Values and Students' Political Participation

Article excerpt

This study presents a series of theoretical aspects and empirical results obtained after some scientific research conducted on values (instrumental, terminal and religious) and on the political involvement of students from the university. The study was conducted using the statistical survey method in the aftermath of the general elections that took place in November 2008, among the student body of "Al.I.Cuza" University of Iasi, Romania. The analysis underlined the fact that pupils placed a great importance on values and, considering the way they were ranked, the students are believed to have transmitted a specific signal on behalf of a social category that is struggling to be noticed in the context of the present Romanian society. The analysis also highlights the fact that the students' political participation is not significantly correlated on a statistical level to the extent of their adhesion to the values studied in the survey.

Key Words:

instrumental values, terminal values, religious values, political option, political participation

(ProQuest: ... denotes formula omitted.)

Introduction

In the studies about values, different definitions of this concept have been identified from different perspectives. The traditional vision considers that value is a preference that determines choice: value is an explicit or implicit conception regarding what is desirable, influencing the selection of manners, means and goals of a certain action1. In his attempt to hierarchize values, Kluckhohn uses the term "value orientation" to identify different levels of generality of conceptions referring to what is desirable. As far as the religious aspect is concerned, it represents such a value orientation having a high level of generality, referring to the disposition that determines the personal reference to a whole range of religious experiences, practices and explanations. As a value, religiosity means the attempt to understand reality in its whole using elements that relate to the transcendent.

When defining values, Shalom Schwartz also emphasizes their transsituational character as well as their major importance in establishing the life principles of a person2.

On the other hand, an important author in this field, Milton Rokeach, focuses the definition of value, both on the idea of choice as well as on that of persistence in time. Thus, "a value is an enduring belief that a specific mode of conduct or end-state of existence is personally or socially preferable to an opposite or converse mode of conduct or end-state of existence"3. Values are organized in a value system, understood as "an enduring organization of beliefs concerning preferable modes of conduct or end-states of existence along a continuum of relative importance"4.

For Rokeach, persistence in time is a feature that, although central in defining the value, still remains relative. Thus, if value could be characterized through total stability, individual and social changes could not be possible any longer. On the other hand, great instability would endanger continuity and consistency of human personality and society. According to this author, the value system undergoes gradual transformations depending on the changes of the human being's personality (such as ageing and life experience acquisition), as well as at social level (the general evolution of society)5. Values are acquired through social interaction, socialization and internalization processes. They are clarified, filtered by means of general life principles as well as a set of normative constraints that function within the social framework where a person lives. Taking into account Rokeach's conception, values are hierarchically organized according to their importance in establishing goals and involvement in activity, depending on the relations with the other values6. Of these attempts to define the concept, some characteristics are revealed representing as many difficulties in studying and defining values: values cannot be directly noticeable, they hold a strong social substantiation, focus on the personal and/or social preference, on behaviour, attitudes and goals and are relatively stable over time. …

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