Generation X and Political Correctness: Ideological and Religious Transformation among Students
Trenton, Thomas Norman, Canadian Journal of Sociology
1. This paper is based on one presented at the 29th annual conference of the Atlantic Association of Sociologists and Anthropologists, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, October 13-16, 1994.
Abstract: A longitudinal study follows first-year university students' values and attitudes from 1983 to 1994. Liberalism and puritanism scales are negatively correlated every year. Their crosstabulation produces a four-fold typology. Political correctness represents a unique blend of a liberalism which supports disadvantaged minorities and a puritanism which supports institutional moral controls. Over twelve years, the dominant ideology shifts from a religiously oriented fundamentalism to a secularly oriented political correctness. Traditionalism all but disappears and new leftism, the most secular ideology, remains constant. Political correctness, as a secular liberal-puritan hybrid, is placed in the larger social context.
Resume. Une etude longitudinale suit l'evolution des valeurs et attitudes des etudiants de premiere annee universitaire de 1983 a 1994. Chaque annee, on etablit une correlation negative entre le puritanisme et le liberalisme. Cette etude a produit une typologie de quatres categories. Ce qui est politiquement correct represente un melange unique de liberalisme et de puritanisme; ce dernier veille a la moralite des institutions alors que le liberalisme valorise les minorites desavantagees. Pendant douze ans, l'ideologie dominante va d'un fondamentalisme d'orientation religieuse a ce qui est politiquement correct, une ideologie d'orientation seculiere. Le traditionalisme disparait presque et un leftisme nouveau, l'ideologie la plus seculiere, reste constant. Ce qui est politiquement correct, un hybride seculier liberal-puritain, est place dans un plus grand contexte social.
The youth of the 1990s have been variously labelled in the mass media as the "MTV Generation," the "twentysomething generation," "slackers," "busters," or "Generation X" (Coupland, 1991). In Boom, Bust & Echo, Foot (1996: 18-22) divides youth into two groups: "Generation X," born between 1960 and 1966, and the "Bust Generation," born between 1967 and 1979. Some authors maintain that this new generational culture is a myth--"an imaginary resolution of real contradictions" (Star, 1993). Today's youth, for example, is said to be both "politically disengaged and politically correct" or disenchanted with traditional religion yet desirous of spiritual direction. There is too much fragmentation not only for a shared collective identity but also for a cohesive personal identity. In Mosaic Madness (1990) and Fragmented Gods (1987), Bibby attributes this to the prevalence of individualism, relativism, and pluralism in Canadian society. The collective good is sacrificed in favour of disparate single-interest groups pursuing individual and group rights in the context of increasing secularization and selective consumption. Over a twelve-year span, this study examines ideological fragmentation and contradiction among University of Prince Edward Island students' views on two specific aspects of the relatively broad liberalism-conservatism dimension. In particular, the focus is on (a) personal views toward minority or subordinate groups and (b) views on the role of the state, the mass media, and religion regarding moral issues.
Classical liberalism, among other matters, is concerned with equality of opportunity for minorities; the government is there to "ensure that the rules are fair and equitable." The state is there "to regulate the marketplace" in a neutral fashion while society represents a collection of individuals striving for individualistic goals (Marchak, 1988: 10). The state should not compromise individual rights and liberties by legislating morality. The individual should also be free to reinterpret or even reject traditional religious ideas. A social democratic version of liberalism places a more collectivistic emphasis on compassion for and on equality of condition for disadvantaged minorities (Marchak, 1988: 10-11). In particular, the New Left movement of the 1960s and 1970s in North America had students supporting the disadvantaged, while, at the same time, relishing independence from social institutions such as an "overbearing" state and a "sanctimonious" church which were seen to threaten or suffocate individual liberties (Keniston, 1968; Flacks, 1967; Lipset & Altbach, 1969; Lipset, 1971; Rousopoulos, 1971; 1983). Diggins (1992: 285-86) conveys the (American) New Left's distrust of the state and bureaucratic institutions:
To the New Left government meant deceit and manipulation, the draft and the CIA, the military-industrial complex and the arms race, and an imperialist foreign policy ... the New Left ... advocated decentralization of power and the return of authority to the people.
The Canadian New Left's anti-statism, however, was tempered with a social-democratic tradition. Whereas the American New Left protest operated largely outside existing political institutions through ad hoc organizations, the Canadian New Left had access to more institutionalized protest organizations such as leftist segments of academia and labour unions, as well as the minority New Democratic Party which had long supported liberal-humanist state initiatives on behalf of the disadvantaged (Trenton, 1983). In Prince Edward Island, however, this third party has always been very marginal, although there have been other liberal-left outlets.
Traditional conservatism, in part, views society as an organic whole within which individuals have assigned roles and responsibilities (Marchak, 1988: 13). It is concerned with the "collective moral fabric" and sees government as having "the right to establish norms for the conduct of social life" (Marchak, 1988: 13). In the 1980s, conservatism was a reaction to democratic openness and reform of the radical 1960s (Hughes, 1993: 55). Fundamentalism, a puritanical version of this conservatism, gives the state and religion a strong role in legislating or dictating matters of stricter morality (Hughes, 1993: 32). With puritanism, religious or secular, individuals cannot be left to go their own way, but need guidance and control over issues such as sex and violence in the mass media, gambling, drug use, prostitution, etc. Censorship sets legitimate boundaries to individual rights and liberties. Traditional puritan-conservatism gives (Christian) churches the prominent role in providing moral direction and encouragement along these lines. In the United States, the Moral Majority, with its religious fundamentalist orientation, reflected such a right-wing ideology during its zenith in the 1980s. However, American fundamentalism's link with patriotism renders it more an American than Canadian phenomenon (Stiller, 1996: 38). In Prince Edward Island, the Moral Majority had no formal representation; moreover, evangelicalism rather than fundamentalism per se has supplemented denominational religion. Nevertheless, especially in the earlier years a religiously oriented puritan-conservatism is expected to have dominated students' views in this small, somewhat isolated, rural community (population about 130,000). A more secular puritan-conservatism, with the state rather than religion being in charge, should emerge in later years since young Canadians have been weakening their overall commitment to traditional religious beliefs and practices (Bibby, 1993: 1-11, 19, 98-101).
