One of the dangers of a developmental approach is that it appears hierarchical and implies that the “top” is the best. A developmental approach to the analysis of social change assumes that change proceeds in a consistent direction over time. The New Dimensions of Consumer Life Model in ConsumerShift assumes a developmental approach, that is, that values are changing in a consistent direction over time. The trajectory suggested in an earlier post was from traditional to modern to postmodern to integral. So, many will assume that integral is the best because it’s at the top. Some will be upset that their value set is not at the top. Comments like “How dare you suggest that traditional values are somehow lesser” emerge.
So let’s set the record straight: I’m not saying that Integral values are best, or that postmodern values are better than modern values, or that modern values are better than traditional values. The “best” values are those most appropriate to the context in which one finds oneself. Don Beck and Spiral Dynamics colleagues talk about the fit with “life conditions.” If one finds oneself in life conditions that suggest a need for following the rules, then traditional values fit. If one finds oneself in competitive life conditions, then modern values are the best fit. And so on.
The big picture idea is that life conditions have been changing and values have simply been changing along with them. As economic development has taken place, and life conditions have changed, values have simply changed along with them. Traditional values have long been the most prevalent set. It was not until the Industrial Revolution that a need for modern values emerged. The new life conditions of the Industrial Revolution created a need for values that, if you will, valued achievement and growth. The values are not totally reactive to life conditions– they to some degree help those new conditions emerge (a kind of chicken-and-egg deal).
Similarly, postmodern values emerged in affluent countries where people began to question the achievement and growth orientation of modern societies and values. Affluence for large numbers of people was a new life condition that triggered a need for new values.
Finally, integral values are just beginning to emerge to fill a void left by the relativism of postmodern values. The extremes of postmodern values, where everything is relative and nothing is better , creates the political correctness that slows moving forward. Some would say that Integral values are emerging in response to a need to “save the planet.” I will neither confirm nor deny. I think it best to put forth the ideas and let the readers draw their own conclusions. Andy Hines