Values is a key to political modernization in Ukraine | Center for Political Analysis «Observatory of Democracy»

Values is a key to political modernization in Ukraine

The role that values ​​are being placed in the political process is fundamental and, at the same time, undeservedly marginal. First of all, we are talking about the fact that despite the intensive development of the so-called “cognitive direction” in socio-political sciences, the strategies and tactics of political players still remain to be “legitimate” post-Soviet prism of policy analysis under the conditions of the existing constitutional mechanisms.

For example, what has been already known well? The characteristic of the current Ukrainian political regime in terms of the neopatrimonial is obvious. Such a regime is distinguished by two basic principles. Firstly, it is not oriented towards the production of the “common wealth”, but to the egoistic practices of rent-seeking and “state capture”. Secondly, the key role in it is played by patron-client networks, in which the “place under the sun” is defined by the level of closeness to the “patron” and the amount of available resources.

The ineffectiveness and situationality of formal legal mechanisms are another characteristic of the Ukrainian political system. Most often the weakness of legal institutions (the lack of a balanced system of checks and balances) is the main argument for explaining the current triumph of neopatrimonialism in Ukraine.

Nowadays, after four years of the Revolution of Dignity, the Ukrainian political regime continues to function “unperturbed” in familiar, far from democratic, frames. The absence of radical political changes causes not only a wave of public frustration, but also raises the question: why is the political system not changing?

However, it is important to analyze not only the consequences, but the reasons. Since it is the values ​​or basic preferences of individuals / citizens that determine the logic and result of the functioning of political institutions, the value and mental revolution is the necessary but missing component in the process of political modernization in Ukraine.

Homo Sovieticus is confused: it is time to benefit from it

Value orientations are in the basis of individual actions. Individual action that repeats in the society many times becomes a certain stable type of behavior later, and in the end completely transforms into an institution. This is a rather rough explanation of new institutionalism statements. New institutionalism is a major theoretical trend in political science that studies the impact of cultural beliefs on political structures and vice versa.

More conceptually, the basic ideas of new institutionalism can be expressed in the following theses:

  1. Culture itself is seen as a set of shared institutions and values.
  2. Institutions provide conceptual meanings, through which individuals define the meaning of their political life activity.
  3. Institutions and values ​​are interdependent and they affect the behavior of individuals. However, they do not simply define what the individual needs to do in a particular situation, but also “explain” how he or she should understand himself/herself in the context of this action.
  4. The most important thesis: the stability of institutions is not ensured by their effectiveness (utility or rationality), but by compliance with generally accepted social (cultural) practices, in which these institutions receive the status of “valuable”.

Nobel laureate in economics, an American economist Douglas North defines culture as a transfer of factors influencing behavior from one generation to another. Such factors or value orientations are formed in accordance with prevailing living conditions. When the life’s conditions change, values ​​change as well.

However, such changes, as cultural anthropology explains, take place during a sufficiently long time, which is necessary for perception of new conditions of existence and “experimenting” with new values. As a result of such values’ competition those life principles win that are better suited to the new situation.

Taking above into consideration we can conclude that with each passing year of existence of independent Ukrainian state the power of the so-called “Homo Sovieticus” (a complex of post-Soviet values) is being exhausted. Moreover, Homo Sovieticus is really confused: since such familiar living environment for him/her is no longer exists. And therefore it is time to benefit from his/her confusion and through purposeful work to “push” the social values ​​for developing in the direction that is necessary for political modernization.

Working democracy as the derivative of self-expression values

It is important to note that in the broadest sense, value is everything that has subjective usefulness for individual. This is not only, for example, the value of freedom or the moral value of respect for parents. Values, in general, are any motivational factors that stimulate us to act this way and not another one.

For Ukrainian realities we can provide the following example: if an individual owns illegally acquired property or capital, it is obvious that honest, transparent courts for him/her are not of proper value, i.e. the existence of such institutions is insignificant. In his/her activity such individual is motivated not only to use “roundabout and illegal schemes”, but also to protect this status quo.

The indicated correlation is illustrated in details by the results of the study “Economic Freedom in the World” composed by the Fraser Institute in 2017. According to them, at the 26th year of Post-Soviet development, Ukraine demonstrates one of the lowest indicators in the sphere of legal structure and protection of property rights. The leaders of Ukrainian enterprises assessed the independence of courts on 2.1 points (10-point scale, where 10 is the highest indicator of effectiveness of the criterion being evaluated), 2.74 points – impartiality of courts, 3.38 points – protection of property rights.

