Anglo–American Society

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Anglo-American Society

Sources of value differences

Social structure and value emphases


The four largest English-speaking democracies —Australia, Canada, Great Britain, and the United States—are generally regarded as highly similar societies, which for the purposes of comparative social science may be treated as different examples of the same type. They vary greatly, of course, in area, size of population, and degree of ethnic, racial, and linguistic homogeneity. They differ, too, with respect to formal political institutions—monarchy as compared to republic, federalism contrasted with unitary national power, separation of powers contrasted with parliamentary—cabinet control. These differences, however, are often treated as minimal, given the common derivation of many cultural similarities, a common language which facilitates cultural interaction among the nations, extremely high standards of living and economic productivity, and stable democratic political institutions, such as a common-law tradition and a two-party political system in which each party consists of a broad coalition of interests and in which ideological differences are minimized. From the comparative perspective of world-wide cultural variations, there can be little doubt that these four nations represent different regional versions of one culture.

Any comparison of societies that are so greatly similar economically and politically (that is, as wealthy, stable democracies) must seek some conceptual distinctions to illuminate the peculiarities of institutions in highly comparable systems. In the tradition of Max Weber’s methodology of social science, this discussion emphasizes those distinctions among key social values that are related to variations in certain of the social institutions found in Anglo–American societies.

One particularly effective method for systematically classifying the central values of social systems is a modification of the pattern-variable approach originally developed by Talcott Parsons (1951; 1960). Pattern variables are dichotomous categories of modes of interaction, such as achievement-ascription, universalism-particularism, specificity diffuseness, self-orientation-collectivity orientation, and equalitarianism-elitism. (The last is not one of Parsons’ distinctions, but one added here.) A society’s value system may thus orient an individual’s behavior so that he (1) treats others in terms of their abilities and performances or in terms of inherited qualities (achievement-ascription); (2) applies a general standard or responds to some personal relationship (universalism-particularism); (3) relates to a selective aspect of another’s behavior or to many aspects (specificity-diffuseness); (4) gives primacy to the private needs of others or subordinates others’ needs to the defined interests of the larger group (self-orientation-collectivity orientation); or (5) stresses that all persons must be respected because they are human beings or emphasizes the general superiority of those who hold elite positions (equalitarianism elitism) (Parsons 1951, pp. 58–67; 1960).

Although the value patterns are dichotomous, for purposes of comparative analysis it is preferable to conceive of them as scales, along which nations can be ranked in terms of their relative position on each of the pattern variables. The terms themselves represent the polar values for each scale, and nations may be ranked in terms of their relative approximation to the “pure” expression of each of the polar values. While there is no absolute basis on which to make judgments in terms of the pattern variables, the nations can be fairly reliably ranked with respect to one another. For example, Britain is more ascriptive than the United States but much more achievement oriented than India.

The tentative rankings assigned the four major Anglo–American societies on these five dimensions are presented in Table 1, based primarily on impressionistic rather than systematically collected empirical evidence.

Table 1 — Tentative estimates of relative rankings of the four English-speaking democracies according to strength of certain pattern variables (ranked according to the first term in the polarity)
 Great BritainAustraliaCanadaUnited States
Collectivity orientation—Self-orientation1234

According to these estimates, Australia is slightly more egalitarian, but less achievement oriented, universalistic, specific, and self-oriented than the United States. It is less universalistic but more egalitarian than Canada. Canada systematically differs from the United States on all five dimensions, being less egalitarian, achievement oriented, universalistic, specific, and self-oriented; and Britain, in turn, differs consistently from Canada in the same way the latter differs from the United States. These ranks, of course, are based on abstracting ideal-typical aspects of the four societies.

To highlight the analytic utility of these distinctions, it would seem worthwhile to discuss the causes and consequences of national value differentiation. This may be done by indicating those variations in the social development of each country that presumably created and sustained structures embracing these values; differences in the institutional arrangements that relate to the separate value patterns may then be derived.

Sources of value differences

Although there are obviously many events and factors in the history of these nations that have determined the current variations among them, three particularly significant ones may be singled out: (a) the varying origins of their political systems and national identities; (b) different religious traditions; and (c) the presence or absence of specific types of frontier experiences.

The variations in the political systems of these four societies stem from revolution in the United States, counterrevolution in Canada, the transference of nineteenth-century British working-class culture to Australia, and a deference pattern in Britain sustained by a monarchy and aristocracy. The variations in religious traditions are reflected in the Puritan and subsequent Arminian doctrines of the United States, which have sustained a nonconformist Protestantism and the separation of church and state, and in a dominant Anglican tradition in England, which still provides that the large majority of persons are born into the established national church. And the diverse impact of the frontier experience helped sustain collectivity orientations in Australia and Canada but fostered self-orientations in the United States. Britain moved into the modern industrial and democratic period while retaining much of the formal structure that sustained the dominant classes and institutions of the previous period; thus, many of the preindustrial and predemocratic value orientations that emphasized ascription and elitism remained viable. In contrast, the growth of Canada, Australia, and the United States involved the settlement of relatively vacant frontiers. The differing development of the frontier and the varying approaches to the land question effected divergencies in the social structure and political ideologies of these three originally colonial societies.

