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Ron Inglehart and Pippa Norris
is awarded the Johan Skytte Prize for their research on value change.
Speach to the 2011 PRIZE WINNERS Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart by Li Bennich-Björkman, Johan Skytte Chair
When Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart together write about the continuos importance played by religion in the world – as in their book Sacred and Secular – or when they draw conclusions about the causes, consequences and prospects of gender quality – as in their book Rising Tide, or together address the growing concerns regarding information technology and media´s influence on the formation of human values and beliefs – which they do in Cosmopolitan Communications – they do so basing their analyses on large part of the world´s populations.
In the joint work of Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, which today is being rewarded, it is possible to recognise a structure of reasoning that is already apparent in Inglehart´s early work, namely how structural conditions – material well-being or poverty, growing up under safe conditions or with insecurity as a determining factor – tend to shape value patterns in a consistent and coherent manner.
When political scientists began to notice in the mid 90s that membership in political parties were declining, that traditional forms of political participation were less attractive than before, and that the confidence in political institutions and authorities was falling, Ronald Inglehart already had an answer to why. For some decades, as Europe had grown more economically prosperous, the welfare state had reduced inequality and the threat of War diminished, there had as a consequence occurred a value shift among the generations coming of age. Growing up under more secure and affluent conditions, and with higher educational standards, the post-war generations valued themselves as more competent and informed, with more self-expressive concerns, they prioritized more than earlier generations issues of a non-material kind such as environment, equality, human rights, and respect for social and sexual diversity. If such a value shift actually was occurring, as Ronald Inglehart hypothesized in an almost prophetic manner already in the book The Silent Revolution (1977), it will have consequences for political life, for the issues that are brought up at the political agenda and for the forms of participation. Much of these predictions have turned out to be true.
As they both have continued together in the most fruitful and creative collaboration to further develop and elaborate on the relations between structural conditions and cultural stability and change, they have moved into emphasizing the broader concept of human security as a key to social tolerance, and trust.
Good research needs good material and data. Research about the values, beliefs and orientations of citizens, of ordinary men and women, - where today´s prize winners are the world leading authorities - rests on the possibility to assemble as well as analyse empirical data on the mass level. When the political scientists Gabriel Almond and Sidney Verba in 1963 published their pioneering work on The Civic Culture, they made their argument based on surveys conducted in five countries. It took them years of hard work to assemble and then analyse this material. Since then, there has been no less than a revolution taking place in the field of research concerned with culture, the mental maps of ordinary men and women. The major actors behind this revolution are spelled Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris. Countless political scientists and sociologists, but also anthropologists, theologists, and psychologists benefit today from the existence of the World Value Surveys data base, that has grown from a European based survey study in the early 1980s to today covering values of a large part of the world´s populations in Latin America, Asia, Africa, China, India and the Arab world. Not only is World Value Surveys unique in its global outreach, for its breadth in the values covered from political to religious, to values about personal life and existential issues, but also for the fact that it is now being conducted for the sixth time, making it unique in also enabling dynamic analyses of value change and continuity.
Pippa Norris and Ronald Inglehart are empirically oriented researchers who never become non-theoretical. Through the extensive empirical possibilities that World Value Surveys has generated, they can explore new hypotheses, test old theories, explain patterns of value change and make cross-cultural comparisons. Their focus is always on citizens rather than on institutions or elites, and in that way their research is really founded in a concern and respect for democracy as such – because in all democracies, however flawed or malfunctioning they may be, citizens and their values and behaviour do matter.
Although Norris and Inglehart work with “grand” pictures, they are not researchers who disregard the importance of local contexts for the way human beings think and behave. The impact of the large structural elements of economic prosperity, war, or welfare, they underline, are filtered through specific historical experiences and cultural orientations – not least religious ones. However, the variation that as a result can occur is relatively predictable and within certain frames. In this way, their research becomes a fascinating combination of a portion of determinism a la Marx and the nuanced contextualism of Weber.
This year we have for the first time two prize winners and a joint prize for outstanding collaborative work. And even if both Pippa and Ronald are working in American universities – that still are the best in the world - Pippa also gives a European touch to the prize, being of British origin and having a dual citizenship. And in this dinner in their honour we also have, for the first time, a surplus of women – indicating a “rising tide” in political science which probably will have far-reaching consequences.
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