Although the term "political correctness" had various meanings from the late 1960s onward, it began to be used by the media and intellectuals as a general, overarching concept to describe a social movement in October 1990 in the United States and in May 1991 in English Canada (Weir, 1995: 53-66, 77). Hollinger (1994: 88, 172, 177) portrays the term as reflecting the polemical side of postmodernism which supports the points of view of "the outsider and downtrodden" such as "women, people of color, third-world people" and "other marginalized groups within Western societies." Others claim "political correctness" is simply an "ideological code" created by right-wing neoconservatism in reaction to left-wing policies (Richer and Weir, 1995: 3; Weir, 1995: 51-53; Smith, 1995: 31). Gross and Levitt (1994: 8-9, 242, 245-246, 253) regard such a notion as simplistic and see the term, instead, as having evolved from controversy over postmodern "moralism" and "left-wing antiscientism." Some identify political correctness as both a development from New Leftism of the 1960s and a reaction to right-wing conservatism of the 1980s (Hughes, 1993: 70-76, 148; Hollinger, 1994: 184). Whereas the New Left had affinities to classical Marxism with its emphasis on economic and class struggle, political correctness has affinities to poststructuralism with its emphasis on language and communication--"in the universities, what matters is the politics of culture, not the politics of the distribution of wealth .... The academic left is much more interested in race and gender than in class" (Hughes, 1993: 76).
Contemporary political correctness of the 1990s seems to have amalgamated some of the apparently contradictory assumptions of social-democratic liberalism and traditional puritan-conservatism. Compassion for disadvantaged minorities is coupled with zeal for state moral paternalism, but in a secularized form. Strict limits are placed on individual rights and liberties, not by religion but by the state. The state is regarded, not as an alien repressive force against personal freedom, but as an instrument for implementing collective equality and justice on behalf of minorities as well as for curtailing moral excesses (Fekete, 1995: 25). Comparing the "Academic Left" to the older New Left, Diggins (1992: 305) maintains:
Instead of complaining about institutions and denouncing government, they decided to infiltrate institutions and work with government.... Whereas student demonstrators of the sixties threw their bodies against the bureaucratic structures of modern life, women activists later created their own bureaucracies.
In Canada, some of these social-democratic bureaucracies, such as the NDP, were already there -- ready to be re-energized with the latest initiatives.
On the other hand, political correctness has retained the New Left's distrust or rejection of religion and religious authorities. Diggins (1992: 351-352) portrays the Academic Left as suspicious and critical of religion. Traditional Christianity and the church are redefined ("deconstructed") as exercising illegitimate patriarchal authority to the disadvantage of subordinate groups such as women, homosexuals, and non-Christians. Stack, Wesserman, and Kposowa (1994: 111) cite studies showing various forms of gender inequality in Christian culture and institutions. Their research supports other works which found an inverse relationship between "nontraditional gender roles" (feminism) and religion or religiosity. Egalitarian beliefs about women's role at home and at work are related to lower levels of religious beliefs, practice, and attendance.
This paper's thesis is that the longitudinal transformation of student ideologies can be understood as an ongoing dialectic between liberalism and puritan-conservatism.
Methods and Findings
The present study examines these ideological shifts among 2070 introductory Sociology students attending classes at the University of Prince Edward Island over a twelve-year span from 1983 to 1994. The wording of the questionnaire items has remained unchanged throughout the time period. With Foot's (1996: 18-23) cut-off dates as a guide, one could label the 1983-85 peers "Generation X" and the 1986-94 cohort "the Bust Generation."
Almost all respondents are between 18 and 20 years of age. Although mature students are quite rare, they could not be excluded from the population. Typically, in any given year, approximately 90% are from "the Island." Almost all have a Christian background. Virtually all had taken only one introductory Sociology course in a previous semester. Most are in Arts with others scattered in Science, Business, Nursing, and Education. Very few (perhaps less than 5%) contemplate a Sociology major. Each class would have only a few students not in their first year. Little turnover of instructors occurred over the twelve-year period and staffing is not expected to have had any major bearing on the general direction of the findings below. Due to the data-gathering limitations of the questionnaire, the influence of course content and instruction on the formation of students' ideologies, if any, must remain an unknown here.
The population "sample" poses serious limitations in terms of generalizing the findings. It does not represent a cross-section of young Islanders, much less a cross-section of youth from Atlantic Canada or Canada as a whole. Students enrolled in university are likely to have different views from youth in general. Students taking Sociology may have different views than other university students.
