of unique characters, and showing off one's character (Broaded, Cao & Inkeles, 1994; Gibbins & Reimer, 1995; Seippel, 1999). …