The United States

The American frontier development, the success of the small farmer tilling his own soil, supported the revolutionary emphases on egalitarianism and achievement. Postrevolutionary America provided individual economic opportunities, which inhibited the development of class antagonisms. At the beginning of the nineteenth century as many as four-fifths of the free people who worked were owners of their own means of livelihood (Corey 1935, pp. 113–114; Mills 1951, p. 7). Social status depended largely upon the amount of property owned. This development of a majority of propertied individuals gave American society the predominately middle-class structure on which its democratic political institutions have been based. From its beginnings, the United States lacked a social hierarchy linked to the presence of an aristocracy or peasantry.

The self-orientation so prevalent in the United States has many of its roots and impetus in the Arminian religious system which, contrary to Roman Catholic and Anglican tradition, asserts that everyone is judged individually and by his own achievements. As Max Weber pointed out, denominationalism and sectarianism helped create an ascetic work ethic that facilitated the emergence of modern capitalism and individual achievement. Thus, achievement, universalism, and self-orientation have been strengthened in the United States by a dominant religious tradition that emphasizes a nonconformist Protestantism, stressing individual responsibility, self-pride, and individual ambition. As Tocqueville observed, in the United States even Roman Catholicism initially assumed something of an independent, sectarian character, at odds with the prospective elites, and thus contributed to liberalizing and populist tendencies ([1835] 1945, vol. 2, p. 312).


The Canadian nation resulted from the defeat of the American Revolution in the northern British colonies. Its raison d’être is the victory of the “counterrevolution” which affirmed many of the values rejected by the United States. The Loyalist spirit was reflected in the plans of imperial authorities to establish a hereditary, colonial aristocracy in Canada:

Efforts to strengthen the political ties of Empire or of nation led to deliberate attempts, through land grants and political preferments, to create and strengthen an aristocracy in the colonies … and, later, in a less obvious fashion, in the Canadian nation. The democratic movement, it was felt, was liable to draw Canadian people closer to their neighbours to the south; and a privileged upper class was a bulwark of loyalty and conservatism. (Clark 1962, p. 194)

With a sort of Burkean pride, the pioneers of English Canada held an open disdain for the doctrine of the rights of man. The extent of this antirevolutionary feeling among English Canadians has been noted by a Canadian historian in these terms:

The mental climate of English Canada in its early formative years was determined by men who were fleeing from the practical application of the doctrines that all men are born equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights amongst which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. … In Canada we have no revolutionary tradition; and our historians, political scientists, and philosophers have assiduously tried to educate us to be proud of this fact. (Underbill 1960, p. 12)

Large numbers of the original post-1783 Canadian population rejected the American values of equalitarianism and universalism. In what was to become English Canada, the Tory émigrés who settled in the Maritimes and Ontario constituted the first United Empire Loyalists, loyal to the crown and British social and political institutions. In French Canada the dominant conservative clergy feared and inhibited the liberal doctrines of the American and French revolutions.

Democratic movements arose in Canada, which, like those to the south, drew support from the agrarian frontier of small, independent farmers striving to become economically prosperous. These settlers’ “main concerns as a class were free land, abundant and accessible markets, monetary and and protection against the menacing interests of the urban centers” (Brady [1947] 1960, p. 463). financial policies advantageous to their economy, However, the self-orientations that seem endemic to the values of frontier communities were curbed in Canada by fear of the expansionist tendencies of the United States. Autonomous liberal frontier areas were prospective centers of sedition, of commitment to American values. The establishment of the centrally controlled Northwest Mounted Police to keep law and order on the frontier was designed to protect Canadian rule. The Canadian frontier was never permitted to extend beyond the direct control of the central government. Such centralization was necessary because local autonomy might result in support for efforts to join the United States. These conditions contributed to a greater sense of respect for law and authority (elitism) north of the border than was prevalent south of the border. “In the United States the frontier bred a spirit of liberty which often opposed efforts to maintain order. In Canada, order was maintained at the price of weakening that spirit” (Clark 1962, p. 192). Canada never glorified the frontiersman and his tendencies toward rebellion and independence; the bard of egalitarian populism, Walt Whitman, who was popular in America (and Australia), was not popular in Canada (Bissell 1956, pp. 133–134).

Significant differences in the religious development of Canada and the United States are also evident. Both societies have had their innovating sectarian movements, but in Canada the sects have been more prone to align themselves with traditional institutions and more ready to emulate the style of the established churches (Clark 1962, pp. 167–182). New religious movements in Canada have generally failed to increase achievement orientation significantly. In the United States the ascetic Protestant sects dominated the nation by the end of the first quarter of the nineteenth century and successfully institutionalized their values, which fostered hard work, savings, and investment. Thus, while Canadian frontier conditions were often just as destructive of traditional social relations as were those of the American frontier, the predominance of Anglican and French Catholic religious values, which sustained elitism and particularism, helped prevent the excessive individualism (self-orientation) and egalitarianism inherent in frontier communities.


From its beginnings as a British prison colony, founded in Sydney in 1788, Australia’s social structure has reflected the influences of immigration (convict and nonconvict) and geography. Although the British hoped to develop Australia as a society of small, independent farmers, farming proved difficult in the poor soil and arid climate. Australia’s wealth lay in sheep, not crops. Holdings of large pasture lands by individual owners operating with hired hands made Australia a business world where exploration of land by subsistence farmers was unknown. “The typical Australian frontiersman in the last century was a wage-worker who did not usually expect to become anything else” (Ward 1959, p. 226).