1. Two Ideological Dimensions
Over two dozen ideological items were selected from the questionnaire. After being normalized and mean scores substituted for non-responses, their interrelationships were first determined in a large, exploratory correlation matrix. At this stage, all 2070 respondents over the twelve-year period were considered together. An initial sorting of positive and negative correlations revealed two obviously distinct groupings, one with ten and the other with eleven items. No statistically significant negative correlations appeared at all between any two items within each set. Clearly, it appeared that two separate dimensions were at hand.
The dimensions were labelled liberalism and puritanism. The items measuring liberalism (Table 1) pertain to desired fair and equal treatment for disadvantaged minorities such as women, homosexuals, racial and religious groups, youth, and the terminally ill -- including reference to marriage, family,
Table 1. Liberalism Scale Items and Item-Total Correlations Item-Total Correlation Questionnaire Item corrected) "Would you approve of openly self-proclaimed homosexuals 1 teaching at P.E.I. elementary schools?" .41 "Do you think marriages between homosexuals should be 2 legalized?" .41 "Would you be willing to marry someone with a 3 non-Christian background (i.e., Buddhist, Hindu, Jewish, or Moslem)?" .35 "Do you think it proper for an 18 year old woman to marry 4 a 35 year old man but not vice versa, OR, for no marriage sex/age disparity?" .32 "Do you think females should be perfectly free in asking 5 males out for dates and in proposing marriage?" .30 "If you were married, would you approve of the arrangement 6 where the husband would stay home to raise the children and look after the house while the wife pursued a career?" .29 "Would you be willing to marry someone from another race 7 (i.e., of different skin colour: black, red, white, yellow)?" .27 8 "Do you favour Abortion on Demand?" .25 "If you have a Catholic background would you be willing to 9 marry some- one with a Protestant background; or, if you have a Protestant background would you be willing to marry someone with a Catholic background?" .24 "Do you believe in voluntary euthanasia for the terminally 10 ill?" .23 "Do you think the title "Ms" should generally replace the 11 titles "Miss" and "Mrs."?" .19 Coefficient Alpha (Standardized) = .64
or gender roles. The puritanism items (Table 2) relate to the censorship or disapproval of pornography and violence in the mass media, in public, and in the family, and to the legal prohibition of gambling, prostitution, and drugs.
Reliability analysis was performed on the additive scales formed from each of the two sets of twelve items. Item-total correlations and Coefficient Alphas (Tables 1 and 2) show stronger internal linear consistency of the items composing the puritanism scale rather than the liberalism scale -- although neither Alpha was particularly strong. Pearson correlation between the two scales (all twelve years lumped together) was a negative -.31, thus showing that not only are there two separate dimensions, but they are also opposed to each other.
Over the twelve years, the liberalism mean score gradually and consistently increased (with two minor exceptions) with r = .25 and no gender differences (Table 3). However, puritanism mean scores showed no consistent yearly pattern, no statistically significant overall correlation, and no gender association.
On a year-to-year basis, there is a negative relationship between liberalism and puritanism. But only in the past three or four years has it weakened (i.e.,
Table 2. Puritanism Scale Items and Item-Total Correlations Item-Total Correlation Questionnaire Item (corrected) 1 "Do you think there should be censorship of `pornographic' movies at P.E.I. theatres?" .50 2 "Do you believe Playboy produced movies should (not) be permitted on pay T.V. after midnight?" .44 3 "Do you think there should be censorship of `violent' movies at P.E.I. theatres?" .42 4 "Should prostitution (not) be legalized?" .41 5 "Do you think `violent' T.V. shows should (not) be allowed during prime evening time on P.E.I.?" .39 6 "Do you (n)ever read or look at a magazine such as Playboy, Penthouse, Playgirl, etc.?" .37 7 "Do you think gambling casinos should (not) be allowed on .37 P.E.I.?" 8 "Should the use and sale of marijuana (not) be legalized?" .33 9 "Do you think `X-rated' movies should (not) be allowed on T.V., without any editing, during prime evening time on P.E.I.?" .31 10 "If you had 11-13-year-old children, would you (not) allow them to read or look at such a magazine?" .30 Coefficient Alpha (Standardized) = .72
become either not significant or only weakly significant statistically). When the sexes are compared from year to year there is no obvious pattern. Overall, for all twelve years combined, the moderately strong (r = -.31) correlation shows no gender differences. Thus, there is a consistent separation of these two dimensions which appear to be tapping diverse sentiments. Why is there a negative relationship overall? Do these sentiments ever converge so that some students hold both sets of attitudes?
2. Typology of Four Ideologies
Answers to these questions suggest the creation of a four-fold typology based on the cross-tabulation of liberalism and puritanism (Table 4). Each cell has been assigned an ideological name for discussion purposes. In terms of validity, it should be noted that these ideologies are not meant to be historically accurate; for example, New Leftism disappeared from the scene several years ago while Political Correctness emerged only recently. Fundamentalism, here, encompasses both Protestants and Catholics. Furthermore, by no means are any of these ideologies meant to be completely identified by the few items available for analysis. At best, they capture only some aspect of their namesakes. Simply, they represent a heuristic device. (For that matter, the same reservations should be made of the two dimensions of liberalism and puritanism.)
