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Emancipative Values and Non-Violent Protest: The Importance of ‘Ecological’ Effects


This article examines the impact of values on a key phenomenon of modern politics: non-violent protest. Previous studies have examined only the individual-level effects of values. Studying in addition the ‘ecological’ effects – how the social prevalence of values affects protest – generates new insights. Focusing on ‘emancipative values’, two ecological effects are shown: (1) the prevalence of emancipative values lifts people's protest above the level that their own emancipative values suggest (elevator effect); (2) the prevalence of these values enhances the impact of people's own emancipative values on protest (amplifier effect). We conclude that examining values in models of protest (and possibly of other activities), not only as individual attributes but also as ecological properties, gives ‘culture’ its full weight in explaining behaviour.

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1 Tarrow Sidney, Power in Movement (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998); McAdam Doug, Tarrow Sidney and Tilly Charles, Dynamics of Contentious Action (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

2 Norris Pippa, Democratic Phoenix (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), chap. 10; Dalton Russell J., Citizen Politics (Washington, D.C.: CQ Press, 2006); Inglehart Ronald and Welzel Christian, Modernization, Cultural Change, and Democracy (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005), chap. 9.

3 Schock Kurt, Unarmed Insurrections (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2005); Ulfelder Jay, ‘Contentious Collective Action and the Breakdown of Authoritarian Regimes’, International Political Science Review, 26 (2005), 311334; Teorell Jan, Determinants of Democratization (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2010), chap. 5.

4 Welzel Christian, Inglehart Ronald and Deutsch Franziska, ‘Social Capital, Voluntary Associations, and Collective Action: Which Aspects of Social Capital Have the Greatest ‘Civic’ Payoff?’ Journal of Civil Society, 2 (2005), 121146.

5 Exceptions include: Inglehart Ronald and Catterberg Gabriela, ‘Trends in Political Action: The Developmental Trend and the Post-Honeymoon Decline’, in Ronald Inglehart, ed., Islam, Gender, Culture and Democracy (Willowdale: De Sitter, 2003), pp. 7793; Norris, Democratic Phoenix, chap. 10; Roller Edeltraud and Wessels Bernhard, ‘Contexts of Political Protest in Western Democracies: Political Organization and Modernity’, in Frederick Weil, ed., Extremism, Protest, Social Movements and Democracy (Greenwich, Conn.: Sage, 1996), pp. 91134.

6 Dalton Russell J., van Sickle Alix and Weldon Steven, ‘The Individual–Institutional Nexus of Protest Behaviour’, British Journal of Political Science, 40 (2009), 5173.

7 Among others, see Inglehart and Welzel , Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy, pp. 115–26.

8 DVW concede that grievance can play a more important role in violent protest; but even this position is not consensual, see Collier Paul, ‘Rebellion as a Quasi-Criminal Activity’, Journal of Conflict Resolution, 44 (2000), 839853.

9 Dieter Opp Karl, ‘Postmaterialism, Collective Action, and Political Protest’, American Journal of Political Science, 34 (1990), 212235; Norris, Democratic Phoenix, chap. 10. While the concept of post-materialism has been criticized by Davis Darren W. and Davenport Christian (‘Assessing the Validity of the Postmaterialism Index’, American Political Science Review, 93 (1999), 649664), this criticism has been refuted by Inglehart Ronald and Abramson Paul, ‘Measuring Postmaterialism’, in the same issue, 665–77.

10 Schwartz Shalom H., ‘A Theory of Cultural Value Orientations: Explications and Applications’, Comparative Sociology, 5 (2006), 137182.

11 Inkeles Alex, Exploring Individual Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983); Inglehart Ronald, Modernization and Postmodernization (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1997); Flanagan Scott and Lee Aie-Rie, ‘The New Politics, Culture Wars, and the Authoritarian-Libertarian Value Change in Advanced Industrial Democracies’, Comparative Political Studies, 36 (2003), 235270; Schwartz, ‘A Theory of Cultural Value Orientations’.

12 Almond Gabriel and Verba Sidney, The Civic Culture (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1963); Inglehart and Welzel, Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy, chap. 10.

