‘There’s a Less War-Like Culture Evolving’
Ronald Inglehart, Academic Supervisor at the HSE Laboratory of Comparative Social Research in St. Petersburg, has been affiliated with the HSE for several years now. He shared some of his impressions of the XV April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development and findings of the 4th LCSR International Workshop, which was part of the event.
— This is not the first time you’re participating in the April Conference…
— I have been affiliated with the Higher School of Economics since 2010. I’ve been working at the Laboratory of Comparative Social Research together with Eduard Ponarin and my other colleagues, so I come to Russia regularly. I have extremely good friends here. I just ran into a friend who I didn’t even know was here – she is from St. Petersburg, but she is here for this big important conference, and we ran into each other and had a very nice chat. So, I enjoy coming to Russia, I’ve learned a lot both in the research that the lab does, and in my personal observation of what life in Russia is like.
— And how has the HSE changed over these four years?
— Tremendously! It’s a very dynamic organization that is expanding. In the four years I’ve been affiliated with it, it’s grown a lot, it has hired a lot of new people, it has got more students, it is expanding in a lot of ways. My own laboratory has grown in the quality of the students. The goal was to develop a new generation of world-class social scientists in Russia. And luckily I was working with Eduard Ponarin, who managed to recruit 40 or 50 really good people from all over Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, and Kazakhstan. I’ve seen that the level of the work they’re doing has developed upward from our first meeting to our current workshop: in addition to this global conference, the 4th LCSR International Workshop 'Social and Cultural Changes in Cross-National Perspective: Values and Modernization' is taking place now. And the quality of papers has improved quite dramatically.
— What have you discussed at the conference and in the workshop?
— We are bringing together people from all over the world – from Israel, Germany, England and Jordan. The event has been able to draw the interest of a wide number of people in addition to a lot of Russians. That’s really nice to see, and the quality of the presentations is really good. For example, we had a discussion of evolving attitudes towards gays and lesbians (P. Schmidt, University of Giessen, ‘Human values, legal regulation, and approval of homosexuality in Europe: A cross-country comparison’) and we’ve heard a very sophisticated analysis of why it is happening. There is a long-term positive shift in tolerance to gays and lesbians – that’s clear. But does this change reflect permissive legislation or has the legislation emerged in response to acultural change? I would argue that mainly people’s attitudes have changed over recent decades, which has led to influences that changed the laws. In the last 13 years the very first same-sex marriage was legalized in the Netherlands, and now there are at least a dozen other countries, and the United States is moving in that direction right now: some states legalize it, some don’t. This very interesting change is an example of things that we have been studying, complicated processes that are transforming society.
I gave a presentation this morning on ‘Cultural Change and the Decline of Violence: Economic Development and the Long Peace’. This is another trend I am working on – The World Values Survey. We’ve had surveys since 1981 to the present, and we find declining willingness to fight in nearly all countries. We have long time series for 49 countries, and 46 of them show growing public attitudes less willing to fight for their country, including in Russia. And I think this is part of a long peace. There’s a less war-like culture evolving. We can see clearly that attitudes are changing. What’s causing it is much more complicated, and we’ve been discussing that.
We also talked about the possible impact of the annexation of Crimea, and although this is threatening, I think it will not end the long peace. If fact, what’s interesting is that though most countries condemned it, no one even discussed a military response. It is something that is far from the minds of Western leaders these days. And even among the hawks in the United States, not even they were discussing military intervention. I think this was a wise step. And it’s a hopeful trend.
— What are your plans at the Laboratory of Comparative Social Research?
— I’ll come back in late May and through June I’ll be in St.Petersburg. And then we’ll have the 4th LCSR Summer School on Categorical Data Analysis, where we’ll continue to attract young social scientists. They’ll study advanced techniques of analyzing data and also they’ll present papers and projects. I will be there and I will be giving lectures about my revised theory of modernization, but the main activity will be with the young social scientists. It’s a long-term process. You don’t train a good social scientist in one year, and this is one of the reasons the Laboratory has been going on for some time now. It takes, realistically, several years at least, and I think we’re getting there.