[Part 1 of 2] Table 3. Mean Scores and Correlations for Liberalism and Puritanism by Year and Sex Liberalism Puritanism Correlation Year Mean Mean Lib/Pur 1983 16.99(1) 16.68 -.30 (200) 1984 17.06(1) 16.52 -.32 (229) 1985 17.03(1) 16.84 -.39 (190) 1986 17.19 16.82 -.40 (215) 1987 17.33 17.06 -.35 (160) 1988 17.62 16.69 -.38 (192) 1989 17.40 17.03 -.31 (183) 1990 17.64 17.14 -.24 (141) 1991 18.13 16.81 -.19(2) (81) 1992 18.38 16.34 -.17(3) (195) 1993 18.57 16.49 -.35 (178) 1994 18.62 16.73 -.16(2) (106) All Yrs 17.58 16.74 -.31 (2070) [Part 2 of 2] Table 3. Mean Scores and Correlations for Liberalism and Puritanism by Year and Sex Year Correlation Lib/Pur Females Males 1983 -.35 (146) -.15(2) (54) 1984 -.39 (163) -.41 (66) 1985 -.42 (144) -.34(3) (46) 1986 -.39 (156) -.44 (59) 1987 -.30 (119) -.59 (41) 1988 -.41 (143) -.54 (49) 1989 -.30 (132) -.46 (51) 1990 -.32 (107) -.19 (34) 1991 -.12(2) (57) -.52 (24) 1992 -.35 (112) -.04(2) (83) 1993 -.42 (107) -.33 (71) 1994 -.16(2) (75) -.30(2) (31) All Yrs -.34 (1461) -.34 (609) (1) Two items which were used for the construction of the liberalism scale did not appear in the 1983-1985 questionnaires; for those items mean scores for 1986 were substituted. (2) . Not statistically significant at p < .05 (i.e., n.s.). (3) . Statistically significant at p < .02. Liberalism Puritanism By Years R R Both Sexes .25 n.s. (2070) (2070) Females .24 n.s. (1461) (1461) Males .25 n.s. (609) (609)
Each of the 2070 respondents is located in only one of these four ideologies. Cutoff points were determined by the "natural" breaks occurring in a scattergram contour plot of the two dimensions by year (not shown). Thus cases scoring greater than 17.5 on the liberalism scale and greater than 15.75 on the puritanism scale were located in cell 2 of Table 4 labelled political correctness. Politically correct persons would then score higher on both liberalism and puritanism (660 cases). Traditionalists would score lower on both dimensions (211 cases). New leftists would be higher on liberalism but lower on puritanism (378 cases). Fundamentalists would be lower on liberalism but higher on puritanism (821 cases). The scattergram and Table 4 clearly show that, in spite of the negative
Table 4. Crosstabulation of Liberalism and Puritanism and the Creation of Four Ideologies Puritanism Weak Strong New Leftism Political Correctness Strong 18.3% 31.9% (378) (660) Liberalism Traditionalism Fundamentalism Weak 10.2% 39.7% (211) (821) Chi-Square = 64.84 Phi = .17 p < .000
relationship, liberalism and puritanism do go together for many (political correctness) while many reject both (traditionalists). New leftism and fundamentalism are polar opposites; that is, the former accepts liberalism but rejects puritanism while the latter rejects liberalism but accepts puritanism. Political correctness and traditionalism represent hybrids. Do any discernable longitudinal patterns emerge regarding the rise and decline of these ideologies?
Table 5 provides some answers. (It should be noted that in some years the sample size of males is relatively small; a fact which could distort percentages.) Table 5 measures how strong each ideology is relative to the other three in any given year. The dominant ideology back in 1983 is clearly fundamentalism (54.0%). This ideology's strongest representation is in the mid-1980s. Over the years, fundamentalism gradually decreases in proportional representation (to 17.0% in 1994) while political correctness gradually increases. By 1994, political correctness becomes the dominant ideology (52.8% compared to 18.0% in 1983 -- almost a threefold gain). This relative switch in dominance for these two ideologies occurs for both sexes; however, females display a more gradual and consistent trend in both cases. Incidentally, for every year, females are much stronger supporters of political correctness than males. For almost every year, the same gender breakdown appears for fundamentalism. The reverse gender preponderance appears for new leftism and fundamentalism. Such comparative gender differences are due to gender-biased questionnaire responses and perhaps to the small cell sizes. Thus, yearly trends within gender are more meaningful, especially for fundamentalism and political correctness.
The other two ideologies show more erratic and moderate trends. New leftism increases while traditionalism decreases. In sum, during the early period (for example, 1983-1985) fundamentalism is clearly the dominant ideology while the othe three are all relatively weak. But by the later period (for example, 1992-1994) political correctness is obviously dominant, with new leftism a weak second, followed closely by fundamentalism, and with traditionalism trailing.
