Why do we tend to think like this, act like that, or choose one thing rather than another? It would obviously be naive to suppose there was a single reason for our behaviour, but on the other hand it would be ridiculous not to recognize that our values are an extremely important factor.
But how can we define these values that influence us and ultimately shape the fundamental and often secret motives for our actions? This is clearly the first question raised by Pierre Bréchon and Jean-François Tchernia in their introduction to this special issue in which they explain what is involved in the surveys of European values that provide the substance of the subsequent articles.
Once it is recognized that these values are a driving force, obviously, it is interesting to examine how they have evolved and to do so using the results of surveys conducted regularly for almost two decades. Obviously, too, it is interesting to see how far these values are shared and whether the trends are converging or diverging, especially within Europe where, in addition to its common cultural background, efforts are being made both to deepen and extend the links.
In this introduction, the authors set out what they understand by the concept of "value", and how they aim to capture Europe's values on the basis of the series of surveys. They describe the main features of the surveys and their coverage, and highlight the usefulness of these investigations which are now carried out in 30 countries and repeated with the same questions at regular intervals, thus providing invaluable information that can lead to a better understanding of how our societies function.