4th LSCR International Workshop. Day 5
Tatian Stepanenko reviewed LCSR workshop's plenary lectures
The plenary session of the 4th LCSR International Workshop organized in the framework of the XV April International Academic Conference on Economic and Social Development became the culmination of the event. Tatiana Stepanenko highlighted the key lectures delivered during the plenary session.
Plenary session was focused on the issues of cultural change and modernization. Ronald Inglehart (scientific supervisor of LCSR HSE, professor at the University of Michigan) opened the plenary session by a report on global evolution of cultural norms. He stressed that such phenomena as gender equality, divorce, abortion and homosexuality are considered acceptable in many societies now – but the attitude to these practices was quite different in the middle of the XX century. He supposed the growth of tolerance to behavior norms that were regarded as the unacceptable deviation and were prohibited by law often in half of century ago, was caused largely by the objective socioeconomic processes. The development of medicine and technology has allowed reducing infant mortality and increasing life expectancy. Furthermore, a constant economic growth has improved living conditions of the population in the most countries of the world. An unprecedented level of economic and physical security was a reason why the societies of the developed and (to less extent) of the developing world became more tolerant and supportive of cultural pluralism. Professor Inglehart had shown the results of statistical calculations based on the «World Values Survey» megaproject collecting people’s attitudes in the most countries of the world for more than 30 years (since 1981).
The epigraph of Christian Welzel’ presentation (Professor of Leuphana University, Germany, and LCSR HSE) became the famous anti-war slogan «Make love, not war». Professor Welzel focused on the evolution of attitudes related to violence. Using the «World Values Survey» data he showed that the people's willingness to sacrifice their lives during the war is becoming more and more rare in recent decades almost all over the world. The researcher explains this phenomenon basing on his evolutionary theory (Evolutionary Emancipation Theory - EET), that was elaborated in his recent book “Freedom Rising”, and concluded the human life becomes more valuable with the improvement of living conditions and the growth of existential security in the society. It begins to be perceived as a source of opportunities to thrive, not threats to suffer (as in many traditional societies). People come to understanding that happiness can be achieved not only in heaven, but in this life. That is why modern democracies are very unwilling to fight as it becomes more are more complicated to convince people to sacrifice themselves or kill other people in war for the sake of obscure purposes in the distant parts of the world .
Then Eduard Ponarin (Director of LCSR) delivered a report on happiness in Russia using the results of the project carried out with Ronald Inglehart, Roberto Foa and Christian Welzel. They studied changes of values and subjective well-being of Russian citizens in the post-Soviet period. They argue that in 1981 subjective well-being of the Russian population was comparable with the other European countries, but in the 1990s a sharp fall happened. The structure of values that Russians have did not remain static one over the last twenty years; it is very sensitive to economic changes. The crises of the early 1990s, 1999, and 2008 caused a rapid decline in subjective well-being and the subsequent shift towards survival values, and then, as the economic situation improved, it began a slow recovery interrupted by another crisis. The speaker also highlighted the problems of generational (cohort) differences in the structure of values and the level of subjective well-being. As in the other world, the happiest age group in Russia is the youth. The Russian elderly report incomparably low levels of subjective well-being. Professor Ponarin noted that this anomaly was caused by a significant decrease in the standard of living of this cohort and the crash of their worldview after the collapse of the USSR so that they never recovered from this event.
The report of Evgeny Yasin, the academic supervisor of HSE, was a final one at the plenary session. During his history-based lecture «The impact of culture on modernization in Russia» he told that the stable institutions that were necessary for the functioning of an efficient market economy appeared in Russia in 1990s for the first time in its history. During the previous centuries, the population formed distrust for the law and property rights as well as tolerance to shady and even illegal economic practices. The reason was a constant latent confrontation with the ruling groups which began in the days of the Mongol yoke and manifested itself in the era of serfdom, and the period of the Russian revolutions of the early twentieth century, and even in Soviet times, especially in the period of collectivization and industrialization. Such historical heritage limited largely the possibilities for further development of Russia. Professor Yasin assumed that he sees the way out in strengthening market institutions and in shrinking state sector in the Russian economy.
By Tatiana Stepanenko