The Leading Edge of Cultural Change
This part of the website is about the appearance of Cultural Creatives as the leading edge of new developments in American culture, one that is also happening in European and Japanese life. In our book, The Cultural Creatives, we described the research up to 1999, told personal stories of Cultural Creatives, and traced their historical path of development as being due to the effects of massive new information about the world and of the new social movements, both since the 1950s.
Ten years later, we can see that it shows a major development in our civilization: An important new subculture is emerging in the U.S., Europe, and Japan, and they are carriers of a whole new way of life. In the book, and on this website, we say to Cultural Creatives: "You are not alone. You have lots of company on ways to making a better future." That’s important because most of them believe they are pretty much alone. Our hope is that once they know they’re not alone, they’ll be more willing to speak out about the creative new ventures they’re already involved in. They need to speak the joy, juiciness and richness of creating new solutions that can take us toward the kind of world we long for. Maybe they’ll share their ideas and visions of the future, and they’ll create new places and occasions to meet each other. This is already happening.
The Cultural Creatives care deeply about ecology and saving the planet, about relationships, peace, social justice, and about authenticity, self actualization, spirituality and self-expression. Contrary to media stereotypes about being either for personal development or activism, they are both inner-directed and socially concerned: they’re activists, volunteers and contributors to good causes more than other Americans.
However, because they’ve been so invisible in American life, Cultural Creatives themselves are astonished to find out how many share both their values and their way of life. Once they realize their numbers, their impact on American life promises to be enormous, shaping a new agenda for the twenty-first century. Their problem is that most of them never see the face of their subculture in the mainstream media, and that when they go to work, they have to check their values at the door. So, they rationally conclude, "It's just me and a few of my friends."
Cultural Creatives need to be contrasted to Traditionals and Moderns, because they often describe themselves as ‘bridge people’ between the other two contending cultures who are busy having a culture war. They are trying to make a cultural synthesis, and also transcend the others.
Americans who see themselves as ‘Traditional’ actually favor a 19th century worldview and values, nothing more ancient than that, and they are largely in reaction against the culture of today’s world, usually from a rural, small town or religiously conservative stance. This includes a large proportion of working class and elderly people. In the US context, this nostalgia for a small town past and strong churches is based on a mythic image of an America that never existed in history. Since about 1950, Traditionals seem to have shrunk from roughly 50% of the US adults to roughly 25%, but even those have split into traditional conservatives (15%) and greens with strong traditional leanings (10%). Despite all the triumphalist rhetoric of the Religious Right in the US, their base population is dying off, and not being replaced by a younger generation. Their hatred partly reflects their fear of being on the losing side of history. This, of course, casts doubt on many of their preachers' and far-right politicians' claims.
Most recent Hispanic migrants to the US are also quite traditional, reflecting Latin American rural culture, but are typically not surveyed because of their poor English and lack of acculturation to American ways; yet they are there in the background, clouding all our survey estimates.
‘Moderns’ tend to see the world through a filter of personal success and financial gain, with an acceptance of ‘things as they are’ in big cities, big organizations, the latest technologies, mass media, and a ‘modern’ life rewarded by material consumption. Moderns cover the gamut from politically progressive to conservative. It’s important that despite all the claims of American media, corporations and governments, there seems never to have been a time when the population was more than half Moderns! The official culture of the US has two kinds of dissenters from Modern values: Traditionals as the cultural laggards, and Cultural Creatives as the cultural vanguard. From the 1950s to 2000 it appears that Moderns were just about half the US adult population. Since about 1950, Moderns continued to recruit the more ambitious, successful Traditionals, but after the 1960s Moderns started losing many of their own children to the Cultural Creatives. Now as Cultural Creatives continue to draw people, Moderns are down to about 40% of US adults. The 20th century was the Moderns’ century, but now that culture is breaking down as it fails to solve the problems that its past successes left unsolved in their wake, especially the global climate crisis and ecological devastation that has accompanied it.
About 10% of the US is now ‘In Transition’ to being Cultural Creatives—largely under the threat of the growing climate crisis—accepting values they once rejected, yet still clinging to traditional values. They are heavily working class men who are splitting off from the Traditional culture. Compared to surveys 10-15 years ago, there is a “hole” in the Traditionals’ numbers, values and demographics by their departure. The US has a history of working class conservatism about social and religious values, combined with participation in the modern economy. They have now taken on green values, and a desire for green-collar jobs in new clean-green industries to replace their vanishing jobs in manufacturing. The deep recession started much earlier for them, over 2005 to 2007, and that was the last straw that broke the camel’s back in resisting change. Suddenly they switched in the 2008 election from supporting militaristic social and religious conservatives in politics to supporting Obama’s practical action for green economic development to get out of the recession. They are cross-pressured politically, wanting to hold both traditional values and post-modern views. They are probably lost to the Republican party for a generation. This is precisely what one might expect in a time of rapid cultural change.