Australia’s rural frontier resulted in a pastoral upper class and a large propertyless laboring class. The major port cities of the six Australian colonies became heavily populated, and the urban workers formed the front of the democratic movement. They pitted themselves against the oligarchy of the graziers and soon developed a class solidarity that was to influence Australia’s subsequent economic and political development.

”Australia is one of the very few countries whose whole development has taken place since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution” (Ward 1959, p. 18), and consequently it developed its national ethos and class structure in a period in which traditional and aristocratic values were under sharp attack (Rosecrance 1964, pp. 275–318). Structurally, Australian society has the lower strata of the British Isles without the upper strata. It has always reflected working-class values—egalitarianism, antielitism, and particularism (group consciousness).

The working-class solidarity and the corresponding set of value orientations imported from Britain were reinforced by the social structure of the Australian frontier. Australian bushmen turned to collective action and to the principle of “mateship,” or the “uncritical acceptance of reciprocal obligations to provide companionship and material or ego support as required” (Taft & Walker 1958, p. 147). This mateship philosophy supports egalitarian values in Australia and, according to some, is responsible for thwarting the development of strong achievement orientations (Goodrich 1928, pp. 206–207).

A number of commentators have recently called attention to what they describe as the Americanization of Australia, by which they mean “the growth of competitiveness and the success ethic” (Jeanne MacKenzie [1961] 1962, p. 8). The rapid growth of higher education in Australia suggests that the Australians may be losing their disdain for achievement, but the value system apparently still emphasizes a commitment to egalitarian social relations beyond that found in other complex societies. For example, it is “the only western country which long resisted the noxious habit of tipping” (Jeanne MacKenzie [1961] 1962, p. 102). An Australian political scientist has commented that “in Australia there is little respect for wealth as such. … It is harder for an industrial magnate to enter politics than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle” (Eggleston 1953, p. 11).

Little has been written relating Australia’s religious institutions and traditions to other aspects of its development. The two major denominations are Anglican (34.8 per cent) and Roman Catholic (24.6 per cent). Denominations of Arminian and Calvinist origin are relatively small. The available data indicate, however, that the adherents of the latter groups tend to have been more successful achievers than those of the former. Thus, among Australian Christian denominations, the four whose followers have highest occupational status are Presbyterian, Congregationalist, Methodist, and Baptist, in that order (Taft & Walker 1958, p. 175). A question remains as to how much the weakness of the historic sects retarded the development of a hard-work-oriented ascetic Protestant ethic. Most commentators who seek to explain why Australians seem less work oriented and more concerned with leisure than citizens of some other nations attribute the origin of this ethos to the transplantation of the “restriction of output” norms of the nineteenth-century English workers rather than to religion (Rosecrance 1964).

If many of the differences between the United States and Canada may be related to the fact that one is the outgrowth of a successful democratic revolution and the other of its defeat, some of the differences between the two British Commonwealth nations, Canada and Australia, may also be tied to different political origins. Unlike Canada, Australia did not emerge from a vanquished democratic revolution and has no history of defeated nineteenth-century reformist movements. If anything, the reverse is true: the “left” played the major role in defining political and social institutions during the period in which national identity was established. Canadian unification in 1867 is associated with the Conservative party, whereas the federation of Australia around the turn of the century was pressed in most states by the Labor party. It is noteworthy that in Australia, as in the United States, it has been the “conservative” party that has changed its name to avoid association with traditional and privileged elements. “Not by accident but by design the term conservative early in the twentieth century disappeared from the nomenclature of parties in Australia and New Zealand. … It could not obviously win enough varied backing among the surviving elements of conservative opinion. In Canada a conservative outlook in many respects found great favour” (Brady [1947] 1960, p. 528).

In a certain sense some of the persisting differences in outlook between Canada and Australia may be seen as reflecting the need of each country to dissociate itself from the major power that has had the most direct cultural and economic influence on it. Canadians are the world’s oldest and continuing “anti-Americans.” The Canadian has always felt his sense of nationality threatened by the United States, physically in earlier days, culturally and economically in more recent years. Not only have Canadians found it necessary to protect themselves against American expansion, they have also found it necessary to emphasize why they are not and should not become Americans; they have done so by disparaging various elements in American life, mainly those that are seemingly an outgrowth of mass democracy and an excessive emphasis on equalitarianism. Australian nationalism, in contrast, inspired efforts to dissociate Australia from Britain, first politically and later in terms of social values. Britain was perceived antagonistically as the stronghold of rigid inequality. Thus, where Canada justified a more elitist attitude in reaction to American equalitarianism, Australia emulated various American equalitarian patterns in reaction to British elitism.


The oldest of the Anglo-American societies, Britain clearly differs from the other three countries in having a visible resident monarchy which even today retains considerable social influence over the populace. Even socialist leaders, such as Clement Attlee and Herbert Morrison, accept aristocratic titles as great honors, a phenomenon that occurs in no other country in the world. In England a public-opinion study reported that “in 1957, three people in five throughout the country were still keeping souvenirs from the 1953 Coronation; and three in ten claimed to have a picture of a royal person in their house” (Harrisson et al. 1961, p. 232).

