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Are You a Cultural Creative?

Statistically speaking, you just might be.  According to the research of sociologist Dr. Paul H. Ray, approximately 35 percent of the U.S. population in 2008 was considered to be part of this recently emerged subculture, with that figure steadily climbing at around 2.5 percent annually.  His work spans more than two decades of extensive research, which demonstrates that Culture Creatives are radically reshaping the values that define mainstream American culture.

Ray’s professional experience includes 30 years of directing major national market research projects.  He formerly held the position of Executive Vice President of American LIVES, Inc., where he specialized in market research and opinion polling.  Dr. Ray is currently the Research Director for both the Institute for the Emerging Wisdom Culture at Wisdom University, as well as the State of the World Forum.  He has also served as Chief of Policy Research on Energy Conservation for the Department of Energy, Mines, and Resources for the Canadian government.   In 2000, along with psychologist Dr. Sherry Ruth Anderson, he coauthored the book The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World.

In a 2008 report entitled The Potential for a New, Emerging Culture in the U.S., Ray examines a decisive theory that opens the door to understanding why Americans adhere to the values that drive them as individuals.  He observes the societal trend for individual value sets to be defined by belonging to the three major subcultures of modern American society.  They are best known as the Traditional, the Modern, and the Trans-Modern, or the Cultural Creatives. 

Ray points out that these three subcultures are vastly different from one another, and in fact stand in invariable opposition to one another.  This juxtaposition is primarily due to a major discrepancy in fundamental values—values which heavily influence individual attitudes, opinions, consumer habits, as well as political and social tendencies.  By understanding the values that constitute each particular subculture, it then becomes apparent how each one has come to shape American culture.

It has only been within the past half century that Cultural Creatives have surfaced and begun to challenge and redefine mainstream values as previously defined by Traditionals and Moderns.  In fact, Dr. Ray’s research suggests that both Traditionals and Moderns are declining in numbers, while Cultural Creatives are the only subculture presently on the rise.  The latter’s recent permeation into American culture is inevitably due to the value set that defines it—one that offers a pragmatic and compassionate worldview that is able to perhaps best confront the issues facing the world today. 

Ray defines values as “…people’s most important life priorities, the bases for what they actually do, what they want to accomplish, and how they want to be”.  Cultural Creatives are typically indentified as having a deep sense of spirituality and wellness that is connected to the entire natural world.  They hold a deep respect for the well being of the planet and all of its biological diversity. They tend to be at the forefront of sustainable living in an effort to preserve this diversity.

Their compassion for other human beings is characteristically expressed through their concern for reducing poverty and improving health care and education, the condition of woman and children, as well as a strong commitment to family values, solidarity, and cultural appreciation.  This same value set also leads to an increased awareness that often minimizes the importance of financial success and acquiring material goods—characteristics typically associated with the Modern subculture.

The 2008 report also proposes that due to their appreciation and respect for global cultures, Cultural Creatives fervently reject the idea the America is the world’s greatest and most important nation, something he refers to as “super-patriotism”.  This worldview stands in stark contrast to the Traditional subculture’s notion that the United States reserves the right to impose its political, economic, or social ideals on other cultures.

Ray offers a poignant observation that marks a clear distinction between Cultural Creatives and Traditionals and Moderns.  He remarks that almost every facet of contemporary American culture aims to appeal to the value sets as defined by the latter two subcultures.  He indentifies the former, however,  as “…a shapeless population, because they have no special place to meet; no official clubs; organizations; churches or political groups that symbolize them; no TV shows; films or other media designed exclusively for their tastes; no institutional affiliations or badges of belonging to a large culture”.

Indeed, it is the Culture Creatives that are just now beginning to take a definitive shape.  Ray attributes the recent rise in green business trends, alternative and complementary medicines, concern for climate change, increases awareness and consumption of natural and organic foods, sustainability, and new forms of spiritualities to those specific values as defined by this ‘shapeless’ subculture.  Along with some 80 million other Americans, he certainly is not alone.

Below is a list of the subcultures and values that typically define them as set forth in Ray’s 2008 report, “The Potential for a New, Emerging Culture in the U.S.”—take a few minutes to look them over and see where you stand.

Traditional Values

Living a traditional life


Religious Conservatism


Against civil liberties

Still favor the Iraq War

Modernist Values For national education

Anti-big business

For national healthcare

Want social safety net

Protect civil liberties

Being a success in life

Cultural Creative Values

Be wise planetary citizen

See Nature as sacred

Concern over global warming and eco-crisis

Preserve environment, not big business

Wisdom is important

Leave a legacy of eco-sustainability for future generations

Reject big business to preserve environment

Reject ‘America first’ super-patriotism Reject big business conservatism in politics

Altruism, helping othersIdealism, want to make a social contribution

Will contribute to saving the planet and ecology

Demand for authenticity


Reject Libertarianism (neo-liberal economics)

Reject Religious Right For spirituality


The Potential for a New, Emerging Culture in the U.S., Report in the 2008 American Values Survey, by Dr. Paul H. Ray



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