Lots of books and websites make claims about social transformation. This description is based on analyzing immense amounts of survey research, over 100,000 people surveyed over 22 years, about 500 focus groups, 60 depth interviews. Yes, the social transformation is occurring, and no, it's not much like you see in the mainstream media. We'll say why in the interviews below.
Cultural Creatives are a population identified using survey research to measure and classify their values, worldviews and lifestyles. In national surveys in the United States, Western Europe and Japan, they are now about 35% of each country's population, plus or minus 2%.
A steadily growing population:
- In 1995, Cultural Creatives were 23.6% of the US adult population, or 44 million adults.
- In 1999, Cultural Creatives were 26% of US adult population, or 50 million adults.
- In 2008, Cultural Creatives were 34.9% of US adult population, or 80 million adults
- [US Adults 18+ years in 2008 = approximately 230 million]
- 175% growth in 13 years is a little over a 3% per year constant annual population growth rate.
- However we have to factor in that the US adult population is growing too. So, the Cultural Creatives’ share of US population went from 23.6% to 33.6%. That is a 42.4% increase in share—about a 2.5% annual growth rate as an increasing share of the US population.
The major influence on their growth has been that new values and worldviews grew out of their involvement in all the new social movements, from civil rights, to women’s, to social justice, to environmental, to concerns for hunger and third world peoples, to new spiritualities and psychotherapies, to bio-foods, and finally to ecology and the growing climate crisis of the planet. The other major influence on their growth has been the growing information saturation of the world since the 1950s. In fact the Cultural Creatives are simply the best informed people. They take in more of every kind of information through all the media, and are more discriminating about it as a result. Many successfully blend their personal experience with new views about how the world works, and why—their new values and commitments have rather organically grown out of their synthesis of all the information. By contrast, Traditionals tend to fend off new information that Cultural Creatives absorb, while Moderns leave media information quite fragmented and undigested that Cultural Creatives are determined to make sense of. Cultural Creatives are also mainstays of middle class support for the arts and good causes in America, for they are America’s practical idealists.
Their most important values include: ecological sustainability and concern for the planet (not just environmentalism); liking what is foreign and exotic in other cultures; what are often called ‘women’s issues’ by politicians and the media (i.e., concern about the condition of women and children both at home and around the world, concern for better health care and education, desire to rebuild neighborhoods and community, desire to improve caring relationships and family life); social conscience, a demand for authenticity in social life and a guarded social optimism; and giving importance to altruism, self-actualization and spirituality as a single complex of values.
The values research reported here covers a period from 1986 to 2008. This kind of survey works well because values are excellent predictors of what people actually want to do with their lives, what their lifestyle is and what they want to buy, what good causes they support, how they vote, and what messages to them are most believable. What we found very early on was that the values that predict well do not depend on personal psychology, but rather that they differ by three subcultures: Traditional, Modern and Trans-Modern. The latter are the Cultural Creative population, and this was the first research to show that ecology values and spiritual-psychological values made a difference to people’s lifestyles, and to their stance as voters. Because they are cultural, the values we measured are slow to change, unlike attitudes and opinions, and the business cycle has very little effect on them (though it affects people's ability to pay for what they want).
The survey data is designed for analysis into five dimensions, for clustering people into similar profiles of values, worldviews and lifestyle: Two key dimensions of values are more important to Cultural Creatives than to others: 1) having green and socially responsible values, and 2) personal development values, including spirituality and new lifestyles. The other two values dimensions are more important to the rest of the population: 3) a combination of personal success and financial materialism, and 4) a combination of social and religious conservatism. These four dimensions are independent of each other, so every person can be on the positive or negative ends of each different dimension. The fifth dimension is social class, or socio-economic status. Social class is important not only for people’s ability to live well or not, but their ability to take in information about a changing world; it shapes friendship networks that affect how they form their worldview; and it strongly affects their life chances and the risks they are exposed to.
Cultural Creatives cover a very wide range of social class positions from working class to the elite. They may be middle class on average, but the range is so wide that it is almost meaningless to describe them in terms of occupation, education or income. The key identifiers are values, worldview and lifestyle, not demographics. People with identical values can be of very different social classes, and people of the same social class can live in totally different cultural worlds.
Not a U Tube video, but moving pix:
+ good long interview: