SOCIAL VALUES AND PATTERNS OF LIVING
The degree to which there exists a traditional set of values common to Black Africans and distinct from European values is a matter of much discussion and debate today among African intellectuals and politicians, including those of the Ivory Coast. The debate centers around the concept of "negritude." Sometimes it is asserted that African societies are less materialistic than European societies, that the spiritual factor is never missing in African social judgments. To some extent, this is true of African societies in that, insofar as they were traditional, religious and secular authority and values were deeply intermingled. Westernization and modernization are secularizing it, making men more conscious of material considerations, and placing a higher premium on the search for efficiency and effectiveness.
It is also asserted that the values of Black Africa are less individualistic, that is, more geared to the maintenance of the family and community. Individualism tends to be a pejorative word, even for many modern African elites, since for them it refers to a primary concern for the individual's rather than the society's needs and aspirations.
Within the broad framework of traditionalism, however, large differences are possible and indeed exist. Various ethnic groups in the Ivory Coast have different value systems which vary not only in their content but in their adaptability and in the pressures that have been placed upon them to change. Customs have changed in recent times and, in fact, are so constantly changing that the word "custom" itself has come to mean three quite different things: ancient rules, daily practice, the decisions of the customary tribunal. The describers of custom do not always make clear, nor are they always clear themselves, which of these meanings they are employing. Often, recently acquired values are seen as old traditions.
Despite these confusions and the lack of good data, the social values and patterns of living of the various ethnic groups of the Ivory Coast and the emerging modern patterns can be described to a limited degree. The Agni--an Akan group--who have been in contact with Europeans the longest and are better known than most of the other peoples, best exemplify the social changes now occurring in the Ivory Coast, and other ethnic groups are often described by comparison with them (see ch. 4, Ethnic Groups and Languages).