Roy D’Andrade on ‘value’


Self portrait by Albrecht Durer (1491)


I think Roy could have done with a whole bunch of Strauss & Quinn in his approach and analysis but, none-the-less, his 2008 publication ‘A Study of Personal and Cultural Values’ is still an interesting and engaging read. The following excerpts are from the concluding chapter:


‘The ideas with which this book finishes are different from the ideas that it started with. It now seems large differences in personal values across societies do not exist. There are some differences in personal values between societies, but there is close to overwhelming evidence that these differences are small. The variation within a society is many times larger than the variation between societies in personal values.


This does not mean that societies are all the same. First, as has been pointed out a number of times, there are large differences between societies in ‘what-counts-as-what’. The same value can be instantiated in very different ways. The canonical example is that the practices thought to give toddlers independence in a Japanese preschool are different from the practices thought to give toddlers independence in an American preschool. There are also, it is clear, great differences in institutionalized values. The largest value differences seem to be between roles within a society, but to the degree that the same institutionalized values are found in a variety of institutions, whole societies can vary greatly with respect to institutionalized values, as exemplified by the value of purity in India.


[ . . . . ]


Perhaps the fact that cultures do not vary much in personal values will be taken by social scientists to indicate that there is little sense in bothering to study personal values on the group level. This conclusion would be a mistake because life satisfactions and physical health are affected by the fit between personal values and institutionalized values in important life-world institutions such as work and family (Rohan 2000, Meglino and Ravlin 1998).


Also, differences between personal values and institutionalized values can give rise to social conflict. Of course, given sufficient external power applied to keep the social standards in place, as in slavery or in totalitarian regimes, the distress caused by lack of fit can be ignored. That is, until the day comes when it cannot be ignored’ (Roy D’Andrade 2008, pp. 138-139).




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Filed under Anthropological Awesome, Anthropology

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