13 Welzel Christian, Inglehart Ronald and Klingemann Hans-Dieter, ‘The Theory of Human Development: A Cross-Cultural Analysis’, European Journal of Political Research, 2 (2003), 341380; Welzel Christian and Inglehart Ronald, ‘The Human Development Model of Democracy’, in Russell J. Dalton and Doh C. Shin, eds, Citizens, Democracy, and Markets around the Pacific Rim (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006), pp. 2149; Welzel Christian and Inglehart Ronald, ‘Political Culture, Value Change, and Mass Beliefs’, in Christian Haerpfer, Patrick Bernhagen, Ronald Inglehart and Christian Welzel, eds, Democratization (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 127144.

14 Welzel Christian, ‘How Selfish Are Self-Expression Values? A Civicness Test’, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology, 41 (2010), 152174.

15 Welzel, ‘How Selfish Are Self-Expression Values?’

16 Schwartz Shalom H., ‘Value Orientations: Measurement, Antecedents and Consequences across Nations’, in Roger Jowell, Caroline Roberts, Rory Fitzgerald and Gillian Eva, eds, Measuring Attitudes Cross-Nationally (London: Sage, 2007), pp. 161193.

17 Recent public opinion scholarship treats social prevalence measures of individual preferences as ecological phenomena in their own right. See Enns Peter K. and Kellstedt Paul M., ‘Policy Mood and Political Sophistication: Why Everybody Moves Policy Mood’, British Journal of Political Science, 38 (2008), 433454.

18 The distribution and change patterns of preference measures suggest that social contagion and confirmation are indeed at work ( Page Benjamin I. and Shapiro Robert Y., The Rational Public: Fifty Years of Trends in Americans’ Policy Preferences (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992); Erikson Robert S., MacKuen Michael B. and Stimson James A., The Macro Polity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002)). Direct evidence for contagion and confirmation in preference formation is abundant from small group experiments in social psychology where this topic is discussed as ‘social proof’. See Latane Bibb, ‘Dynamic Social Impact: The Creation of Culture by Communication’, Journal of Communication, 4 (1996), 1325; Cialdini Robert B., Influence: Science and Practice (Boston, Mass.: Allyn & Bacon, 2001).

19 Barnes Samuel H. and Kaase Max, eds, Political Action (Beverly Hills, Calif.: Sage, 1979).

20 Dalton , Citizen Politics; Norris, Democratic Phoenix; Dalton, van Sickle and Weldon, ‘The Individual-Institutional Nexus of Protest Behaviour’, p. 62.

21 Documentation of fieldwork, questionnaires, and data of the WVS are available for download at:

22 These and all other variables that we use in our re-examination of the DVW Model are described in detail in the Appendix, to be found at

23 Going farther back to rounds one and two of the WVS does not widen the country sample; it only adds repeated observations. Repeated observation is uninteresting for the cross-sectional analyses that follow; it is only interesting from a longitudinal perspective. Hence, we reserve an extension to all rounds of the WVS for the longitudinal analyses after the cross-sectional analyses. For the cross-sectional analyses, every country is included once by the latest or only available survey. Country samples are weighted to equal sample size without increasing the overall N.

24 For the precise factor loadings, see Note 01 under ‘Explanatory Notes’ in the Appendix.

25 For a validation of this statement, see the analyses in Notes 02 and 03 under ‘Explanatory Notes’ in the Appendix.

26 To this point see Alexander Amy C. and Welzel Christian, ‘Measuring Effective Democracy: The Human Empowerment Approach’, Comparative Politics, 43 (2011), 271289.

27 As DVW report, ‘voice and accountability’ correlates more closely with protest than with rule of law (see Dalton, van Sickle and Weldon, ‘The Individual–Institutional Nexus of Protest Behaviour’, fn. 46).

28 van der Meer Tom W. G., de Grotenhuis Manfred and Scheepers Peer L. H., ‘Three Types of Voluntary Associations in Comparative Perspective’, Journal of Civil Society, 3 (2009), 227241.

29 Paxton Pamela, ‘Association Membership and Generalized Trust: A Multilevel Model across 31 Countries’, Social Forces, 86 (2007), 4776. We experimented with various societal-level measures of membership, but this never produced strong results and none that altered the other societal-level effects.

