East Asia Remains Different: A Comment on the Index of 'Self-Expression Values' by Inglehart and Welzel

Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology (2012) 43: 373-383.

29 Pages Posted: 5 Sep 2011 Last revised: 28 Nov 2012

See all articles by Eduard J. Bomhoff

Eduard J. Bomhoff

Monash University Malaysia campus

Man-Li Gu

Taylor's University

Date Written: September 5, 2011


Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel have made two strong claims for the index of “self-expression values” introduced in 1997 by Inglehart using responses from the World Values Survey (WVS): first that these values are getting stronger worldwide and second that this is a necessary condition for a flourishing democracy. In this research note we document that the shift to more emphasis on tolerance, trust and post-materialism – principal components of the self-expression index – is indeed visible in many countries, but not in East Asia. Also, the combination of these components into one index is fine on average, but makes little sense for the East Asian region. Many East Asians maintain some different attitudes towards work, family and social issues that would appear traditional and conservative by today’s Western standard where such conservative values today are held typically by people who are less trusting and more suspicious of democracy. By contrast, trust, measured in six different ways, as well as post-materialism, appears compatible with these conservative work and family values in East Asia. The claim that self-expression values as defined by Inglehart are a necessary condition for a healthy democracy makes sense in many parts of the world, but not in East Asia.

Keywords: self-expression index, Inglehart, World Values Survey, East Asian culture

JEL Classification: P51, Z10, F02, J71

Suggested Citation

Bomhoff, Eduard J. and Gu, Man-Li, East Asia Remains Different: A Comment on the Index of 'Self-Expression Values' by Inglehart and Welzel (September 5, 2011). Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology (2012) 43: 373-383., Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1922681 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1922681

Eduard J. Bomhoff (Contact Author)

Monash University Malaysia campus ( email )

Jalan Lagoon Selatan
Kuala Lumpur, Selangor 46150

Man-Li Gu

Taylor's University ( email )

Jalan Taylor's
Kuala Lumpur, 47500

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