[Part 1 of 2] Table 5. Percentage of Students Supporting Each Ideology by Year (and Sex) Fundamentalism Traditionalism Political Correctness Year F M F M F M 1983 54.0 15.5 18.0 63.0 29.6 7.5 37.0 19.9 13.0 1984 46.3 18.8 16.6 50.9 34.8 10.4 39.4 22.1 3.0 1985 51.6 11.6 22.6 57.6 32.6 6.3 28.3 23.6 19.6 1986 45.6 8.4 26.0 52.6 27.1 4.5 18.6 32.1 10.2 1987 47.5 6.9 31.9 46.2 51.2 4.2 14.6 39.5 9.8 1988 39.6 8.9 30.2 46.9 18.4 2.8 26.5 37.8 8.2 1989 44.3 7.7 35.0 47.7 35.3 3.0 19.6 41.7 17.6 1990 39.0 5.7 39.7 42.1 29.4 1.9 17.6 45.8 20.6 1991 30.9 6.2 45.7 31.6 29.2 5.3 8.3 54.4 25.0 1992 22.6 11.3 40.0 27.7 15.7 2.7 22.9 50.9 25.3 1993 20.2 7.3 48.9 24.3 14.1 1.9 15.5 60.7 31.0 1994 17.0 6.6 52.8 20.0 9.7 5.3 9.7 62.7 29.0 All Years 39.7 10.2 31.9 Combined (821) (211) (660) 45.2 26.4 4.9 23.0 37.9 17.4 [Part 2 of 2] Table 5. Percentage of Students Supporting Each Ideology by Year (and Sex) New Leftism Year F M 1983 12.5 9.6 20.4 1984 18.3 16.6 22.7 1985 14.2 12.5 19.6 1986 20.0 10.9 44.1 1987 13.8 10.1 24.4 1988 21.4 12.6 46.9 1989 13.1 7.6 27.5 1990 15.6 10.3 32.4 1991 17.3 8.8 37.5 1992 26.2 18.8 36.1 1993 23.6 13.1 39.4 1994 23.6 12.0 51.6 All Years 18.3 Combined (378) 12.0 33.2 Chi-Square (both sexes) = 207.31 d.f. = 33 p < .000 Chi-Square (Females) = 152.20 d.f. = 33 p < .000 Chi-Square (Males) = 94.25 d.f. = 33 p < .000
These trends reveal a significant longitudinal switch in ideological alignments. On the one hand, students have become increasingly more liberal in their attitudes toward minority groups such as women, homosexuals, nonwhites, non-Christians, etc. On the other hand, this switch has been increasingly accompanied by an embracing of puritanical attitudes toward such issues as the appearance of pornography, drugs, gambling, and violence in various social institutions.
The longitudinal data analysis suggests a different type of liberalism existed among the students years ago -- one that was more akin to the New Leftism of the 1960s and 1970s in the United States and Canada. In the past, liberal attitudes toward minorities were very much accompanied by more tolerant attitudes toward sexuality, marijuana, gambling, and violence. Tolerance was extended to a wider range of social issues. Censorship and curtailment of individuality were to be avoided. There was a greater willingness to see freedom of expression in society's institutions, as well as freedom of opportunity and choice for disadvantaged minorities.
3. Religious Variables and the Typology
Only religious variables produced consistent, statistically significant trends in relation to the ideologies. Other factors such as political party preference, class background, and employment aspirations revealed little overall. Items on religious orientations include beliefs in traditional concepts, attendance at church, and choice of religious over scientific explanations (Table 6). As expected, every religious variable is negatively related to liberalism but positively related to puritanism. These observations hold true for both sexes.
[Part 1 of 2] Table 6. Correlations Between Religious Items and a) Liberalism, b) Puritanism, c) Year (and Sex) -- All Ideologies Liberalism Puritanism Questionnaire Item F M F M Belief in Biblical God (1) -.30 .21 -.30 -.32 .18 .18 Belief in Heaven -.27 .23 -.26 -.28 .21 .20 Belief in Hell - .23 .17 -.22 -.23 .16 .19 Belief in Devil -.22 .15 -.22 -.23 .16 .17 Attendance at Religious -.34 .29 Services -.34 -.35 .24 .31 Religious vs Scientific -.31 .27 Explanations -.31 -.29 .25 .23 (Not) Believe in -.26 .19 Evolution -.25 -.29 .17 .20 Compulsory Religion in -.19 .13 Elementary Schools -.19 -.21 .13 .16 [Part 2 of 2] Table 6. Correlations Between Religious Items and a) Liberalism, b) Puritanism, c) Year (and Sex) -- All Ideologies Year Questionnaire Item F M Belief in Biblical God (1) -.13 -.12 -.14 Belief in Heaven -.06 (3) (3) Belief in Hell (3) (3) -.10(2) Belief in Devil (3) (3) -.12 Attendance at Religious -.19 Services -.18 -.17 Religious vs Scientific -.06(2) Explanations (3) (3) (Not) Believe in -.07 Evolution (3) -.09(2) Compulsory Religion in -.06 Elementary Schools (3) -.09(2) (1) The questionnaire item referred to the existence of "God" up to 1985 and to a "Biblical God" from 1986 onward. Therefore, the correlations for this item should be interpreted guardedly. (2) . Statistically significant at the p < .05 level. All others at the p < .01 level. Two-tailed tests used throughout. (3) No statistically significant correlation.
Respondents were asked to identify their background simply as Catholic or Protestant (or Other). This variable played no statistically significant preliminary role for either sex with regard to the four ideologies. However, the ideologies are differentiated according to a series of religiously related items. The mean scores for each ideology on an item are compared using the Scheffe test (Table 7). Almost without exception, the mean scores for each item are higher as one moves from ideology to ideology across the table. In other words, fundamentalists are the most religiously oriented whereas new leftists are the most secularly oriented. In addition, within each ideology and with few exceptions, males have higher mean scores (i.e., are more secular) than females. Overall, the predominance of "F" superscripts among the eight items shows that three ideologies -- traditionalism, political correctness, and new leftism -- are all primarily distinguished from fundamentalism. In other words, the fundamentalists are the most unique. Least different from the fundamentalists are the traditionalists (especially when sex is controlled). On the other hand, the politically correct and the new left are the most different from the fundamentalists (for both sexes too). The distribution of "T" superscripts shows that the new left are the most different from the traditionalists (for both sexes again) while the difference between the politically correct and the traditionalists is less consistent (especially when sex is controlled). The distribution of "P" superscripts discloses that new leftism is distinguished from political correctness on five of the eight items (this difference disappears for males but exists on three items for females). In summary, fundamentalism is the most religious ideology and new leftism is more secular than political correctness -- a pattern more apparent for females than males.
