News & Politics

An Excerpt from "Cultural Creatives"

An excerpt from the first chapter of Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson's book, "The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World."
This excerpt is from the first chapter of Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson's book, "The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World."

Imagine a country the size of France suddenly sprouting in the middle of the United States. It is immensely rich in culture, with new ways of life, values and worldviews. It has its own heroes and its own vision for the future. Think how curious we all would be, how interested to discover who these people are and where they have come from. In Washingon and on the Sunday morning news shows, politicians would certainly have strong opinions about what it all means, and pundits would be expressing their views with their usual certainty. Businesses would be planning strategies to market to this population, and political groups would be exploring alliances. The media, of course, would be blazing with first-person interviews and inside stories of the new arrivals, instead of the latest Beltway scandals.

Now imagine something different. There is a new country, just as big and just as rich in culture, but no one sees it. It takes shape silently and almost invisibly, as if flown in under radar in the dark of night. But it's not from somewhere else. This new country is decidedly American. And unlike the first image, it is emerging not only in the cornfields of Iowa but on the streets of the Bronx, all across the country from Seattle to St. Augustine. It is showing up wherever you'd least expect it: in your brother's living room and your sister's backyard, in women's circles and demonstrations to protect the redwoods, in offices and churches and on-line communities, coffee shops and bookstores, hiking trails and corporate boardrooms.

Shaping a New Culture

This new country and its people are the subject of this book. We report thirteen years of survey research on more than 100,000 Americans, hundreds of focus groups and about sixty in-depth interviews that reveal the emergence of an entire subculture of Americans. The underlying themes are serious ecological and planetary perspectives, emphasis on relationships and women's point of view, commitment to spirituality and psychological development, disaffection with the large institutions of modern life, including both left and right in politics; and rejection of materialism and status display.

Since the 1960s, 26 percent of the adults in the U.S. -- 50 million people -- have made a comprehensive shift in their worldview, values, and way of life -- their culture, in short. These creative, optimistic millions are at the leading edge of several kinds of cultural change, deeply affecting not only their own lives but our larger society as well. We call them the Cultural Creatives because, innovation by innovation, they are shaping a new kind of American culture for the 21st century.

One useful way to see the idea of "culture" is as a large repertoire of solutions for the problems and passions that people see as important in each time period. So these are the people who are creating many of the surprising new cultural solutions required for the time ahead. In the chapters that follow, we tell their stories and the story of how they are changing our civilization in fundamental ways.

A Long Anticipated Moment

When we say that a quarter of Americans have taken on a whole new worldview, we are pointing to a major development in our civilization. Changing a worldview literally means changing what you think is real. Some closely related changes contribute to and follow from changes in worldview: changes in values, your fundamental life priorities; changes in life style, the way you spend your time and money; and changes in livelihood, how you make that money in the first place.

As recently as the early 1960s, less than 5 percent of the population was engaged in making these momentous changes -- too few to measure in surveys. In just over a generation, that proportion grew steadily to 26 percent. That may not sound like much in this age of nanoseconds, but on the timescale of whole civilizations where major developments are measured in centuries, it is shockingly quick. And it's not only the speed of this emergence that is stunning. The extent of it is catching even the most alert observers by surprise. Officials of the European Union, hearing of the numbers of Cultural Creatives in the U.S., launched a related survey in each of their 15 countries in September of 1997. To their amazement, the evidence suggested that there are at least as many Cultural Creatives across Europe as we reported in the United States.

Visionaries and futurists have been predicting a change of this magnitude for well over two decades. Our research suggests that this long anticipated cultural moment may have arrived. The evidence is not only in the numbers from our survey questionnaires but in the everyday lives of the people behind those numbers.

The sheer size of the Cultural Creative population is already affecting the way Americans do business and politics. They are the drivers of the demand that we go beyond environmental regulation to real ecological sustainability, to change our entire way of life accordingly. They demand authenticity -- at home, in the stores, at work, and in politics. They support women's issues in many areas of life. They insist on seeing the big picture in news stories and ads. This is already influencing the marketplace and public life. Because Cultural Creatives are not yet aware of themselves as a collective body, they do not recognize how powerful their voices could be. And if the rest of us are blind to the paradoxical gifts that their awakening brings, then we may well be left wondering where all the changes are coming from.

This book aims to sharpen our collective awareness with an in-depth look into who the Cultural Creatives are and what their emergence means for them and for all of us. Whether you are a Cultural Creative or share an office, a home, or a bed with one, or whether you simply want to create new projects or do business with Cultural Creatives, you'll discover what differences their presence will make in your life.

For more excerpts of this book, visit CulturalCreatives.org/samples.html. To purchase the book, use the Neighborhood Bookstore Locator to find your nearest local bookstore or order online through BookSense.com, an online network of independent bookstores.
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