Scott Bristol's 'Values at Hand'.

Culture and Change

Summary. Different sets of values define a group's world-view, culture, or sub-culture. A culture's system of meaning is a function of interrelationships of a larger set of values called their Field of Meaning, not just their priority values (top 9). The dynamics of cultural change involve people as change agents. To the degree that people with obscure values become assimilated into a culture, their very membership makes these obscure values accessible as tangential values. Eventually tangential values may be reconciled and integrated thus transforming the majority culture. 

Study of 5 Cultures 

Florence Kluckhohn and Fred Strodtbeck in the late 1950s completed a significant study in cultural anthropology. They measured and compared four value orientations of 20 people from five different communities in Southwestern United States: a Spanish American village, a Navaho Indian band, a Zuni pueblo, a Mormon village, and a community of Texas homesteaders.

"The view advanced here is that variation in value orientations is the most important type of cultural variation and is, therefore, the central feature of the structure of culture. This is to say that the "systems of meaning" of a society, its ethos, is more realistically and adequately derived form an analysis of the dynamic interrelationships of the variations in its value orientations than it is from a study of only the dominant values" (Kluckhohn & Strodtbeck,1961, p.28).

By Life Journey Map® standards, 4 value orientations is far from a full domain of values. But, the significance of this research is that identifies three key relationships between values and culture.

Using these relationships and their subsequent research, more detailed rules summarizing the dynamics of culture and change can be discerned. 

Dynamics of Culture and Change

Keep in mind that the Life Journey Map® utilizes a Full Domain of Values = 130 different values, and a Field of Meaning = 34 different values. 

For arguments sake, in this example, let a full domain of values= (A, B, C,... Z) and let a Field of Meaning be defined by 6 different values*.

Three dynamics of difference exist:

1. Majority Culture

The Majority Culture approaches change- values re-orientation, as a re-prioritization of its set of Field of Meaning* values as described below. The circular nature of values supports this closed system dynamic. Assume that sequence from left to right is order of rank or priority.

2. Majority-Minority Culture

The Majority-Minority Culture engages in three levels of change: assimilation, reconciliation, and integration. 

a)     Assimilation involves the minority member:

People in this situation have a foot in each culture. They can feel pulled in two directions and are potential change agents. They embody a set of values, in addition to the majority values, that are presently obscure to the majority. To the degree they can assimilate as members of the majority these obscure values become Tangential Values and are potentially more assessable. 

Note that there is no work here on the part of the majority culture to share meaning with the minority culture. This level of change is at the individual level.

b)    Reconciliation involves the majority group:

Note this level of change is at the group level and both majority and minority members have to adjust to achieve share meaning.

c)    Integration involves the re-prioritization of the reconciled Field of Meaning such that the new culture has a new holistic identity of it own.

This is a complex level of group change and transformation.

3. Alternative Culture

Pluralism allows for the co-existence of mutually exclusive fields of meaning, or Obscure Values, within a lager sufficiently diverse Field of Meaning that is mutually tolerant of these different variations in values orientation. 

This relationship involves no individual or group level change. This demands a more complex cultural Field of Meaning to sustain this dynamic tension. 

Copyright by Scott Bristol, 2002-2005