Changes in Values in Europe: Increasing Individualization and Decreasing Individualism, with some East-West Divides


This article is published in Futuribles journal no.456, septembre-octobre 2023

For more than 40 years, the European Values Study (EVS) has carried out very in-depth surveys at regular intervals (9-10 years) in more than 30 European countries to study the evolution of value systems. Futuribles has reported on these at each new wave, as we recalled in 2021 when Pierre Bréchon unveiled the first findings of the last wave (carried out in 2017).

On the publication of the work presenting the trends and results of the 2017 wave, Pierre Bréchon delves deeper into the question, stressing particularly the changes observed in terms of individualization (the desire for autonomy) and individualism (the pursuit of one’s strict personal self-interest) in different areas of life. For example, the trend toward individualization is continuing, particularly in the family sphere and political behaviour, whereas individualism is tending to regress (with altruism and solidarity reinforcing each other). But these developments are very specific to Northern, Western — and even Southern — Europe. Eastern Europe and Russia display, by contrast, a lower degree of individualization and a distinctly more marked individualism. Here Pierre Bréchon runs through the characteristics of the evolution by generation, by level of religiosity, and for the various survey ‘waves’ and the geographical areas studied. He offers a cross-typology approach to individualism and individualization, which he then cross-compares with a number of social, demographic and political variables, providing new interpretations and insights for these two dimensions. If reduced individualism in large parts of Europe gives cause for optimism about social cohesion, the wide cultural divides still persisting between East and West somewhat diminish the prospects for a genuine convergence of values on the European continent in the broad sense — i.e. from the Atlantic to Russia.

#Europe #Société et individu #Sociologie #Système de valeurs