The First New Nation: The United States in Historical States in Historical and Comparative Perspective

By Seymour Martin Lipset | Go to book overview

8
Values, Social
Character, and the
Democratic Polity

The relationship between the value patterns and the political process of a society may be considered on another level than has been discussed so far—that of the effect of these patterns on the social character of the citizen. As pointed out in Chapter 3, European travelers to America have remarked over the course of American history that, compared to parents in their own countries, American parents were much more permissive with their children. This they perceived as related to the general emphasis on equalitarianism. Anthropologists and psychologists, in their recent work on "national character," would agree that there is a relationship between such differences in child-rearing practices and the modal personalities of the members of various societies. The character of the citizens may in turn affect the functioning of the society's political system.

There is ample evidence that the differences in early socialization and training reported in the nineteenth century between American and European countries have persisted to this day. American children are much more likely than their European counterparts to feel free to "talk back" to their parents or their teachers, to have their wishes respected, to be paid attention, and to perform duties in the family which would in other countries be restricted to adults. The retention of more ascriptive values in European societies may account for such differences in child-rearing practices. 1 British middle-class respondents are somewhat more likely than

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1
See Max Horkheimer, ed., Studien über Authorität und Familie (Paris: Alcan, 1936).

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