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#711 - The Cultural Creatives, 08-Nov-2000

A brand new book titled THE CULTURAL CREATIVES offers important
insights into U.S. culture and how we might organize to change
our future.[1] It offers entirely original, new perspectives that
could help the environmental and social justice movements find
new paths, sidestepping the troubles that have stymied them in
recent years. Listen up.

THE CULTURAL CREATIVES was written by Paul Ray and Sherry Ruth
Anderson who have spent more than a decade doing survey research
to discover the values that we in the U.S. hold dear. ("Values
are the best single predictor of real behavior," they say.) They
find that, based on fundamental values, U.S. citizens can now be
classified into three major groups: Moderns, Traditionals, and
Cultural Creatives. We all recognize Moderns and Traditionals,
but most people don't know that the Cultural Creatives exist.
Even the Cultural Creatives themselves are not aware of their
huge numbers -- 50 million strong, according to Ray and Anderson.
Here lie the seeds of a cultural revolution -- one that is
already well along.

The Moderns: The Moderns are the dominant subculture of our time.
They make the rules we all live by--they control the civil
service, the military, the courts, and the media. Some of them
operate the multinational corporations. Their ideology is laid
out for us every day, in detail, in the NEW YORK TIMES and the
WALL STREET JOURNAL, in the other major papers, and on TV. The
Moderns' belief in a technological economy is reshaping the face
of the globe. The Moderns tend to dismiss other cultures and
other ways of life as somehow inferior. In sum, "The simplest way
to understand today's Moderns is to see that they are the people
who accept the commercialized urban-industrial world as the
obvious right way to live. They're not looking for alternatives,"
say Ray and Anderson. To Moderns, growth is not only good, it is
essential. What's most important to moderns is

(a) making lots of money;

(b) climbing the ladder of success with measurable steps toward
one's goal;

(c) having lots of choices (as a consumer, or voter or on the

(d) being on top of the latest trends, styles and innovations;

(e) supporting economic and technological progress at the
national level;

(f) rejecting the values and concerns of native people, rural
people, Traditionals, New Agers, and religious mystics.

Moderns represent 48% of the U.S. citizenry (93 million adults)
and, in 1995, they had a median family income of $42,500.

The Traditionals: Traditionals represent 24.5% of U.S. citizens
(48 million adults). "Many Traditionals are not white bread
Republicans but elderly New Deal Democrats, Reagan Democrats, and
old-time union people as well as social conservatives in

Traditionals tend to believe (among other things) that

(a) patriarchs should again dominate family life;

(b) FEMINISM is a swearword;

(c) men need to keep their traditional roles and women need to
keep theirs;

(d) family, church, and community are where you belong;

(e) customary and familiar ways of life should be maintained;

(f) it's important to regulate sex -- pornography, teen sex,
extramarital sex-- and abortion;

(g) men should be proud to serve in the military;

(h) all the guidance you need for your life can be found in the

(i) preserving civil liberties is less important than restricting
immoral behavior;

(j) freedom to carry arms is essential;

(k) foreigners are not welcome.

Many Traditionals are pro-environment and anti-big business. They
are outraged at the destruction of the world they remember, both
natural areas and small-town life. Traditionals tend to be older,
poorer, and less educated than others in the U.S. At the end of
World War II, Traditionals were 50% of the population, but today
they are 25%, and their numbers are shrinking as older
Traditionals die and are not being replaced by younger ones.

The Cultural Creatives: What Ray and Anderson discovered during a
decade of research is that the Moderns and Traditionals have now
been joined by a third subculture within the U.S., 50 million
strong (26% of all adults) -- a population the size of France,
and growing. Ray and Anderson have labeled them "Cultural
Creatives." Here is a list of 18 characteristics; if you have 10
or more of them, you're probably a cultural creative:

(a) love nature and are deeply concerned about its destruction;

(b) are strongly aware of the problems of the whole planet and
want to see action to curb them, such as limiting economic

(c) would pay more taxes or higher prices if you knew the money
would go to clean up the environment and stop global warming;

(d) give a lot of importance to developing and maintaining

(e) place great importance on helping other people;

(f) volunteer for one or more good causes;

(g) care intensely about psychological or spiritual development;

(h) see spirituality and religion as important in your own life
but are also concerned about the role of the religious Right in

(h) want more equality for women at work and want more women
leaders in business and politics;

(i) are concerned about violence and the abuse of women and
children everywhere on Earth;

(j) want politics and government to emphasize children's
education and well being, the rebuilding of neighborhoods and
communities, and creation of an ecologically sustainable future;

(k) are unhappy with both left and right in politics and want a
new way that is not the mushy middle;

(l) tend to be optimistic about the future and distrust the
cynical and pessimistic view offered by the media;

(m) want to be involved in creating a new and better way of life
in our country;

(n) are concerned about what big corporations are doing in the
name of profit: exploiting poor countries, harming the
environment, downsizing;

(o) have your finances and spending under control and are not
concerned about overspending;

(p) dislike the modern emphasis on success, on "making it," on
wealth and luxury goods;

(q) like people and places that are exotic and foreign, and enjoy
experiencing and learning about other ways of life.

