Values-based politics
Establishing concepts and heuristics


Values are deep seated. Research demonstrates that it is values that drive emotions, and these in turn drive our rational explanations of our stated purpose. This model argues that the way we vote or choose a party/candidate to support; the kinds of laws we think are ‘good’ or ‘bad’; and the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to run business organizations is so deeply held that it can be hard to articulate. The role of market and values researchers is to dig below the rationale and to understand why these opinions are held or and these actions occur.

In "Hackgate – the perfect values storm", we showed how the various Maslow Groups had changed in size over time and outlined the current situation - in which the Prospector group has decreased in size and the Settler group has increased in size over a period of years. This dynamic is new in British society and is due to have profound impacts on the way politicians, institutions and organizations will be judged in the coming years.

As we look at this new model of the values of the British population we can see that the traditional ‘right vs. left’ way of looking at the political arena is inadequate to describe the tensions within in the body politic. This is not a new observation, and indeed is taken as evident in most professional political circles. What is not so evident in these same circles is the nature of the source of the differences between political persuasions.

CDSM has written about the nature of the values splits for many years – various articles can be found on the site – but a basic set of ‘rules of thumb’/heuristics has not been published up to now.

Maslow Groups meta-orientations defined

In our analyses of the various British Values Surveys over the last decades we have worked to a set of heuristics that allow us to analyse the data in a deeper and more meaningful manner.

Each Maslow Group and its subset of Values Modes has a particular values orientation in terms of solid foundations for the judging themselves and the world around them. These foundations are different from each other and can be mutually exclusive. They are:

These three words will be defined here by the manner in which we use them in CDSM. Various dictionaries will give slightly different meanings (in some morality and ethics are synonymous) but we have found that real differences in meaning emerge in values analysis.

Settlers – it’s all about Morality

We call our basic orientation Morality. This is how we have seen Settlers define their world. In the model of Maslowian hierarchy this is the orientation we all have as children. In terms of other models of psychology and philosophy this is a bedrock term that typifies simpler systems of values compared to more complex systems of defining right and wrong.

Settlers value tradition, conformity and safety - and this leads to a desire for and acceptance of a set of rules that are more powerful than any one person or group of people. Settlers know and accept that certain rules cannot and should not be bent – they are absolutes. The role of ‘holy books’ fills the same purpose in Settler world – a set of rules that is binding for all and handed down from a higher power. The rules that govern Settler lives are there before they were born, or have a choice about how to think or behave. The rules apply to everyone and there are sanctions for breaking them. Knowing the rules keeps you safe; breaking the rules is ‘unsafe’. The rules may be harsh at times, but they are there for the good of all – not just a particular person or group of people.

The basis for all legal and institutional issues is acceptance of rules that apply equally to all and against which behaviours will be judged. Even in 21st Century Britain this ‘fundamentalism’ impacts on the conduct of personal and public behaviours. New laws may be passed but they are passed by an old organization – Parliament; institutions (laws and regulatory bodies) may be new but they are backed by the will of Parliament and the Crown. When these laws are broken or circumvented it is a moral issue and one that elicits emotions at a deep level – maybe even a level that makes it hard to express a rational opinion. Listening to local radio call-ins it is easy to hear the voice of Settlers as they describe their thoughts about the current situation in the Hackgate saga as “disgusting, shameful, dirty” rather than illegal or unethical – the voice of emotion rather than rational exposition.

The Settler values orientation has been steadily declining in numbers since we started measuring values in 1973. This was the dominant belief system of the UK at that time but had less and less impact on culture from that time. However, in 2005 we noticed Settler numbers increasing for the first time since 1973. The increase continued in 2008, and by 2011 the increase led to Settlers being the second largest orientation in the UK (31%).

It goes without saying that this turnaround in a belief system can and probably will have a terrific impact on ‘business as usual’ practices – especially in the realms of politics, press and policing.

Prospectors – it’s about being Pragmatic

In understanding the nature of values shifts in people and the cultures in which they live we have found that when people and cultures shift in values they discard that which has made them secure and comfortable and opt (at a subconscious level) to explore the possibilities of situations rather than conforming to the situation. This is typically what we see in children as they age. Often it is labelled negatively as youthful rebellion or teenagers’ ‘acting out’. In values research we try to present evidence without judging whether responses are morally or ethically better or worse than each other. What we like to note is that this phase of aging typically lasts for 20 years or more and some people never move out of this phase of life – just as many people never move out of the Settler phase of life.

In this phase of life, power, achievement and hedonism dominate the values system.

This is the values system of Prospectors. Unlike Settlers, one size does not fit all - the world is complex - and the best a person or group can do is ‘be a winner’ and set the rules for oneself. Behaviour is based on a pragmatism that says ‘don’t be a loser’; that everything is all right as long as you don’t ‘get caught’. This is a world that is necessary if people are to move beyond doing the same thing they have always done. This is an interior world that allows for the exploration of the exterior world as it is – to ‘push the boundaries’ that seem to be constraining choice and preventing people from doing the things that are important to them in this phase of life.

