Islam, Gender, Culture, and democracy.(World Values Survey)(Editorial)

By Inglehart, Ronald | International Journal of Comparative Sociology, December 2002 | Go to article overview

Islam, Gender, Culture, and democracy.(World Values Survey)(Editorial)


Inglehart, Ronald, International Journal of Comparative Sociology


Introduction

This collection of articles presents findings from the World Values Survey (WVS) and the European Values Surveys (EVS). These surveys cover 78 societies, containing over 80 percent of the world's population; they extend over the full range of cross-national variation, including societies with per capita incomes as low as $300 per year, ranging up to societies with per capita incomes of more than $35,000 per year; and long-established democracies with market economies, as well as authoritarian states and ex-socialist states. These surveys make it possible to compare the values and beliefs of people in every major cultural region of the world, and they reveal large and coherent cross-national differences in what people want out of life.

The World Values Surveys grew out of a study launched by the European Values Survey group (EVS), which carried out surveys in ten West European societies in 1981; this project evoked such widespread interest that it was replicated in 14 additional countries. Findings from these surveys suggested that predictable cultural changes were taking place. To monitor possible changes, a new wave of surveys was carried out in 1990-91, building on findings from the first wave, but this time designed to be carried out globally. Successive waves of surveys were carried out in 1995-96 and 1999-2001. In every case, we work with colleagues from the given society; and in most cases these surveys are supported by internal funding.

The first three waves of these surveys covered most of the world's major cultural zones except for Africa and the Islamic region, where we were able to carry out only a few surveys in each region. In planning the fourth wave, the World Values Survey Association set a high priority on attaining substantially better coverage of these regions; and the 2000-2001 WVS includes eight African countries and ten predominantly Islamic societies (including three overlapping cases). As a result, we have an unprecedentedly broad range of Islamic societies, extending from Morocco to Indonesia, and this volume includes two articles analyzing Islamic worldviews. Another set of articles focuses on the relationship between culture and democratic institutions; and still another set of articles analyzes the changing role of gender in society--with considerable overlap between the three groups, providing an overall theme of Islam, Gender, Culture, and Democracy.

An Overview of Findings

The first three articles deal with the relationship between Islam and democracy. Interestingly, all three writers reach the same conclusion: that the Islamic religion is not, in itself, a significant barrier to the emergence of democratic institutions.

Mark Tessler inquires whether Islamic orientations help account for the fact that--despite the global trend toward democracy--not a single Arab country qualifies as an electoral democracy. Evidence from the World Values Survey indicates that Islam does not discourage the emergence of attitudes favorable to democracy. He finds little evidence, at least at the individual level of analysis, to support the claims of those who assert that Islam and democracy are incompatible. The reasons that democracy has not taken root in the Arab world must therefore lie elsewhere, perhaps in domestic economic structures, perhaps in relations with the international political and economic order, or perhaps in the determination of those in power to resist political change by whatever means are required.

Farooq Tanwir examines the implications of the fact that in October 2002, for the first time in Pakistan's history, a sizeable share of the population voted for religious parties. Many analysts interpret this as signaling the rise of a major fundamentalist religious movement. He suggests, that in large part, this phenomenon can be viewed as a protest vote, rebuking the major political parties' failure to provide solutions to Pakistan's poverty and misery. …

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