Why have we lost traditional values?

Change in values

Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann

To person

Prof. Dr. phil, Dr. oec. H. c .; born 1916; Founder (1947) and head of the Institute for Demoskopie Allensbach; since 1964 professor for journalism at the University of Mainz.

Address: Institute for Demoskopie Allensbach, 78472 Allensbach.
e-mail: [email protected]

Publications including: Will we all become proletarians? Changing values ​​in our society, Zurich 1978; The spiral of silence. Theory of Public Opinion, 6th edition, Munich 2001.

Thomas Petersen

To person

Dr. phil., born 1968; since 1993 research associate at the Allensbach Institute for Demoscopy.

Address: Institute for Demoskopie Allensbach, 78472 Allensbach.
e-mail: [email protected]

Publication including: (together with Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann) Everyone, not everyone. Introduction to the methods of demoscopy, 3rd edition, Berlin and others. 2000.

It has been around 30 years since traditional civic values ​​quickly lost their importance in the population. By then they had remained unchallenged for 250 years.


"When one side now stands out," wrote Goethe, referring to the character of public discussions, "it takes hold of the crowd and develops to the extent that the opposite has to withdraw into the corner and for the moment quietly hide, so calls one that preponderance of the zeitgeist, which then drives its essence for a while. " [1] One might wonder what period of time Goethe had in mind when he wrote about "a while". Was he thinking of a period of 30 to 40 years?

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  • It has been around 40 years since a social development became visible that had already started a decade earlier, in the early 1950s, and a decade later, at the end of the 1960s, was to lead to the abandonment of values, some of which had been unchallenged for centuries . The first signs of the new era were changes in seemingly harmless details of everyday life. People's homes changed. The furniture, which, despite all the changes in fashion, was in a tradition that went back at least to the early 19th century, quickly gave way to new Bauhaus-inspired forms in the course of the 1950s that represented a break with this tradition [2] .

    Perhaps most noticeable was the change in music. The symbol for this are the Beatles, who caused such great enthusiasm among young people and so great horror among older people - not least because of their long hair. Today it is hard to imagine what was supposed to be so bad about the four English musicians and their hairstyles. It seems that the population has sensed that this is not just a change in fashion, but an earthquake that could turn social norms upside down. "Nowhere are the ways of music shaken", wrote Plato, "without shaking the most important laws of the state." [3]

    It has been around 30 years since a profound change in values ​​took place in many western countries, but especially in western Germany, and a new zeitgeist took hold that would determine the following decades. Only today, at the beginning of the new century, are there increasing signs that the three decades of development may have passed its peak and that a new zeitgeist is emerging that does not mean a return to the fifties, but which values ​​some of the old values ​​more highly.