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Explaining Support for Animal Rights: A Comparison of Two Recent Approaches to Humans, Nonhuman Animals, and Postmodernity

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Questions on "animal rights" in a cross-national survey conducted in 1993 provide an opportunity to compare the applicability to this issue of two theories of the socio-political changes summed up in "postmodernity": Inglehart's (1997) thesis of "postmaterialist values" and Franklin's (1999) synthesis of theories of late modernity. Although Inglehart seems not to have addressed human-nonhuman animal relations, it is reasonable to apply his theory of changing values under conditions of "existential security" to "animal rights." Inglehart's postmaterialism thesis argues that new values emerged within specific groups because of the achievement of material security. Although emphasizing human needs, they shift the agenda toward a series of lifestyle choices that favor extending lifestyle choices, rights, and environmental considerations. Franklin's account of nonhuman animals and modern cultures stresses a generalized "ontological insecurity." Under postmodern conditions, changes to core aspects of social and cultural life are both fragile and fugitive. As neighborhood, community,family,and friendship relations lose their normative and enduring qualities, companion animals increasingly are drawn in to those formerly exclusive human emotional spaces.With a method used by Inglehart and a focus in countries where his postmaterialist effects should be most evident, this study derives and tests different expectations from the theories, then tests them against data from a survey supporting Inglehart's theory. His theory is not well supported. We conclude that its own anthropocentrism limits it and that the allowance for hybrids of nature-culture in Franklin's account offers more promise for a social theory of animal rights in changing times.


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