Table 8 confirms these findings over a twelve year period. But longitudinal details are revealing. Christian beliefs (God, Heaven, Hell, and Devil) were more important points of ideological differentiation during the 1980s than the 1990s. In the earlier years, these religious beliefs especially distinguished fundamentalism and new leftism, and to a lesser extent fundamentalism and political correctness. But with one exception (1993), they lost this ability in the later years. This was evident for both sexes. What remains as the most consistent and persistent variable that differentiates ideologies is the religion versus science dimension. Over the years, fundamentalists were more likely than new leftists (and to a lesser extent the politically correct) to choose religious rather than scientific explanations of natural phenomena and to not believe in evolution (i.e., that human beings evolved from more elementary forms of life). This religion/science differentiating factor ceased to be relevant for males in the late 1980s but persisted somewhat for females into the 1990s.
At this point, one might surmise that the longitudinal cessation of previously differentiating factors might be due to the increasing secularization of the student population. But the evidence in Table 6 only gives partial support to this
[Part 1 of 3] Table 7. Multiple Comparison Analysis of Ideology and Religion (by Sex) (Scheffe Test of Compared Means) 1 2 Fundamentalism Traditionalism Questionnaire Item (1) F M F M Belief in Biblical God 1.08 1.19 1.06 1.13 1.16 1.20 Belief in Heaven 1.14 1.28F 1.12 1.19 1.16 1.35 Belief in Hell 1.48 1.61 1.48 1.46 1.56 1.64 Belief in Devil 1.52 1.62 1.53 1.44 1.60 1.63 Attendance at Religious 1.61 1.98F Services & Meetings 1.59 1.67 1.63 2.15F Religious (vs Scientific) 1.81 2.11F Explanations of Natural Phenomenon 1.77 1.97 2.04 2.15 (Not) Believe in Evolution 2.00 2.13 1.99 2.03 2.16 2.12 Compulsory Religion in 2.39 2.55 Elementary Schools 2.40 2.44 2.55 2.54 [Part 2 of 3] Table 7. Multiple Comparison Analysis of Ideology and Religion (by Sex) (Scheffe Test of Compared Means) 3 Political Correctness Questionnaire Item (1) F M Belief in Biblical God 1.32FT 1.31F 1.41F Belief in Heaven 1.35F 1.33F 1.44F Belief in Hell 1.79FT 1.77F 1.87F Belief in Devil 1.84FT 1.83F 1.90F Attendance at Religious 2.11F Services & Meetings 2.09FT 2.23F Religious (vs Scientific) 2.22F Explanations of Natural Phenomenon 2.20F 2.36F (Not) Believe in Evolution 2.36FT 2.34F 2.4912 Compulsory Religion in 2.69F Elementary Schools 2.70F 2.68F [Part 3 of 3] Table 7. Multiple Comparison Analysis of Ideology and Religion (by Sex) (Scheffe Test of Compared Means) 4 New Leftism Questionnaire Item (1) F M Belief in Biblical God 1.47FTP 1.40FT 1.53FT Belief in Heaven 1.54FTP 1.50FTP 1.57FT Belief in Hell 1.87FT 1.86FT 1.88F Belief in Devil 1.90FT 1.91FT 1.90FT Attendance at Religious 2.42FTP Services & Meetings 2.39FTP 2.45FT Religious (vs Scientific) 2.49FTP Explanations of Natural Phenomenon 2.45FTP 2.53FT (Not) Believe in Evolution 2.60FTP 2.51F 2.68FT Compulsory Religion in 2.72F Elementary Schools 2.70F 2.73F (1) Scores for each item range from 1 to 3, where: 1 = Affirmative response to religious belief, behaviour, explanation, or
2 = Don't Know, Not Sure response 3 = Negative response to religious belief, behaviour, explanation, or
F,T,P: Denotes pairs of groups significantly different at the p < .05
The superscript(s) denote(s) the other group(s) in the pair: F = Fundamentalism, T = Traditionalism, P = Political Correctness. [Part 1 of 3] Table 8. Multiple Comparison Analysis of Ideology and Religion by Year (and Sex) (Scheffe Test of Compared Means) F Traditionalism Quest. Item 84 85 89 94 83 84 85 86 87 God F Heaven F Hell F Devil F Relig Attend F F F Relig vs Sci F FT Not Evolutn F Relig Educ Sex(F/M/B) 84 85 89 94 83 84 85 86 87 God FF FF FF FF Heaven FF Hell FM FF Devil FF Relig Attend FM FM FF FM FF Relig vs Sci FF FF FF FF FF FF Not Evolutn Relig Educ [Part 2 of 3] Table 8. Multiple Comparison Analysis of Ideology and Religion by Year (and Sex) (Scheffe Test of Compared Means) Political Correctness Quest. Item 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 83 84 85 God F F F F Heaven F F F F Hell F F F Devil F F F Relig Attend F F FTP FTP F Relig vs Sci F F F F F F Not Evolutn FT F F Relig Educ F F F Sex(F/M/B) 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 83 84 85 God FF FF FTF Heaven FF FTF FTF Hell FM FTF Devil FB FB FTF Relig Attend FF FF FF FF FB FF Relig vs Sci FTF FF FF FM FF FB FTF Not Evolutn FTF TM TM FF FBTPM Relig Educ [Part 3 of 3] Table 8. Multiple Comparison Analysis of Ideology and Religion by Year (and Sex) (Scheffe Test of Compared Means) New Leftism Quest. Item 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 God F FTP F F FP Heaven FT F F Hell F F Devil F F Relig Attend F F FT F FT F F Relig vs Sci FP FT FT F FP F F Not Evolutn F FT F F Relig Educ F Sex(F/M/B) 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 God FF FBTM FB Heaven FB FF Hell FM FB Devil FM FF FF Relig Attend FF FB FBTM FF FF FF Relig vs Sci FF FF FTF FM Not Evolutn FF TM FM Relig Educ F = Fundamentalism, T = Traditionalism, P = Political Correctness, B = Both
Listed are pairs of groups significantly different at the p < .05 level.
