After Postmaterialism: An Essay on China, Russia and the United States: A Comment

  • Ronald Inglehart University of Michigan
Keywords: Political sociology, Values, Postmaterialism, China, Russia, United States


Brym’s article in the current issue of this journal is an interesting and well-written discussion of an important topic and it presents a substantial body of evidence, addressing a theoretically significant question. Unfortunately, Brym misinterprets the theory he seeks to refute. He implies that Inglehart’s theory of intergenerational value change predicts that a trend toward Postmaterialist values and Self-expression values will always occur, regardless of economic and social conditions— interpreting evidence of any move in the opposite direction as refuting the theory. In fact, Inglehart has, from the start, argued that the intergenerational shift toward Postmaterialist values and Self-expression values is driven by rising levels of existential security. If younger birth cohorts grow up under substantially higher levels of economic and physical security than their elders, this will produce a trend toward new values; and declining levels of existential security will have the opposite effect.
Note on Society/Réflexion sur la société