The characterization of British society as elitist and ascriptive with diffuseness and collectivity orientations is supported by institutionalized religion, which still performs a role of social integration. England, unlike the other three Anglo-American societies, does not sanction the split between church and state. The Church of England remains an Established church. In England the prime minister appoints the bishops; other ecclesiastics are also appointed by secular officials. In fact, the archbishops and 26 senior bishops sit in the House of Lords. The Prayer Book, which is the approved liturgical form of worship, is subject to the approval of Parliament, and an attempt to revise the Prayer Book in 1928 was rejected by the House of Commons (Richmond 1958, p. 108).

The traditional upper classes and their institutions—the public schools, the ancient universities, and the titled aristocracy—remain at the summit of the social structure (Crosland [1956] 1957, pp. 232–237; Williams 1961, pp. 318–321; Sampson 1962, pp. 160–217). George Orwell suggested that deferential sentiments are so strong among British workers that “even in socialist literature it is common to find contemptuous references to slum dwellers.... There is probably more disposition to accept class distinctions as permanent, and even to accept the upper classes as natural leaders, than survives in most countries. … The word ‘Sir’ is much used in England, and the man of obviously upper class appearance can usually get more than his fair share of deference …” (1947, p. 29).

Although elitist, ascriptive, particularistic, and collectivity-oriented values do persist in British society, Britain has been moving much closer to the opposite set of orientations. Industrialization, urbanization, and political democratization have all spurred the growth of universalistic and achievement-oriented values. But relative to the other English-speaking countries Britain still retains many of its preindustrial value orientations, which are sustained through their identification with the top of the social hierarchy. Thus, in the nineteenth century the British business classes rejected the noblesse oblige collectivity-orientation characteristic of the aristocracy: they denied responsibility for the poor and, instead, justified their claim to authority over the poor on the basis of their ownership of productive machinery (Bendix 1954, p. 271). However, within a relatively short period of time, the spokesmen for the new entrepreneurial classes imitated the old aristocracy by formulating an ideology that affirmed their responsibility for the workers and the lower classes generally and claimed that the duty was being performed (Bendix 1956, pp. 100–116). The British upper classes, unlike most Continental aristocracies, sustained their social prestige and influence by strong resistance to the claims of the new business classes, and later of the workers, to participate in politics. As Tocqueville pointed out, the British upper classes have maintained an “open aristocracy” that can be entered by achievement, conferring upon the entrants many of the diffuse privileges of inherited rank (Tocqueville 1833–1835).

Social structure and value emphases

It is extremely difficult to verify the assumptions concerning the rank-order differences in value emphases that have been posited here or to show the ways in which these differences affect patterns of behavior. Some of the economic indicators concerning distribution of income and wealth, size of national income, and per capita growth rates do, however, tend to support these assumptions.

Economic structure

The seemingly greater emphasis on equalitarianism in Australia than in the United States and Canada may account for the fact that Australia shows a lower income differential than do the United States and Canada. “The differential between the lowest and highest incomes is low in Australia. Within any commercial or industrial organization the salary of the second-highest-level executives is usually not more than three times that of the lowest paid adult male employee (before income tax, which levels the incomes considerably more)” (Taft & Walker 1958, p. 141). When the distribution of incomes in Australia and the United States is compared, it is clear that the majority of Australian incomes are distributed within a narrower range and with a lower midpoint than are the majority of United States incomes. Income data for 1957–1959 indicate that the difference between the income levels below which 25 per cent and 75 per cent of the population (taxpayers) fall is $1,300 in Australia, close to the 25 per cent income level (about $1,250). In the United States the corresponding difference between the 25 per cent and 75 per cent income levels (for families and unrelated individuals) is approximately $5,000, a figure more than double the 25 per cent income level (about $2,200). This comparison implies that there are proportionately fewer paupers and millionaires in Australia than in the United States (Mayer 1964). And reports of British income data indicate that there is a much greater concentration of low incomes in the hands of the many and of high incomes in the hands of a few than in the United States or Canada (Lydall & Lansing 1959, pp. 59–64; Bryden 1964, p. 30; Great Britain, Central Statistical Office, 1960, pp. 254–257; Australia, Department of the Treasury, Taxation Office, 1960–1961, p. 42). There is also abundant evidence that in spite of six years of a Labour government following the war, and an extensive commitment to a welfare state, the distribution of wealth in Great Britain is far less equal than in the United States (Lampman 1962, pp. 211, 215; Lydall & Lansing 1959, p. 64). A recent study of income distribution in Great Britain concludes that “the ownership of wealth, which is far more highly concentrated in the United Kingdom than in the United States, has probably become still more unequal and, in terms of family ownership, possibly strikingly more unequal, in recent years” (Titmuss 1962, p. 198).

