Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress

Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress

Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress

Culture Matters: How Values Shape Human Progress


Prominent scholars and journalists ponder the question of why, at the beginning of the twenty-first century, the world is more divided than ever between the rich and the poor, between those living in freedom and those under oppression.


It is now almost half a century since the world turned its attention from rebuilding the countries devastated by World War II to ending the poverty, ignorance, and injustice in which most of the people of Africa, Asia, and Latin America lived. Optimism abounded in the wake of the stunning success of the Marshall Plan in Western Europe and Japan's ascent from the ashes of defeat. Development was viewed as inevitable, particularly as the colonial yoke disappeared. Walt Rostow's highly influential 1960 book, The Stages of Economic Growth, suggested that human progress was driven by a dialectic that could be accelerated.

And indeed the colonial yoke did substantially disappear. The Philippines became independent in 1946, India and Pakistan in 1947. The British and French post-Ottoman mandates in the Middle East vanished soon after the war. The decolonization process in Southeast Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean was substantially completed by the end of the 1960s.

The Alliance for Progress, John F. Kennedy's answer to the Cuban Revolution, captured the prevailing optimism. It would duplicate the Marshall Plan's success. Latin America would be well on its way to irreversible prosperity and democracy within ten years.

But as we enter a new century, optimism has been displaced by frustration and pessimism. A few countries--Spain, Portugal, South Korea, Taiwan, and . . .

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