In This Review

Cultural Evolution: People’s Motivations Are Changing, and Reshaping the World
Cultural Evolution: People’s Motivations Are Changing, and Reshaping the World
By Ronald F. Inglehart
Cambridge University Press, 2018, 288 pp
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Inglehart is one of the last great postwar exponents of modernization theory, which sees economic development as leading to shifts in society toward liberal democracy. Modernization theory has gone in and out of fashion over the years, as critics have questioned its Western biases and its vision of universal pathways of development. Yet in previous work using data from the World Values Survey, Inglehart has identified systematic connections between long-term economic changes and shifts in attitudes on gender equality, religion, and democratic values. In this book, Inglehart offers a restatement of modernization theory, focusing on the links between economic and physical security and tolerance of outsiders and openness to new ideas. For most of history, people lived under the constant threat of violence and disease, leading societies to emphasize solidarity with fellow members, conformity to group norms, and suspicion of outsiders. Inglehart argues that in the second half of the twentieth century, industrialization, urbanization, and mass literacy systematically reduced the “existential insecurity” of vast numbers of people, making modern societies more open and tolerant. Inglehart claims that these more liberal societies generated a surge in democratization in the 1990s. Now, he sees a creeping return of economic insecurity in the rich world, which is opening the door to intolerance and authoritarianism.