Australia currently stands at the egalitarian end of the income-distribution scale among the four nations, while Great Britain remains the most inegalitarian. In recent years, however, various commentators on the Australian scene have suggested that achievement values are gaining, indicated by increasing support for greater income differentiation among jobs on the basis of the level of skill and education required, and that the sentiment for preserving a small wage spread is declining. Professional associations and skilled workers’ unions have been demanding substantial increases in the salary margins between themselves and those with less skilled occupations. The Arbitration Commission has begun to acknowledge such claims (Encel 1964, pp. 61–66). In deciding on the demands of the engineers’ association, which argued against past egalitarian wage policies on the grounds that “the prestige and social importance should be reflected in its remuneration … [a recent judgment by the Arbitration Commission] acknowledges that ’this is a technological age in which the needs of mankind continue to become more comprehensive and complex,’ that the satisfaction of these needs depends greatly on the skill of the engineer, and that low salaries prevent the professional engineer from occupying ‘the honoured place in the community which was his right and entitlement’” (Davies & Encel 1965, pp. 30–31). The United States has traditionally emphasized that achievement (equality of opportunity) and social equalitarianism (equality of manners) do not imply “equality of income,” whereas Australia has assumed that “mateship” and “equality of status” require the maintenance of low income differentials among high-status and low-status occupations. On the whole, manual workers’ unions in Australia are still more likely than those in North America to bargain for “across-the-board” increases rather than for differentiation among various skill groupings and are also more likely to prefer shorter hours to increased pay, policies which may reflect the lower level of achievement motivation there.

Educational system

Perhaps no other institution is as intimately connected with the values of achievement and equalitarianism as the educational system. Here also it seems possible to relate many of the available facts concerning institutional variations among these four countries to assumptions concerning value differences. Perhaps the most striking evidence of the difference in values between the United States and the other societies is the variation in opportunities for higher education. The other three countries have a considerably lower proportion of college-age youth enrolled in higher education than does the United States, although Australia is somewhat closer to the United States than is Canada, which in turn has a larger cohort in higher education than does Great Britain (see Table 2).

Table 2 — Students enrolled in educational institutions as per cent of age group 20-24, about 1960
Sources: Compendium of Social Statistics 1963, pp. 329, 331, 324-325; Demographic Yearbook, 1960, pp. 182, 191–192, 245–246.
United States30.2
England and Wales7.3

The strong and successful efforts in the United States to extend opportunities for higher education reflect both the pressures exerted by those in lowerstatus positions to secure the means to success and the recognition by the privileged that American values of equality and achievement require that those who are qualified be allowed the means to take part in the “race for success.”

There are varying estimates of the numbers entering and attending institutions of higher education in different countries, owing in large part to the differing definitions of higher education in each nation. But even when the rather narrow British definitions and assumptions are applied, it seems clear that the proportion of college-age Americans enrolled in higher education is at least four and possibly seven times the proportion of Britons and that the American ratio is two to three times that of Canada and Australia (Great Britain, Committee on Higher Education, 1964).

Some evidence that these differences reflect variations in values, and not simply differences in wealth or occupational structures, may be deduced from the fact that the two major former American colonies, the Philippines and Puerto Rico, though low in per capita income, have a much larger proportion of the college-age cohort enrolled in colleges and universities than any country in Europe or the Commonwealth, a phenomenon that appears to reflect the successful effort of Americans to export their belief that “everyone” should be given a chance at college education. Similarly, the Scots, whose society is both more equalitarian and achievement oriented than the English, though much poorer economically, have proportionately many more students enrolled in universities. The rapid growth in the proportion of Australians still at school in the 20–24 age group, placing Australia considerably ahead of Canada, indicates that observers of the Australian scene may be correct in reporting that achievement values are gaining there. It also points to the close relationship between achievement and equalitarianism. One Australian educational expert accounts for the growth in education as inherent in “the objective of equality of educational opportunity which stems from the social philosophy of the country” (Bassett 1963).

The content of educational curricula also appears to reflect national value differences. In the United States and Australia, where status differences are seemingly less emphasized than in Canada, not to speak of the much more status-bound British society, curricula include more vocational, technical, and professional courses in schools and universities. These courses reflect the view that education should be concerned with imparting not only intellectual and purely academic skills but also practical knowledge directly applicable to a specific occupational situation (Conant 1961). As in the United States, Australian universities “are increasingly becoming high-level training institutions. Courses in pharmacy, forestry, surveying, physiotherapy, social work, town planning, agricultural economics, radiography, and many other new subjects have appeared on the scene to swell the number of university students and create new professions where only occupations existed before” (Bassett 1963, p. 293).

In Britain, and to a lesser degree in Canada, technical training has been viewed as corrupting the “aristocracy of intellect,” or those being trained for political and social leadership. The British have largely kept vocational higher education outside the universities, with separate nonuniversity-affiliated colleges or schools for those subjects. Canadians, though less successful in resisting the introduction of these subjects than the British, still differ from Americans in being more eager to maintain the humanist emphasis in the curricula, a point of view that seems to accompany ascriptive and elitist values in other societies as well (Woodside 1958, p. 20). It has been noted that in Australia “a utilitarian approach to education is wide-spread. Schooling is seen as vocational training and social adjustment rather than as the extension of general education and knowledge” (Barcan 1961, p. 43).

