Values of neo-communitarianism are conquering Estonia

The change of generations and the general increase in well-being has made success-orientation give way to a mind-set that appreciates creativity, community, and immediate environment, shows a study conducted by the Foresight Centre.

The Foresight Centre commissioned researchers from the University of Tartu to conduct a study on Values as Human Resource and Their Connection to Social Development, which shows that Estonia is seeing a rise in neo-communitarianism ideas and post-modern values typical of a welfare society.

Compared to fifty years ago, less people focus on material values, money and success, and more people care about health and the environment, take responsibility for their actions, are politically active, and are tolerant towards diversity.

The Head of the Foresight Centre Tea Danilov said that a broader spreading of neo-communitarianism could contribute towards reducing alienation, inequality, and negativity in the Estonian society. “Neo-communitarianism is a great potential asset in developing volunteer work, local support networks, and educational initiatives, but also in identifying those who need help. If the state and local governments would put more trust in the leaders of non-governmental networks and local communities, we could use this still underrated resource much better, for example by involving them into the organisation of social policy, environmental care, and education sector,” Danilov explained.

Data from 2018 shows that 26% of Estonian residents support values of neo-communitarianism, making it the fastest growing set of values; in 2004, the relevant number was 14%. The supporters of the set of values of neo-communitarianism include young people under the age of 30 (35%), university graduates (47%), women (59%); and 88% of its supporters are economically secure. A large majority (92%) does not consider themselves part of an ethnic minority.

The results of the study, as pointed out by expert of the Foresight Centre Mari Rell, show that civil initiative has skyrocketed over the last six or seven years, although we continue to lag far behind the Scandinavian countries. “The 2018 data puts Estonia below the Scandinavian countries in civil initiative, with only 55% of Estonia’s citizens actively taking part in the society; however, the general trend is positive. There is also a very conspicuous value conflict between the groups with a more open and a more closed world view,” Rell said.

The results of the study show that inequality between generations and socio-economic groups is growing in Estonia, and the value conflict is becoming increasingly polarised. “The rapid technological progress makes the surrounding environment more complex and the older generation finds it difficult to keep up. Another factor is the increasingly burning issue of climate change, which has been picked up by the creative set of values of neo-communitarianism. Thirdly, we should not forget the daily struggle to cope, which still afflicts a great number of Estonian residents. This leads to social withdrawal that is fed by the fear of losing one’s job or identity, and makes climate policy unpopular because it might lead to an increase in prices,” Danilov explained.

The study Values as Human Resource and Their Connection to Social Development was conducted by researchers from the University of Tartu at the request of the Foresight Centre. The study uses country data on Estonia in three databases: European Social Survey, European Values Study, and World Values Survey.

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