This pragmatic values set acknowledges that it is different from the Setter values set and that although they can understand why others stay Settlers, they do not want to be constrained by ‘the way things are done here’ – they want to achieve more than others and be recognized for it. They are dynamic by most measures of activity, but also tend to be conflicted about the means for achieving their desired ends. With the relatively conscious decision to change the rules to achieve their desired ends they no longer have the emotional comfort of being safe within the rules. Their world has more anxiety and as a result higher emotional rewards for achieving their ends.

The experience of high emotional reward when hitting a desired outcome, i.e. winning, means that they will push the moral boundaries encapsulated in Settler legal and regulatory institutions and organizations. This is normal and natural at this stage of values development.

Looking out for yourself, being conscious others may not be playing by the rules, and ensuring that you are recognized for your successes is a prime driver of identity in this values set. Their pragmatism is based on the assumption that the rules are being broken by others and that, to survive and achieve goals, a pragmatic approach to life – doing what it takes – is the best way of living.

People and cultures/national populations that move into this stage of values have a higher need for power and control, a greater quest for newness and novelty and a greater need for the recognition of others than they did as Settlers.

Much of the developed and emerging economies of the world have been dominated by this approach to life for the last 50 years – it is the dominant values set of what is called ‘the consumer society’. It has led to economic growth unprecedented in human history – and also to enormous ecological danger.

Many of the world’s governing bodies are driven by this values orientation. And much of the debate about the future of world economies and political orientations is based on this orientation being questioned by the other two values sets.

Pioneers – it’s all about Ethics

The next values orientation that emerges from an understanding of values research is much more complex. This stage of values development is attempting both to break free of the morality that formerly served them, and to move beyond the need for esteem of others through being perceived as ‘a winner’ or someone to be admired for their achievements. Instead, they are coming to an awareness of their place in a world not of ‘their making’, but a world of which they are an integral part, and on which their values and actions have an impact.

Being ethical is defined as being responsible in the moment and knowing that the moment is a part of many moments to come – and that each moment demands awareness of the intentions behind all behaviours.

In some eastern religions and present day psychological practices this is called ‘mindfulness’. Far from being esoteric, this is a basic life orientation of millions of people in the UK today (41%).

Ethics is an awareness of a selfhood that is a part of something larger than oneself – as a part of all humankind certainly, and possibly something larger than that as well. This awareness gives rise to the sense that one is always responsible to oneself. A person may not always be responsible for the result of an activity but they are responsible for their intentions.

The intention may not have a moral basis (as defined by others and probably high on a traditional component) and it may not have a pragmatic basis (‘if it works for you it must be okay’) but the intention to act will always have a component of ‘doing the right thing’ embedded in it. If it doesn’t, the Pioneer will know they haven’t been as ethical as they could be – and to be without ethical awareness is to be less than one can be.

The Pioneer is the most complex of values sets and ‘being true to yourself’ is the hardest and highest calling they can aspire to.

In today’s wired, networked world of constantly and rapidly changing conditions and information about those conditions, Pioneers are the ones most likely to take a step back and try to understand the big picture.

This is both a strength and weakness in today’s world. Prospectors are busy changing things to make them happy and in control, and Settlers are wishing it would all stop for just a little bit and get ‘back to normal’. Pioneers are the ones most likely to agree with both, but not agree exclusively with either.

In a business and political system that demands answers ‘right now’ this can present real issues and misunderstandings with the other two values sets. Pioneers wants to include as much complexity as they can within any solution presented because they are looking at the big picture and know that whatever they do today, they will change it at some time in the future. To make sure of an ethical future – one that incorporates as much good for all as possible – they need to be ethical today. Simplicity is not simplistic.


Three Maslow Groups, three world views - a reason why dichotomous left vs. right analysis of political orientations does not help in understanding the dynamics of political orientations and opportunities in the coming years.

That the old ways are gone and the new ways are still unclear is often cited as a reason for a lack of clarity in decision making about future conditions in national and business cultures around the world.

Old models, often with an established religious component to them, have been shown to be unstable or unusable as methods of guiding societies as they emerge from basic living conditions. More modern economic models have revealed themselves time after time to be weak or false in terms of understanding how to create stable systems, or even to anticipate repeated crashes within institutional and organizational frameworks in which they have dominant influences.

Greater understandings in the humanities are leading to deeper insights into the way we organize ourselves to satisfy our needs.

Values research is but one of a variety of tools, but a critical one, available to decision makers to understand how to create social systems that satisfy the needs of populations that are made up of all three of the values groups – and how satisfying one at the expense of the others inevitably leads to dynamic problems.

This short paper on the heuristic we have discovered in our years of research is a new tool at the disposal of all decision makers involved with creating a better future for all.

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