The British educational system traditionally has been concerned with giving a separate and special education to those selected for the elite—whether on the basis of inheritance or demonstrated ability—by removing them from contact with the prospective nonelite in either public or grammar schools, in which there is great emphasis on inculcating the elite’s aesthetic culture, manners, and sense of paternalism toward the nonelite (Young [1958] 1959, p. 40; Vaizey 1959, pp. 28–29; Middleton 1957, pp. 230–231). The American system, on the other hand, as James Conant once put it, demands as its ideal “a common core of general education which will unite in one cultural pattern the future carpenter, factory worker, bishop, lawyer, doctor, sales-manager, professor and garage mechanic (see Young [1958] 1959, p. 40). Some Canadian writers have pointed out that until very recently education in their country was designed to train an ecclesiastical and political elite, much in the British tradition (Woodside 1958, pp. 21–22; Wrong 1955, p. 20). Canada is caught in the painful dilemma between what might be termed the European orientation and the American orientation (Nash 1961).

Political structure

The same assumptions about the interrelated consequences of national value emphases apply to variations in political and class conflicts. Thus, differences in the backgrounds of the supporters of political parties are much more closely correlated with class lines in Australia and Britain than in the United States and Canada (Alford 1963, pp. 101–107). The two most classpolarized nations, Australia and Britain, are those in which working-class particularism (group consciousness) sustains a sense of political class consciousness. Conversely, the two North American polities have been characterized by a stronger emphasis on universalism and achievement orientation. Where these values are emphasized, the lower-status person is more likely to feel impelled to get ahead by his own efforts and consequently is less prone to accept political doctrines that stress collective responsibility for success or failure (Merton [1949] 1957, pp. 167–169). These varying emphases and pressures may also be reflected by differences in trade-union membership. In Australia, two-thirds of all workers belong to unions (Walker 1956, p. 325), whereas in the United Kingdom somewhat over 40 per cent of the employed population is unionized, and in the United States and Canada about 30 per cent of those in nonagricultural employment belong to unions (International Labor Office 1961, pp. 18–19; Cyriax & Oakeshott [1960] 1961, p. 14; U.S. Bureau of the Census 1964, p. 247; Canada, Bureau of Statistics, 1962, pp. 246–249).

Although more stress is placed on the relationship of class to party in Australia and Great Britain than in the two North American nations, the Labor party has been able to win much more acceptance among the electorate in Australia than in Britain. Australia had a minority Labor government as early as 1904, and the first majority Labor government in the world in 1910. Although the (conservative) Liberal-Country parties have dominated most federal governments during much of the postwar period, this has been in part a result of the presence of two rival Labor parties on the ballot. In Britain, on the other hand, the Conservatives have been the dominant party throughout most of the twentieth century. The Labour party, in fact, has never received a majority vote from the electorate. It may be suggested that these national differences reflect the prevalence in Australia of political values derivative from the particularistic mateship sentiments developed among a working class transplanted from the more ascriptive and particularistic society of the British Isles. In Australia the descendants of the British working class have not been subject to the countervailing influence of a traditional elite supported by deferential norms, such as continued in the United Kingdom. Thus, particularistic class values (mateship) have fostered strong class political and economic organization in Australia and Britain, but the absence of ascriptive (aristocratic) and elitist values in the former undercut the support for conservative institutions and parties.

The politics of the United States and Canada differ in that identification with the elite constitutes an electoral handicap in the United States. The Democratic party has had the historic advantage (apart from the aftereffects of the Civil War) of being perceived as the party of the common man, of the people, in opposition to the elite. Canada, on the other hand, has no such legitimate antielitist populist tradition. In contrast to the United States, it has emphasized the disadvantages of populism, an outlook that may have played a major role in preventing the emergence of a clear-cut left-right class-based party conflict in the country. In Canada also, class-differentiated politics have probably been hampered by the fact that particularism (group consciousness) has always been expressed much more in religious and ethnic (linguistic) terms than according to class lines (Alford 1963, pp. 262–277; Regenstreif 1963, p. 63).

American and Australian equalitarianism and lack of status deference not only results in greater legitimacy for the “left” party but also contributes to the relatively greater strength in these nations of populist antielitist movements through which popular discontent is expressed. The seemingly lesser respect for the “rules of the political game” in the United States, and to some extent in Australia as well, may be viewed as endemic to a system in which equalitarianism is strongly valued and diffuse elitism is absent. Generalized deference is not accorded those at the top; therefore, in the two more equalitarian nations, there are repeated attempts to redefine the rules or to ignore them. In effect, the legitimacy and decisions of leaders are constantly being questioned. A comment made by an Australian political scientist concerning attitudes toward political leaders in his country could be applied to the United States: “The suspicion of established authority that permeates Australian society finds a particular outlet in a widespread distrust of politicians, who are regarded as corrupt, self-seeking, uneducated, of mediocre ability, and not fit to be trusted with power” (Encel 1962, p. 209).

Many have argued that the more widespread deferential respect for elites in Britain, and to a degree in Canada, as compared to the antielitism of the two other nations, underlies the freedom of political dissent and guaranteed civil liberties so characteristic of Britain and English-speaking Canada. The emphases on elitism and diffuseness are reflected in the ability of the more unified and influential elites to control the system so as to inhibit the emergence of populist movements that express political intolerance. The Canadian sociologist S. D. Clark notes that: “In Canada, it would be hard to conceive of a state of political freedom great enough to permit the kind of attacks upon responsible leaders of the government which have been carried out in the United States” (1954, p. 72). In seeking to explain why Britain has not witnessed attacks on the integrity of its governing elite, Edward Shils comments that “the acceptance of hierarchy in British society permits the Government to retain its secrets, with little challenge or resentment” (1956, p. 49 ff.; Hyman [1963] 1964, p. 294).

