Futuribles Journal n° 443

Institutions - Population - Société, modes de vie

Europe: Values Evolving, but Divisions Still as Wide as Ever


For more than 35 years Futuribles has taken an interest in how value systems evolve and in the study of their transformation, regularly reporting on the surveys carried out every 9-10 years in the framework of the European Values Study (EVS) and doing so in close collaboration with Pierre Bréchon. The last round of the EVS was carried out in 2017-2018 in 37 countries and, by comparing it with the 1990, 1999 and 2008 surveys, we are able to see and understand how values have developed over the long term on the European continent. The dossier which we open in this issue with Pierre Bréchon’s article focuses on these main lessons.

After reviewing the methodology of the EVS, Bréchon stresses the — still very marked — differences in values seen in the different geographical zones (Western Europe/Southern Europe/Eastern Europe, both within and outside the EU/Nordic countries), while stressing the essential distinction to be made between the trend toward individualization (desire for autonomy) and that toward individualism (the pursuit of one’s personal interest alone). He then examines the main long-term developments that can be detected, which include a great increase in individualization, particularly in Northern and Western Europe, and a relative decline in individualism (except in Eastern Europe). He also describes the major trends in terms of religious belief, adherence to democratic values, xenophobia etc. Lastly, going beyond cultural and religious variables, Bréchon highlights the importance of sociological variables in value differences, with the better-off generally showing a greater openness to others. Two further articles complete this dossier: an analysis by Gilles Ivaldi of the rise of authoritarian populism and an article by Raul Magni Berton focussing on the development of values of tolerance.

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