In Ukraine, the illegal nature of the purchasing of property systematically “undermines” the value of independent and transparent courts or, in other words, reduces motivation (not only at the level of state officials, but in society in general) for the formation of relevant institutions.

However, even in this example, theoretically the situation is not a deadlock, because the mentioned correlation has the opposite character: the lack of an honest and impartial judiciary also undermines the right of private property to the same extent that forms a whole range of problems. These problems are capable to “promote” the formation of independent courts values and privet property values. So far major owners and officials solve this problem by the withdrawal of their property in a jurisdiction where the values ​​of respect for law and private property are immutable. However, without the “legitimized” and, therefore, systematically protected private property as a value, the construction of more developed economy and welfare in the country is impossible, and it is more significant for the whole Ukrainian society in general.

In other words the institutions that structure the interaction in society and, obviously, determine the effectiveness of the political system functioning are formed on the basis of specific incentives (or in the broad sense on values) that are developed among the “actors” of a particular society.

Thus, the numerous studies in the field of institutionalism show that it is the “subjective models” (value orientations) that predominate in the perception of individuals which predetermine both the political and economic development and stagnation of states. As a general rule, in countries that demonstrate a low level of development, most often the political elite, who has a sufficiently wide range of opportunities (this tendency is typical for Ukraine), sets the course of state policy on redistribution, rather than production of material goods, forms a monopoly instead of creating a competitive environment and, in general, contributes to the development of conditions that restrict, rather than expand, the right to choose.

One of the fundamental works that clearly illustrates the practical significance of values ​​is the study of an American political scientist Robert Putnam “Making Democracy Work: Civic Traditions in Modern Italy”. The main question that is analyzed in this article is why regional authorities (similar in their structures throughout the country) performed much more effectively in the north of Italy than in the south as a result of the reform of the 1970s? And what factors contribute to the creation of sustainable democratic institutions of power in general?

As a result of the research, Robert Putnam has established a direct relationship between the number of functioning public organizations in the region and the quality of their development. He has shown that in those parts of Italy where civil society was formed already in the XIX century, democratic institutions work most successfully. In turn, starting from the notion of a formed civil society we come to an understanding that the level of governance institutions’ development is dependent on the prevalence of political activity, personal independence and interpersonal trust values inside the society.

In the future, Robert Putnam’s prism of research, in which the effectiveness of democracy was explained primarily through the development of civil political culture, was significantly expanded through a list of values ​​that are complementary not only for democracy but also for the economic development of the country.

A similar classification of values ​​was proposed by an American political scientist Ronald Inglehart. It identifies two groups of values: the values ​​of self-expression (which stimulates the development of democracy) and the values ​​of survival (which slow down democratic processes).

Using this approach, as well as the research results of the Italian economist Guido Tabellini, who distinguishes cultural features that promote economic growth, the following main groups of values ​​of self-expression can be defined:

1. Social trust. The economic significance of such phenomenon as social trust is enormous. In a society where people trust each other and are not afraid to interact with strangers, the efficiency of production increases due to the development of anonymous market exchange. Confidence in this case is a guarantee that the transaction would not be disrupted, and the “second party” would fulfill its obligations, etc.

Nowadays, Scandinavian countries are the leaders in terms of the level of social confidence, which directly correlates with the high indicators of their economic and political development. Together with the value of trust, the value of respect for people, as well as tolerance to the freedom of choice of others, are closely related.

2. Individualism and a sense of control over own life. This rule means that any kind of individual effort would be justified and payback. When an individual is convinced that he/she is able to succeed based on his/her conscious decisions and actions, he/she is motivated to work hard, to invest in his/her own future, and to implement innovations.

On the contrary, if success is seen as something entirely dependent on external and uncontrolled factors (for example, the “country is guilty” is quite typical for Ukrainians), the individual would be passive and apathetic. This value is also interconnected with a sense of subjective well-being.

3. Civil and political activity. Participation in political and public life in local communities allows an individual not just to feel “needed” (which is also important from the point of view of identity), but also develops the feeling of a “common cause”. Personal individual’s interest and responsibility for the results of his/her own activities provide a reliable tool for monitoring the implementation of the “common good” on the local levels and stimulate the “responsiveness” of the elites. At the national level, anti-elite civic activity could also serve as an indicator of the existence of values ​​of self-expression by the example of signing petitions, advocacy campaigns, etc.

4. Post-materialism. This set of values ​​motivates people to obtain the civil and political rights that form the basis of liberal democracy. It is post-materialism that forms the necessity to create institutions that allows to implement the freedom of choice, to act independently in private and public life. The priority of post-materialism is not physical and economic security, but the values ​​of self-fulfillment and the quality of life. Societies with a high level of post-materialistic values seek to gender equality, and are tolerant towards social, national, and sexual minorities.

