Welzel and critics

* all the articles have been published in Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, below are abstratcs

A Comment on the Index of “Self-Expression Values,” by Inglehart and Welzel
Eduard J. Bomhoff and Mary Man-Li Gu

Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel have made two strong claims for the index of “selfexpression
values” introduced in 1997 by Inglehart using responses from the World Values
Survey (WVS): first that these values are getting stronger worldwide and second that this is a
necessary condition for a flourishing democracy. In this research note, we document that the
shift to more emphasis on tolerance, trust, and post-materialism—principal components of
the self-expression index—is indeed visible in many countries, but not in East Asia. Also, the
combination of these components into one index is fine on average, but makes little sense for
the East Asian region. Many East Asians maintain some different attitudes toward work, family,
and social issues that would appear traditional and conservative by today’s Western standard
where such conservative values today are held typically by people who are less trusting and
more suspicious of democracy. By contrast, trust, measured in six different ways, as well as
post-materialism, appears compatible with these conservative work and family values in East
Asia. The claim that self-expression values as defined by Inglehart are a necessary condition for
a healthy democracy makes sense in many parts of the world, but not in East Asia.

The Myth of Asian Exceptionalism: Response to Bomhoff and Gu
Christian Welzel
In a series of contributions, Welzel describes modernization as human empowerment: a process
that emancipates people from external authority. Human empowerment theory (HET) posits
two sequential mechanisms. First, cognitive empowerment through rising levels of education and
knowledge leads to motivational empowerment, manifest in rising emancipative values. Second,
rising emancipative values nurture mass aspirations for liberal democracy, leading to more effective
democratic practices. Using World Values Survey (WVS) data from a dozen Asian societies,
Bomhoff and Gu claim that Asia is different because these mechanisms do not work among
Asian societies. Against these claims, this response shows that Bomhoff and Gu’s results are
inconclusive. Upon proper examination of WVS evidence, their conclusions turn actually into
the opposite: The emancipative logic of HET applies to Asia as much as it applies to the “West.”

East Asian Exceptionalism — Rejoinder
Eduard J. Bomhoff and Man-Li Gu
This short note calls for a more careful examination of value patterns in East Asia, focusing on
the applicability for that region of the Self-expression Index constructed by Welzel (2005). We
show that in East Asia, acceptance of homosexuality, a core component of the index, has a correlation
with the other components that is opposite to what we observe in the rest of the world.
Further analysis indicates that conservative attitudes toward homosexuality in East Asia have no
negative influence on undermining people’s aspirations for democracy. Such an anomaly provides
strong empirical evidence that the Self-Expression Index has limited cross-cultural validity.

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