Coming out…as a Cultural Creative

June 13, 2012

It’s time for me to come out…I am a Cultural Creative. Perhaps you are too?

The term Cultural Creative, drawn from research and population surveys conducted over the past few decades, refers to a growing subculture of people whose values and world views are quite distinct from those that most often dominates our politics, media and many cultural norms.  Though still not universally known, the term gained popularity when sociologist Paul H. Ray and psychologist Sherry Ruth Anderson’s published their 2000 book, The Cultural Creatives. You can read an updated report based on 2008 research here.

Cultural Creatives are actively creating cultural and social change and tend to have a more unifying world view–embracing ecological sustainability, social responsibility, diverse cultures, creative expression and psycho-spiritual growth–and are more willing to challenge the status quo of materialism, cynicism, and, yes, even capitalism.  While less than 5% of the population in 1960, they have now become approximately a third of the American population.

This general area of research and discussion–how we are changing as a culture and as humans–is quite complex, a bit tricky and rarely addressed directly so I can only begin to touch on some key points in this blog entry.  Come join me for a live program in Chicago on Sunday, June 24th when I’ll be leading a town hall-like discussion, sponsored by our local chapter of the Institute of Noetic Sciences.

According to Ray’s research (with similar findings in Europe and Japan), Cultural Creatives have only emerged as a significant subculture since the 1960s, joining the two existing subcultures who’ve been in America for a while, Moderns and Traditionals. Moderns generally rule our culture and media–they value skepticism, scientific expertise, individuality, material success and efficiency. They have long engaged in a culture war with Traditionals, with their conservative, nostalgic, usually religious values. Traditionals believe their way is the right way and that we should go back to a better time, while Moderns strongly resent any infringement on their individual freedom and rights (and usually rights of others) to achieve success.

Cultural Creatives don’t subscribe either to the Every-Man-for-Himself or Us-vs.-Them philosophies of the Moderns and Traditionals. They have a different–and some would say more evolved–ecological, spiritual and global consciousness. They believe that humans are one people, that the earth is our home and must be taken care of, and that we have the power and imagination to invent a better future where the planet and everyone in it can thrive.  Check out the latest published population distribution (chart, left) based on Ray’s 2008 survey. While Moderns are still the largest group with about 40% of the population, Cultural Creatives are catching up, and Traditionals are slowly diminishing in number (“Transitionals” refer to Traditionals whose green, planetary values are moving them toward Cultural Creatives).

“Core” Cultural Creatives at about 16% tend to be the leading change agents, and include artists, writers, thinkers, spiritual- and alternative health-seekers, who combine a focus on inner life and authenticity with a strong passion for altruism, activism and social responsibility.  The “Green” Cultural Creatives tend to be a bit more secular or conventionally religious, but still embrace more eco-conscious, social justice values.  While it’s appealing to put Cultural Creatives in a political category, Ray points out that neither party accurately reflects Cultural Creative values and most often surveys reflect a deep dissatisfaction with both parties.

Despite their size, Cultural Creatives have yet to fully be identified, even by themselves, and because their values tend to be disdained by the dominant culture as too idealistic, most of us are still in a closet that we may or may not be aware of.  More to say about this and Cultural Creatives in my next blog entry on my regular Innovation on my Mind blog.

Finally, surveys in different countries have shown that Cultural Creatives have more in common with each other across cultures and countries.  Some Europeans have taken on the Cultural Creative mantle, with Cultural Creatives online TV and a film, called Cultural Creatives 1.0: The Revolution, which you watch by clicking here.

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