Cultural Creatives are not defined by particular demographic
characteristics -- they are accountants and social workers,
waitresses and computer programmers, hair stylists and lawyers
and chiropractors and truck drivers, photographers and gardeners.
The large majority of them are very mainstream in their religious
beliefs. They are no more liberal or conservative than the U.S.
mainstream, though they tend to reject "left-right" labels.
Really, their one distinguishing demographic characteristic is
that 60% of them are women, and most Cultural Creatives tend to
hold values and beliefs that women have traditionally held about
issues of caring, family life, children, education,
relationships, and responsibility. In their personal lives, they
seek authenticity -- meaning they want their actions to be
consistent with what they believe and say. They are also intent
on finding wholeness, integration, and community. Cultural
Creatives are quite clear that they do not want to live in an
alienated, disconnected world. Their approach to health is
preventive and holistic, though they do not reject modern
medicine. In their work, they may try to go beyond earning a
living to having "right livelihood" or a vocation.

Ray and Anderson summarize the forces that have given rise to
Cultural Creatives: "In the twenty-first century, a new era is
taking hold. The biggest challenges are to preserve and sustain
life on the planet and find a new way past the overwhelming
spiritual and psychological emptiness of modern life. Though
these issues have been building for a century, only now can the
Western world bring itself to publicly consider them. The
Cultural Creatives are responding to these overwhelming
challenges by creating a new culture." New businesses, new
management styles, new technologies, new forms of social
organization (for example, leasing products, such as carpets and
refrigerators, to consumers instead of selling them, to make sure
they are recycled), and new decision-making techniques (the
precautionary principle, for example) -- the Cultural Creatives
are constructing a new world in our midst, largely ignored by the

By different paths, fifty million Cultural Creatives emerged from
(or were influenced by) social movements of the '60s and '70s.
Ray and Anderson describe 20 such movements that have spawned
Cultural Creatives who, in turn, have begun to put a positive
spin on movements that have been mainly oppositional. "Slowly a
lesson has been drifting in on one movement organization after
another. At some point, opposing something bad ceases to be
enough, and they must stand for positive values, or produce a
service that is important to their constituency," Ray and
Anderson note.

Ray and Anderson see this shift occurring in the environmental
movement, and we see it too. "Cultural Creatives are urging the
environmental movement into a new phase. Having educated us
through protests and information, some are moving beyond that
now, to develop new kinds of businesses, technologies, and
cooperative ventures." To put labels on these innovations, they
are the Natural Step,[2] clean production,[3] and zero waste.[4]
Together, they are beginning to rebuild the industrial
infrastructrure of the Western world. There's a long way to go,
but it's a start.

A major impediment to further innovation is the fact that
Cultural Creatives all think there are very few of them when in
fact there are very many of them. Therefore, "They do not know
that they have the potential to shape the life of twenty-first
century America," say Ray and Anderson. "Like an audience in a
theater, Cultural Creatives all look in the same direction. They
read the same books and share the same values and come to similar
conclusions--but rarely do they turn toward one another. They
have not yet formed a sense of 'us' as a collective identity; nor
do they have a collective image of themselves."

Again and again, Ray and Anderson stress that the Cultural
Creatives are hampered by their own lack of self-awareness. They
don't yet see themselves in their diverse totality, and so they
fail to recognize their own potential for creating a new world.
"Since they are part of a subculture that cannot yet see itself,
these millions of Cultural Creatives do not know what a potential
they carry for our common future." Until we recognize each
other's existence, we cannot work together.

This is a rich, thought-provoking book. If you are interested in
influencing our future, you will definitely benefit from reading

--Peter Montague (National Writers Union, UAW Local 1981/AFL-CIO)


[1] Paul H. Ray and Sherry Ruth Anderson, THE CULTURAL CREATIVES
(New York: Harmony Books, 2000). ISBN 0-609-60467-8. And see

[2] On The Natural Step, see REHW #667, #668, #670, #676.

[3] On clean production, see REHW #650, #651, #704.

[4] On zero waste, see
http://www.grrn.org/zerowaste/resource_zw.html, and Robin Murray,
CREATING WEALTH FROM WASTE (London: Demos, Panton House, 1999).
ISBN 1 898309 07 8. Email: mail@demos.co.uk. Telephone:

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