explanation. In terms of linear relationships, only religious attendance shows a gradual decline (-.19) when all ideologies are combined (and for both sexes). For specific ideologies, fundamentalism undergoes the greatest attendance decline (-.16) -- especially for males (-.26) compared to females (-.13). New leftists also exhibit a small decline (-.12, p < .05) -- for females only (-.16, p < .05). Political correctness' decline is quite weak (-.10) -- with no sex-based correlations. However, apart from this behavioural variable, very little erosion has occurred among religious beliefs and attitudes themselves when all ideologies are combined (and this only among males). Virtually no erosion has occurred within specific ideologies. Therefore, what can be tentatively concluded is that reduced religious attendance might be related only to reduced saliency of religious beliefs and attitudes. Thus, increasing behavioural secularization might contribute to the irrelevance of traditional Christian concepts, such as God, Heaven, etc., as focal points for ideological differentiation. Ironically, reduced religious saliency has not been replaced over time by a strong scientific worldview. Scientific explanations of natural phenomena including evolution have expanded almost indiscernibly over the twelve-year period with none of the ideologies coming to the fore.
In sum, the fundamentalists' puritanism is related to religion in a traditional sense. But the politically corrects' puritanism has little to do with such religion. What, then, is the nature of the politically corrects' puritanism? If the fundamentalists are associated with the historical notion of a religious puritanism, the politically correct are associated with some modern form of secular puritanism. It is the peculiar hybrid marriage of liberalism and puritanism that has produced this unique modern ideology.
Summary and Conclusion
This study has shown that political correctness cannot be dismissed as simply a right-wing neoconservative fabrication. There is some empirical substance to the concept -- at least among the U.P.E.I. students here. The emergence and growth of the political correctness ideology can be understood in terms of a twelve-year dialectic between liberalism and puritanism. The intersection of these two dimensions produced four ideologies. According to Foot's (1996) classification, fundamentalism was the dominant ideology during the earlier 1980s "Generation X" era; by the 1990s political correctness increasingly became dominant for the "Bust Generation." Traditionalism all but disappeared and new leftism has retained relatively constant representation. In this dialectic, two older ideologies have been transformed and have contributed to a new ideological amalgam. The secular-humanitarianism of the new left has been retained while its reverence of individual freedoms has been downplayed. Meanwhile, the puritanical aspects of fundamentalism have persisted. Fundamentalism has been replaced by political correctness; that is, puritan-conservatism has always prevailed but with changing orientations toward liberalism. Over a twelve-year span, a right-wing, religious puritan-conservatism has been gradually and consistently replaced by a left-wing, secular puritan-conservatism. Why were liberalism and puritanism so negatively opposed, especially in the earlier years? Why was there a shift from fundamentalism to political correctness?
The Western dialectic between liberalism and puritanism has been ongoing for hundreds of years. Hughes (1993: 11) refers to the continuous historical "friction" between American Puritanism and American Liberalism. At times, one triumphed at the expense of the other. Right now, at least for the students here, political correctness represents one of those occasions when the two ideologies temporarily form a union or synthesis. Historically, Walzer (1969: 153) regards classic English puritanism "as a response to breakdown, disorder, and social change" including the "increasing geographic and social mobility" which accompanied classic liberalism. It was a revolutionary attempt to remove the fear of uncertainty by achieving "collective control" over individuals and society:
The crucial feature of the Puritan discipline was its tendency to transform repression into self-control....Liberalism also required such voluntary subjection and self-control but, in sharp contrast to Puritanism, its political and social theory were marked by an extraordinary confidence in the possibility of both a firm sense of the ease with which order might be attained. Liberal confidence made repression and the endless struggle against sin unnecessary; it also tended to make self-control invisible, to forget its painful history and naively assume its existence. The result was that liberalism did not create the self-control it required. The Lockeian state was not a disciplinary institution, as was the Calvinist Holy Commonwealth, but rather rested on the assumed political virtue -- the "natural political virtue" -- of its citizens....Puritan repression has its place in the practical history, so to speak, of that strange assumption (Walzer, 1969: 125).
Hughes (1993: 11) also relates the historical opposition between liberalism and puritanism:
There has always been a friction between the remains of the Puritan ideology of a hierarchy of the virtuous under the immutable eye of God, and the later, revolutionary, 18th-century American conception of continuous, secular development towards equality of rights which were inherent in man and not merely granted by government.