30 The exception is per capita GDP for which no theoretical maximum is known. We standardize per capita GDP into an expectable range between a minimum of US$500 per capita (0) and a maximum of US$50,000 (1.0).

31 We do not z-transform variables. Z-scores are relative to the empirical distribution of a variable but we are interested in scores relative to the theoretical range of each variable. Scale range standardization is preferable for variables whose theoretical endpoints have meaning and exist empirically.

32 Like DVW, we re-examined all models (a) under the exclusion of petitions and (b) as logistic hierarchical models with a dummy version of the dependent variable (coded 1 for having participated in any activity and 0 otherwise). These alterations produce statistically weaker results but are similar to the ones reported here in terms of significances and relative effect sizes. Detailed documentation is available upon request from the authors.

33 In replicating the DVW Model, we treat all individual-level variables as random.

34 This most recent version is described in Welzel Christian and Inglehart Ronald, ‘Values, Agency, and Well-Being: A Human Development Model’, Social Indicators Research, 97 (2010), 4363.

35 Welzel Christian, ‘The Asian Values Thesis Revisited’, Japanese Journal of Political Science, 12 (2011), 131.

36 We have experimented with alternative prevalence measures, using the percentage of people per society who are in the upper half, third, quartile and quintile of the emancipative values index. Doing so generally produced similar results to those that follow, but with lower statistical power.

37 One might think that including an individual-level measure and an aggregate measure of the same variable imports endogeneity. But this is not the case. In a sample of 1,000 respondents, any aggregate measure reflects for each respondent up to 99.9 per cent of the responses of all other respondents. Thus, aggregate measures are up to practically 100 per cent exogenous to each respondent.

38 Variables are mean-centred because this diminishes collinearity in interaction terms. Individual-level variables are country-mean centred to isolate their within-country variation. Since this means to subtract a constant from each variable, scale ranges are not affected. Accordingly, the interpretation of coefficients as showing the ratio of change in the dependent variable relative to the change in the independent variable is unaffected.

39 For the opportunities component, amplification means that higher group involvement at the individual level translates more easily into protest when voice and accountability is higher at the societal level. For the resources component, it means that higher education at the individual level translates more easily into protest when material means (i.e., per capita GDP) are more abundant all over a society.

40 Put differently, a change in values over the entire scale range corresponds to a change in protest over only a 0.31 fraction of the full scale range.

41 Testing amplifier effects requires specification of interactions between a variable's individual-level and societal-level manifestations. Under this specification, coefficients are conditional: they represent each main effect's impact under the condition that the other main effect is at zero. After mean centering, this property is convenient because it shows each main effect's impact for the most common case. We tested each main effect's unconditional effect too (i.e., in the absence of interaction terms). They are almost identical.

42 Even though societal-level opportunities, resources and values correlate strongly, their independent variance is still large enough to separate their effects. This is obvious from the variance inflation factors obtained by regressing protest on each of these three variables. For each of them, the variance inflation factor remains below the critical threshold of 5.0 (3.6 for opportunities, 4.4 for resources, 3.4 for values).

43 In contrast to opportunities and resources, the societal-level measure of values is an aggregation of the individual-level measure. This means lesser independence between the individual and societal measure in the case of values. Lesser independence decreases the likelihood that the individual and societal measures show up with strong independent effects. The fact that they show such effects nevertheless cannot be dismissed as a methodological artefact. It requires a substantive interpretation.

44 Inglehart and Welzel, Modernization, Cultural Change and Democracy, chap. 2.

45 One might suspect that we obtain similar results when using an ecological measure of post-materialist values instead of emancipative values. We do not. The third model in Appendix Table 1 shows this.

46 See Cingranelli David L. and Richards David L., ‘Human Rights Project’, at

* Center for the Study of Democracy, Leuphana University, Lueneburg, and Laboratory for Comparative Social Research, Higher School of Economics, St. Petersburg (email: )

School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Jacobs University, Bremen. Variables used in the re-examination of the DVW Model are described in detail in an appendix, to be found at

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British Journal of Political Science
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