Dominance of survival values ​​= lack of incentives for modernization

Researchers of values ​​distinguish such an indicative trend: “formal” democracy usually arises when the commitment to the values ​​of self-expression is demonstrated by more than 30% of the population of the state. Ronald Inglehart points out: “As for genuinely effective democracy, it is formed when these values ​​are practiced by at least 45% of the population”.

At this time in Ukrainian society it could be observed the prevalence of another type of values ​​- survival values, which, unlike the values ​​of self-expression, do not assume responsibility for anything other than their own lives and, thus, contribute to the formation of a culture of conformism in civil and political spheres, preservation of the minimum level of motivation (or political will) of the ruling class for effective reform of the political system.

The following characterizes such values:

1. Materialism. The fact that Ukrainians spend about 50% of their incomes on food, minister-in-office of social policy of Ukraine recently tried to explain that they eat a lot (apparently, as tasty as gourmet Alain Ducasse or as much as Pantagruel). In response to a minister, experts and the public referred to a more credible reason: monopolistically high prices for food and low income of the population, half of which is spent on food, and the rest – to pay for utilities.

As a result, while Europe is most afraid of ISIL, global warming and cyber attacks, the strongest fears of Ukrainians according to the research of the Institute of Sociology of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine, conducted in cooperation with the Charity Fund “Intellectual Prospect” in July 2017, are rise in prices (77%), non-payment of salaries and pensions (62%), unemployment (60%). It is significant that although the fear of rise in prices took first place in all regions, the residents of the eastern part of Ukraine point out to this factor more often (86.5%) than the inhabitants of the western part (66%), which indicates that the western regions have moved somewhat further along the way borrowing post-materialistic values.

In addition to the materialistic value of economic welfare, the need for security associated with a sense of physical insecurity is important for Ukrainians. Anxiety for their safety encourages citizens to seek protection, trusting in strong leaders, and rigidity of power and group discipline.

The “materialistic consciousness” of the majority of Ukrainians creates a demand for the so-called “charismatic extremists” who use a sense of anxiety and threats outgoing from internal and external enemies. Within the framework of this perspective, for example, the party “For Life” (for life, but in fact – for survival) has already successfully corresponds to the demands of a mass Ukrainian voter, who is unlikely to be interested in, for example, the “Party for Animals” (which really functions in the Netherlands).

2. Civic and political passivity and irresponsibility. Despite the development and strengthening of Ukrainian civil society over the past few years, Ukrainians are still hoping that everything will be decided “from above” for them and without their participation.

In general, the interest of Ukrainians in the political sphere is extremely low. This conclusion is confirmed by the results of a sociological survey of the Razumkov Center that was held in September 2017. So, 60% of Ukrainian citizens are not very interested in politics or are not interested in it at all, 33% are more interested and only 5% are very interested in this sphere. For comparison, in Germany and the Netherlands, the level of interest of citizens in politics is 62% and 65% respectively. As for the age structure, only 24% of citizens are interested in politics in Ukraine are young people, 50% are citizens over 59 years old.

Similar situation can be observed on the level of civic and political participation. According to the above-mentioned research, the absolute majority (96%) of the respondents has not come up to the authorities with any suggestions for improving the work of the system of power, either on behalf of the collective or on their own. At the same time, only one third of citizens believe that their personal participation is necessary in order to improve the situation in the country; 47% of citizens believe that their participation will not affect anything.

Such data clearly illustrates the tendency of Ukrainians to focus on primary, basic needs, on daily earning of means of survival. Obviously, under such conditions, there is no need for a social demand for radical political reform.

3. “Limited morality”. Lack of trust inside society leads to the phenomenon when “codes” of conscientious and honest behavior are often restricted to “neighbors” or, in the Ukrainian case, to networks of “chosen ones” (relatives, friends, proven colleagues). Outside of this small network, opportunistic and selfish behavior is considered natural and morally acceptable. This is what distinguishes Ukrainian society from the West, where abstract rules of good behavior (“generalized morality”) are applied in all social situations, and does not only among relatives and friends.

A similar cultural feature, an American political scientist Edward Banfield called as “immoral family”, existed, for example, in the already mentioned South Italy of the 70s of the XX century, where there was no middle class oriented to market relationships. Until now, this region maintains the hierarchical “patron-client” relationships.

