Ronald Inglehart’s Comment on “After Postmaterialism”: A Reply


  • Robert Brym University of Toronto



Political sociology, Values, Postmaterialism, China, Russia, United States


Professor Inglehart and I are involved in a foreground/background dispute. We see the same black-and-white image (Figure 1) but interpret it differently. Inglehart’s foreground is white, leading to him to conclude that the image portrays two faces. My foreground is black, leading me to conclude that the image portrays a goblet. His foreground (my background) consists of the intergenerational causes of value change, notably socialization in relatively peaceful and prosperous times and the concomitant proliferation of higher-status occupations. My foreground (his background) consists of geopolitical rivalry and growing income inequality, forces that push the citizens of today’s Great Powers away from postmaterialism and into the camp of the meaner angels of our nature. True, we can see each other’s foreground — I adduce data showing that young Chinese citizens are more postmaterialistic than their elder compatriots; Inglehart admits that growing geopolitical rivalries and income inequality have stymied Russia’s advance to postmaterialism — but we each insist that our foreground is the main story.

Author Biography

Robert Brym, University of Toronto

Robert Brym, FRSA, is SD Clark Professor of Sociology in the Department of Sociology at the University of Toronto






Note on Society/Réflexion sur la société