Diffuse elitism tends to place a buffer between the elites and the rest of the population. The ability of Britain to operate without a written constitution, or Canada without a bill of rights, which would place restrictions on parliamentary violations of civil liberties, is to some degree made possible by the emphases on diffuseness and elitism in the two systems. In these societies the elites, whether those of intellect, of business, of politics, or of mass organizations, are both protected and controlled by their membership in the “club,” which prescribes norms governing conflict among the members.

The greater violation of minority-group civil liberties in the more equalitarian democracies may be viewed as a consequence of a social system in which elite status is more specific. Accordingly, contending elites do not receive diffuse respect and feel less acutely the need to conform to a commonly held set of rules when engaged in struggle. They do not see each other as part of the same club, as members of an “establishment.” Hence, conflicts about the rules, as well as over policies, are put to the broader public for solution. And this entails appealing in some degree to a mass electorate to adjudicate on rules whose significance and applicability they cannot be expected fully to understand. Appreciation of the necessity for such rules often involves a long-term socialization to the nature of the political process.

Some of the differences in political reactions among the four nations may also be due to the varying emphases in self-orientation as distinct from collectivity-orientation values. An emphasis on particularism tends to be linked to collectivity orientations. Moreover, the noblesse oblige morality inherent in aristocracy is an aspect of collectivity orientation. Historically, Britain, Australia, and Canada have stressed collectivity orientations much more than has the United States. In the first two countries, even the nonsocialist parties have long accepted the logic of government intervention in the economy and of the welfare state. Canada has never had a major socialist party, but a large number of industries are government owned, and both major parties have sponsored significant welfarestate measures. That the collectivity orientation in Canada is stronger than in the United States seemingly reflects the greater stress in the former of the values of elitism and particularism.

Although modern industrial society appears to be moving generally toward a greater acceptance of collectivity orientations, in the United States the emphasis on self-orientation results in strong resistance to community-welfare concepts. The rise of right-wing extremist resistance to such changes may reflect the fact that the self-orientation values are stronger among large segments of the American population than they are within societies with an aristocratic and elitist background. Thus, the values of elitism and ascription may operate against the excesses of populism and facilitate acceptance of a welfare state by the privileged strata, whereas emphases on self-orientation and antielitism may be conducive to right-wing populism.

The greater similarity between Australia and the United States, and their difference from Canada and especially Britain, in the occurrence of populist threats to the principle of due process is reflected to some degree in the extent to which the former two tolerate lawlessness. The comparative lack of traditional, hierarchically rooted social control mechanisms results in only weak social pressure to obey the rules without coercion. As the Australian historian Russell Ward has well put it, the deferential “respect for the squire,” which underlies the acceptance of authority and informal social controls in Britain, is “based on traditional obligations which were, or had been, to some extent mutual” (1959, p. 27). Status deference was not easily transferred to new equalitarian societies that emphasized the universalistic cash nexus as a basis of social relations. The complaints often heard in the United States about corruption as a means of achieving success have also been expressed by Australians (Bryce 1921, pp. 276–277; Jeanne MacKenzie [1961] 1962, pp. 154, 220–222). “They will put up with boss-rule and corruption in tradeunions; they are not greatly concerned about gerrymandering at elections” (Norman MacKenzie [1962] 1963, p. 154; Lipset 1963, pp. 199–202). Neither union corruption nor gerrymandering are as prevalent in Britain and Canada.

One indicator of the relative strength of the informal normative mechanisms of social control as compared with the emphases of legal sanctions may be the relative size of the legal profession. The rank order of the four nations with respect to ratio of lawyers to population suggests that the United States depends most heavily on formal legal rules (one lawyer per 868 people), Australia second (one per 1,210), Canada third (one per 1,630), and Britain last and least (one per 2,222 people) (Lipset 1963, p. 264).

The United States has the highest crime rate among the four and Australia has the second. Contempt for law in Australia is expressed by lack of respect for the police and for law enforcement in general. These attitudes, linked not only to equalitarian attitudes toward authority but also perhaps to the country’s penal-colony origins, are evident in the comment that “it is not uncommon to hear of a crowd watching a fight between a policeman and some minor criminal and intervening only to obstruct the police and allow the criminal to escape” (MacDougall 1963, p. 273). A study of Australian national character states unequivocally that “dislike and distrust of policemen … has sunk deeply into the national consciousness” (Jeanne MacKenzie [1961] 1962, p. 149). Similarly, studies of American police report that the policeman typically perceives the citizenry to be hostile to him (Skolnick 1966, p. 50). British police are somewhat less likely to experience the community as hostile (Banton 1964, pp. 125–126). The difference between American and British respect for the police is evidenced in a content analysis of movie plots in the two countries: “In American films the police are often mistaken, and the private investigator must solve the mystery. In British films, the police are almost always right” (Wolfenstein [1953] 1955, p. 312). And the implications of these findings are strengthened by the results of a detailed study of the English public that reports “enthusiastic appreciation of the police,” the author commenting that he does “not think the English police have ever been felt to be the enemy of sizable non-criminal sections of the population …” (Gorer 1955, p. 295). Similarly, there seems general agreement among Canadians that the respect given their national police force, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, far exceeds that ever accorded police in the United States (Wrong 1955, p. 38; Lipset 1965, pp. 28–30, 50–51).