The low level of social confidence is a trend typical for the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. In the report for 2017, “Religion and nationality in Central and Eastern Europe”, composed by the expert and analytical center “Pew Research Center” on the basis of its own research, conducted in June 2015 – July 2016, fairly representative data is provided. Only 28% of Ukrainians believe that they could trust to most people, while 54% of respondents said that they should not be too open with people. The highest indicator of trust in the society among the observing countries is in Estonia (39% of respondents believe that most people can be trusted), the lowest in Bosnia and Herzegovina (only 6% of respondents agree to trust to most people).

The results of the study also established the following correlation: those respondents who noted a low level of trust in the society were the most skeptical about supporting democracy as an effective political regime.

4. Conservatism. A high level of religiosity is another characteristic of traditional values ​​of survival, in contrast to the secularism of modern values ​​of self-expression. Modern Ukrainian society is very religious. The Church steadily retains its leading position as a social institution, which Ukrainians trust more than other state and public institutions. For example, according to a research that was conducted by the Razumkov Center in October 2017, 64.4% of citizens trust the church as a social institution. However, in connection with the volunteer movement’s enhancement, Ukrainians show the greatest confidence in relation to volunteer organizations (66.7% of respondents), which indicates some transformations in the value paradigm of Ukrainians towards the values ​​of self-realization.

Nevertheless, the conservative views of the majority of Ukrainians significantly influence the attitude to post-materialistic values ​​associated with gender and sexuality. 83% of Ukrainians, according to the results of the above-mentioned Pew Research Center research, consider homosexuality as morally unacceptable. Greece is the least conservative among the countries of Central and Eastern Europe in this respect (51% of respondents chose this option), Armenia (98%) is the most conservative. However, with regard to traditional views on the role of women in society, Ukrainians demonstrate some “freedom from patriarchal stereotypes”: less than half of the citizens (41%) fully or rather agree that the wife should always submit to her husband.


The complex of values ​​that constitutes the “subjective model” of individuals’ perceptions and motivates their behavior is at the basis of the complex of institutions of a particular political system and defines the level of state’s development.

In this regard, the establishing of an effective and working democracy is possible only if there is a corresponding social request, “interest” of society, when the priority demand of citizens is the demand to ensure civil rights and freedoms. That is why changes in the value and cultural sphere, the transformation of the value paradigm are an important and necessary process on the path of Ukraine’s political modernization, whereupon the quality and effectiveness of socio-political reforms depend.

At this stage, the process of political modernization of Ukraine is characterized not only by the lack of political will among the representatives of state power, but also by the dominance of the survival values ​​among the majority of Ukrainians, who form an agenda, based on the needs and interests of a lower level that is not connected with the problem of necessity of socio-political transformation.

Such values, together with the lack of political will of the ruling group, lead to the preservation of the existing political order, meaningfully distorting any attempts to modernize it.

Nevertheless, it can be stated that the values ​​of Homo Sovieticus gradually lose their dominant position, thereby creating favorable conditions for the value-mental revolution and the assimilation of values ​​of self-realization that are complementary to economic and democratic development. However, a successful mental revolution is possible only in case of purposeful and systematic work with values ​​at all levels of the political system.

Ukrainian political system would have prospects for evolution towards a functioning democracy by weakening informal restrictions in the form of cultural practices and survival values only, creating conditions for the European political institutions and mass values ​​to be mutually consistent.


The lack of a culture of trust inhibits the ability of citizens to interact with each other within the economic and political fields, catastrophically increases costs, reduces the efficiency of production and exchange, and also causes contradictions based on linguistic and cultural characteristics. In this regard, it is necessary to create a mass Ukrainian culture of the open society of a “generalized” rather than “limited morality” through the consolidation of the civic sector, the establishment of regular bilateral communication between civil society and the state, by implementing an effective information policy that would explain and motivate citizens to take an active part in political life.

The experience of Western countries demonstrates that to solve the issue of the development of economically poor regions, it is not enough just having public investments and development of small and medium-sized businesses, since these measures do not address completely to the source of the problem. It is much more important to ensure the creation of conditions for open competition, protection and inviolability of private property that would contribute to the development of “anti-offshore” values ​​of transparency of transactions and, in general, the development of trusting interpersonal social interactions.

An investment in quality education that meets modern standards should take especially important place. The growth and accumulation of social capital in the regions as well as an increasing in the level of political competence should become one of the priority areas within the educational strategy of the state. Civic education from school age, education in democratic values ​​and creation of a social environment embodying these values ​​should also be given a key place among the tools for achieving this goal.

Valentyna Kyselova, Olena Ukrainets

Center for Political Analysis “Observatory of Democracy”

Published on the informational and analytical portal “Hvylya”