R.S. Zaharna, Ed.D.
In her seminal paper "Dominant and Variant Value Orientations," Florence Kluckhohn outlined five basic human problems that were common to all peoples at all times and all places (1953, p. 346). The value orientations Kluckhohn identified speak to the assumptions that we make about ourselves and our relationship to the world, which in turn, guide our actions. Table 1 (found at the END of this piece) provides an overview of Kluckhohn's value orientations. In 1975, John Condon and Fathi Yousef took Kluckhohn's five basic values and tried to elaborate more on the different categories. A summary of Condon & Yousef's expanded list taken from their book, An Introduction to Intercultural Communication is found in Table 2. Professor Condon teaches at the University of New Mexico. A center was started in Seattle, Washington, called the Florence Kluckhohn Center for the Study of Values. In this piece I would like to discuss each of the five value orientations and how each relations to the work of public communication. I have also put notes about Assignment #2 that asks you to prepare a Cultural Profile based on Kluckhohn's Value Orientations.
At the time of her study (1953), Florence Rockwood Kluckhohn was a lecturer on Sociology and Research Associate in the Laboratory of Social Relations at Harvard. She now has an institute named after her in Seattle, Washington, which continues her work, The Florence Kluckhohn Center for the Study of Values. (There was another prominent Kluckhohn, Clyde Kluckhohn, who was an anthropologist and author of Mirrors of Man, 1963). Florence Kluckhohn was interested in was identifying the specific patterns of behavior that were influenced by culture. Although she was looking at culture and human behavior, what she remembered for is her study of values. You can think of "values" not in terms of good or bad, but in terms of beliefs that shape and define the world we see.
As Kluckhohn herself noted, "Human behavior mirrors at all times an intricate blend of the universal and the variable" (p. 345). What she meant by that is that all people, because they are homo sapiens, will share common universals of behavior. But, equally characteristic of homo sapiens, is the variety that exists among behaviors. So, we find both similarities and differences in human behavior across cultures. In trying to discern the differences from the similarities, she suggested we think of behaviors as shaped by "dominant" and "variant" value orientations. Toward that end, she developed five categories, or value orientations.
* Innate Predisposition
The first value orientation spoke to the inherent nature of man. Is he basically good? Evil? Or neither good nor evil, but mixed? Kluckhohn stated that societies make such distinctions. She added the caveat that such predispositions could be mutable or immutable. For example, human nature could be seen as "evil and unalterable" or "evil and perfectible." Evil and perfectible was how she described the American view of human nature that had grown out of the Puritan heritage. That heritage dictated that "constant control and discipline as essential if any real goodness is to be achieved and maintained," and that "the danger of regression is always present" (p. 347).
There are several ways to try to discern a culture's view of human nature. Religious doctrines and texts, such as the Bible, Torah, or Koran, provide a wealth of insights. Religious tenants are another source for peering into a culture's view of man. If one is familiar with the language or literature, one can look at children's stories, tales of cultural heros and the battles they waged, or cultural myths, all of which carry messages about man's fight with good and evil that exits inside and outside of himself.
How does knowing a culture's view of human nature relate to...