Other illustrations

The consistent pattern of differences among the four major English-speaking nations may be pursued along many lines. Studies of comparative literature suggest that since Britain is elitist and the United States egalitarian the former has had greater influence on Canadian literature and American writers have had a more significant impact upon Australians:

Canadian writers have been less responsive than the Australian to American influences. As between English and American models, they have preferred the English. … Canadian writers found it more difficult than the Australian to absorb the exuberant realism that went with the expansion of American democracy. Whitman excited only the feeblest discipleship in Canada, but he was a political bible and a literary inspiration to Bernard O’Dowd, perhaps the best of the pre-modern Australian poets. American Utopian and protest literature found eager readers in Australia, comparatively few in Canada. (Bissell 1956, pp. 133–134)

Canadian intellectuals have attempted to demonstrate that they are superior to the crude vulgarities of populist American culture and almost as good as English intellectuals. Australian intellectuals have rejected the English cultural model as linked to a decadent elitist society and often hold up American equalitarian writings as a superior model. Thus, whereas Canadian critics praised the poet Charles Sangster because “he may be regarded as the Canadian Wordsworth,” Australian critics praised the poet Charles Harpur for the fact that he “was not the Australian Wordsworth” (Matthews 1962, pp. 58–59).

The differences among the nations, particularly with respect to egalitarianism, are highlighted by their legends and folk heroes. In Australia the heroes are frequently men who challenge authority and remain loyal to their companions. A list of Australian folk heroes would include Ned Kelly, outlawed bushranger, and Peter Lalor, the rebel leader of the Eureka Stockade (Taft 1962, p. 193). Comparative analyses of Canadian and American culture stress that many American heroes are also rebels against authority: cowboys, miners, vigilantes, frontiersmen, who keep fleeing the coming of authority, “while in Canada the ’mountie,’ a policeman who clearly stands for law and order and traditional institutional authority, is the corresponding symbol of Canadian westward expansion” (Wrong 1955, p. 38). Or, as S. D. Clark has reported, “we have tended to dismiss our rebels of the past as misguided individuals out of accord with their fellow citizens” (1959, p. 3). But English history and mythology, Robin Hood apart, glorifies the deeds of monarchs, aristocrats, and those who have defended the legitimacy of national hierarchical institutions.

Impressionistic reports concerning the different ways in which civilian conscripts of the four countries responded to the hierarchical organization of military life during two world wars coincides with estimates of the differences in national values. The British, and to a lesser degree the Canadians, are reported to have been more accepting of authoritarian structures, whereas Americans and Australians exhibited strong resentment at having to exhibit deference to military superiors. A study of the Australian Army reports that English “troops accepted the principle that the general business of the great world was the affair of their superiors alone rather than of themselves; if action outside routine was called for, they looked to their officers to tell them what to do and how to do it. In Australia the distinction into social classes was so resented that it was difficult to get born Australians to serve as officers’ batmen and grooms …” (Crawford 1952, p. 155). And various observers have reported that in London bars during both world wars, Americans and Australians tended to associate together, while Canadians were more likely than Australians to prefer British companions. More recently, an English observer commented that it “is very noticeable that Canadians are intimately at home when they go to England …” (Pritchett 1964, p. 189).

Unfortunately, there are few systematic studies of institutional differences in all four countries, and not many more that deal with any two of them. But those that do exist, whether they contrast education, family organization, religion, politics, the police, or the operation of the judicial system, tend to reinforce the general interpretation advanced here of the consequences of systematic variations in major societal values.

Congruence of values

Although important differences continue to exist among the four major Anglo-American nations, a reading of the historical record would suggest that the differences have diminished over the generations. Achievement orientations have increased outside the United States; class particularism seems less strong in Australia than in the past; the United States’ self-image as a radical egalitarian democratic nation opposed to the reactionary monarchical, aristocratic, and imperialist regimes of Europe has been challenged by its recent world-wide role of supporting existing regimes against communist and sometimes non-communist revolutionary movements; Canada’s self-justification against the United States as counterrevolutionary and against mass democracy has undergone important changes as well. Many Canadians now seek to defend the integrity of Canada against the United States by defining their own country as the more humane, more equalitarian, more democratic, and more anti-imperialist of the two. And since World War II in Britain, the Labour party has been in a position to contest regularly for control of the government, has gained control on occasion, and can expect to hold power frequently in succeeding decades. The Labour party seeks to foster the values of achievement, of universalism, and of equalitarianism. In the United States collectivity-orientation values are winning increasing respectability; the concept of the welfare state, although still less universally accepted than in the other three nations, is favored by growing numbers of Americans. It is obviously impossible to predict how similar the values and cultures of these four societies will be in the future, but the general trends are clear—structural change and political events are pressing them toward a congruence of values.

Seymour M. Lipset

[See also the biography ofTocqueville.]


A comprehensive bibliography appears in Lipset 1963.

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