In contemporary terms, New Leftism, in the economically prosperous and idealistic 1960s and early 1970s, represented a confident search for ways of restructuring society to remove socio-economic inequities while, at the same time, it was convinced that human nature was innately virtuous if only individual rights and freedoms remained unfettered by state control. Fundamentalism in the 1980s was a religiously based reaction to the "democratic openness and social reform" and "permissive society" which threatened traditional standards of social behaviour (Hughes, 1993: 35; Jenkins, 1992: 39). Likewise, with the increasing economic and social uncertainties of the 1990s, political correctness has been characterized as a
biopolitical backlash against the 1960s -- its free love and free spirits, its sexual and (counter)cultural innovations, its politics and economics, and its deinstitutionalizing complexity (Fekete, 1995: 336).
In addition, both fundamentalism and, to a much lesser extent, political correctness can also be seen as a backlash against the traditional scientific paradigm associated with classic liberalism. The politically correct, here, have not adopted scientific (versus religious) beliefs and explanations quite as readily as the new left. Some authors have noted the increasing weakness of science education in schools as well as the challenges to traditional science not only by Christian fundamentalists but also, more recently, by some postmodernism which regards Western "value-free" positivistic science as white-male dominated, environmentally damaging, or methodologically limited (Raloff, 1966: 360-361; Gross and Levitt, 1994: 10-12, 71-106, 244-248; Hollinger, 1994: 169-177; Ritzer, 1996: 89-90, 473, 483-484). In summary, from the viewpoint of both the fundamentalists and the politically correct, the free and open society represented by modern liberalism had gone too far; it needed to be reined in first by the old and then by the new puritanism.
The shift from fundamentalism to political correctness among Island students was made easier by the similarity of many objects of moral concern posed by perceived liberal excesses -- too much sex, violence, drugs, gambling, etc. Some authors have noted the affinities between political correctness and fundamentalism on puritan moral issues. Jenkins (1992: 42, 59-60, 200) refers to "moral panics" in Great Britain over issues such as child sexual abuse, sexual violence, and pornography involving both religious fundamentalists and radical feminists -- often in coalition. Fekete (1994: 334) draws parallels between "biopolitics" and fundamentalism in their focus on "identity" groups based on sex, race, class, or religious beliefs. Hughes (1993: 67, 28, 24) makes the puritanical link between fundamentalism and political correctness more explicitly: "In cultural matters the old division of right and left has come to look more like two Puritan sects, one plaintively conservative, the other posing as revolutionary ..." and refers to American fundamentalism as "Patriotic Correctness" and to political correctness as "post-Puritanism." Common, similar, or even parallel objects of moral concern allow the twelve-year shift for Island students from fundamentalism to political correctness to appear more as a gradual rather than radical transformation from religious to secular puritanism.
The twelve-year shift was also facilitated by a change in the social institutions perceived to retain the power to provide solutions to problems. Political correctness, unlike fundamentalism, maintains that social and economic injustices can only be removed if human nature is resocialized by secular, stateimposed moral measures. Only the state and the mass media have sufficient strength to dictate moral direction, equity and restraint. The Island, like other communities, has witnessed the weakening of the moral authority of many traditional institutions such as the family, the school, the neighbourhood, and the church. For Durkheim (1964), these institutions performed a positive function of social integration by providing collective social values which gave direction to individuals' desires and goals. However, these traditional sources of moral authority have been relatively delegitimized by an encroaching modern urban-industrial mass society. The latter, with its promises of more employment, a higher material standard of living, and "the bridge" to the mainland, has been welcomed by most of the Island students in this study (Trenton, 1993). Alternative sources of moral authority have moved into the anomic vacuum and set forth a social dynamic. Puritanical issues are "constructed" from "perceived social problems" (Jenkins, 1992: 1-5). Interest groups act like "moral entrepreneurs"; the mass media creates pressure on politicians and civil servants; state bureaucracies expand their influence and resources (Jenkins, 1992: 6, 10, 21, 115-119, 195-206). Thus, the institutionalization of political correctness has increasingly given a stronger moral role to the federal and provincial state in conjunction with the cosmopolitan and local mass media (Fekete, 1994: 24-27). Secular-humanitarian sympathy for various subordinate groups is being sanctioned by legislation involving such policies as censorship, anti-discrimination in employment and opportunities, affirmative action, etc. The state and the mass media are also being seen as vehicles for changing public opinion, general education, and resocialization in a wide variety of areas including occupational expectations regarding minorities, child-rearing practices, division of household labour, television advertising and programming, environmental preservation, etc., (Marx and McAdam, 1994: 113). Various government agencies, state-sponsored groups, and voluntary organizations on and off the Island have increasingly focused on some of the issues covered by puritanism (pertaining to violence, drugs, gambling, prostitution, child abuse). Due to the relatively small size of the Island population, students and various associations tend to envision the local government and local media as more approachable and responsible; therefore, the gradual transference of greater moral authority to these institutions would be more readily legitimated.
Social problems spawn emerging ideologies and groups looking for solutions. Social conditions are constantly creating possibilities for new amalgams that could link various manifestations of puritanism with either left- or right-wing sides of the social-political spectrum. Where will the dialectic between liberalism and puritan-conservatism go in the future? Will it strengthen over time? Or, will the current union prove to be ephemeral? If so, for whom and why? What ideological configuration will the dawn of the millennium bring?
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Publication information: Article title: Generation X and Political Correctness: Ideological and Religious Transformation among Students. Contributors: Trenton, Thomas Norman - Author. Journal title: Canadian Journal of Sociology. Volume: 22. Issue: 4 Publication date: Fall 1997. Page number: 417. © 1997 Canadian Journal of Sociology. COPYRIGHT 1997 Gale Group.
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