After reviewing the major variations in how individualization is interpreted and explained, this article turns to the World Values Survey (WVS) data to empirically investigate one central aspect of individualization, namely, the connection between religiosity and moral values. That analysis demonstrates, first, that rates of decline in levels of religiosity in most advanced industrial states have been quite modest. The rate of change in moral outlooks, by contrast, has been much more striking. Those two core findings, we argue, draw attention to the question of what explains these cross-national and cross-time variations. The remainder of the article empirically explores a variety of plausible explanations. The results of that analysis reveal not only significant variations between European and North American publics, but also that associational behavior plays a significant role in gearing the dynamics of individualization.
The European Values Study is a large-scale, cross-national, and longitudinal survey research program on basic human values, initiated by the European Value Systems Study Group (EVSSG) in the late 1970s, at that time an informal grouping of academics. Now, it is carried on in the setting of a foundation, using the (abbreviated) name of the group European Values Study (EVS).
The EVSSG aimed at designing and conducting a major empirical study of the moral and social values underlying European social and political institutions and governing conduct.
A rich academic literature has now been created around the original survey, and numerous other works have made use of the findings.