Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

Intergenerational Differences in Political Values and Attitudes in Stable and New Democracies

Academic journal article International Journal of Comparative Sociology

Intergenerational Differences in Political Values and Attitudes in Stable and New Democracies

Article excerpt

Introduction

This article examines intergenerational differences in two groups of democratic countries: the long-established democratic countries, and those that began to build a democratic system about 10 years ago, when communist systems were overthrown in Central and Eastern Europe.

In the early nineties, there was an intensive debate about how likely the latter group of countries could create stable democratic systems--and who would best serve as mentors in the process of socialization in the new political and economic situation. More than 10 years have passed. It is now time to assess what changes have taken place in the prevailing values, attitudes, and behaviors in post-communist societies. We are particularly interested in whether generational changes are taking place in the attitudes and behaviors in post-communist countries and in stable democracies.

We will examine four basic hypotheses concerning forecasts related to the development of democratic systems. These hypotheses reflect the contradictory predictions that were made a decade ago about the emergence of democracy.

Thus:

(1) Post-communist countries have to go a long way before their societies become similar to stable, traditional democracies with regard to value systems, and they need to repeat their achievements (Dalton 1991), so one decade will not have brought massive changes.

This hypothesis is consistent with the following:

(2) The young generation, although growing up in the new system, will be similar to the older generation because value systems change slowly.

Inconsistent, particularly with the latter, are the following hypotheses:

(3) The young generation of post-communist countries will be significantly dissimilar from the older generations, since the speed of changes in the political and economic sphere will enforce adaptation of the young generation to the new requirements and mechanisms, leaving little space for inheriting what older generations, who adapted to a different system, could bequeath (Ester, Halman, and de Moor 1993).

(4) The young generation of the post-communist countries becomes similar to the young generation of the traditional democracies with regard to values and attitudes, despite differences with regard to recent history.

Inglehart (1997), as well as many other authors, underline that in most countries there is an observable trend toward an increasing emphasis on post-materialistic values, which is in turn part of a broader trend towards an emphasis on "self-expression values" and behaviors that are crucial characteristics of democratic countries.

In an attempt to check the effect of different conditions before and after 1990 in Central and Eastern European countries, we conducted a comparison of the different generations. Particularly, we were interested in the generation born between 1900 and 1926; persons born during 1967 to 1976, who were at least teenagers during the transformation; and persons who were children at the time.

Since changes, although not as rapid as in the post-communist countries, are experienced also in traditionally democratic countries, we conducted analogous analyses with democratic nations. The data for our detailed analysis are drawn from nine selected countries included in the 2000 World Values Survey. Three of them are postcommunist: Poland, Hungary; and the Czech Republic. They are Catholic or mainly Catholic. Poland is an almost exclusively Catholic country, and in the Czech Republic and Hungary the majority of society is Catholic. The three countries share, to a large extent, the same history as they were part of the Prussian, Austro-Hungarian, or Russian empires until the end of the World War I. The four Western European countries differ in many respects. First, Catholicism dominates only in France and Spain. The population of the western part of Germany is divided: part of the population is Catholic and part of the population is Protestant. …

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