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Mirror Images? Three Analyses of Values in England and the United States

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image of International Journal of Comparative Sociology
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In his studies of cultural evolution, Talcott Parsons suggested that, in the modern era, core Western values were essentially unified and stable. This was most particularly the case when considering England and the United States, two societies from the same cultural "stock." But the evidence Parsons used to substantiate his claims was selective and the empirical literature comparing values in England and the United States disagrees as to whether value similarities or differences are predominant. Indeed, some of that literature suggests that value comparisons can take place on at least two different levels, allowing the possibility of simultaneous diversity within unity. Consequently, hypotheses concerning the (1) unity, (2) diversity, and (3) stability of value patterns in these two countries are explored using three distinct cross-national data sets-interviews with a cross-section of adults in two matched urban settings, questionnaire surveys administered to students at colleges and universities, and a content analysis of mass-circulated magazines and counterculture literature sampled in time periods from 1937 to 1979. Results provide strong support for all three hypotheses and suggest that the empirical variation of values is much more complex than earlier theory supposed.


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