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In Event: Democracy Facing the Challenges of the 21st Century: New Evidence from Comparative Survey Research
Why is self-expression increasing in Latin America? The most accepted theory suggests that the socio-economic development experienced since the 1960’s created existential conditions favorable to the emergence of post-materialist and self-expression values. We argue that this increase can also be explained by a convergence of mass-elite values in Latin America. This hypothesis is based on the idea that part of population sought to adopt attitudes and values predominant among those with higher income and educational levels, mainly due to the existence of two processes: i) the sharp expansion in the audience of mass communication tools during the 1980’s and 1990’s., followed by Internet; and ii) the power of a relatively small political and economic elite.
Using data from the World Values Survey, we have observed that GDP per capita and satisfaction with the financial situation of the household are indeed the main predictors of self-expression and post-materialism in most countries, especially among high-income ones. However, an index of social globalization that comprises indicators such as telephone traffic, tourism, number of internet users is a relevant factor to explain the incidence of self-expression in Latin America. These results provide a better understanding of the interaction between culture and socio-economic development, supporting the post-materialist/self-expression theory but challenging the idea of a uniform and evolutionary value change.
This paper is divided in three parts: 1) a discussion of the concept of post-materialism and self-expression analyzing empirical evidences in different countries over the last five decades; 2) presentation of the main hypothesis to explain the increasing level of self-expression in the world, and a discussion of an alternative hypothesis for Latin American countries; and 3) the analysis conducted to test these hypotheses and provide a discussion on the main results.
Keywords: self-expression, values, convergence, globalization, World Values Survey