American Values: Convergence And Divergence – OpEd


There is no doubt that the Global Order of power is under transformation. There are new equations of power and the relationships emerging among the countries in the pursuance of their respective national interests, and to mold the International Order according to their own values and visions. A powerful country’s vision of the world evolves from the value system of a country — an imagery of a country such as the governance values, strategic values, political values, economic values, societal values and the cultural values.

Two contrasting value systems cannot conjoin immediately, but there is a scope of exchanges and transactions between the value systems. The value system is a layered framework of values, and each value system reflects the collective values of a country which may or may not share similar values.

The American value system has ‘Liberalism’ as its nucleus, around which the whole centripetal democratic framework is attached to the strings of cohesive factors. The similar value system is found among the European countries with variations. However, there is a huge contrast in the value systems of the other two major powers like China and Russia, or even Iran, which are quintessentially different from the American value systems. As an objective reality, the American value system is the most dominant and widespread, due to its sheer centripetal pull upon other value systems. But, not all value systems are under the centripetal effect of the American value system — especially, the Chinese and Russian value systems that have their own major spheres of values, and the capacity to challenge the American value systems.

The global outreach of dynamic American power is not so much in its static hard power, but rather it’s more in soft power, which is an imagery of the American values. One may wonder, why the American value system is more dominant over other value systems? Is it because of its economic potential? To simply say “Yes”, as an answer is oversimplified.

The mystery shrouding this question is one reason I have conceptualized the ‘Value Systems’ of countries. It is true that the American value system has experienced an intense expansion over the last four decades of intense globalization process. But why has only American value system expanded predominantly throughout the world? The value system of the countries from Europe or Asia or the Islamic world have not gained the same traction.

The answers to these questions, require an analysis of the different value systems, and an insightful understanding of their nature and structure. However, the American value system should not be confused with the larger ‘Western Values’. In an attempt to analyze the value systems objectively, generalizing the western values as part of the American value system is not helpful. What would be an imagery of the west as a whole?

As such, it’s not purposeful to put together American values with the larger western values. The values imagery of the countries such as the UK or Canada have a different imagery of their own values, hence every different country has a different values imagery, though there may be stark convergences and divergences, as well between the countries which have much to share in common with respect to the value systems.

One component of the American value system is Hollywood, where its movies are synonymous with the term ‘ American Movies’ and not ‘Western Movies’ with the worldwide audience. Undoubtedly, the American economic expanse has laid the basis for the American Value System to expand, which has enhanced its centripetal effect over other value systems. American soft power as a component of its value system is visible in every part of the world in the cultural sphere.

Although the American value system is firmly entrenched in the cultural sphere globally, there is friction between some countries’ value systems and harmony with the others. The three major challenges are the value systems of Russia, China, and Iran, whereas there is also a harmonious connection with the value systems of other democratic countries like India and Israel.

The only possibility of the decline in the American power could be due to the shrinking of the global footprint of the American value system, and the subsumption of that vacuum by the other value systems. Also, an enlargement of the other value systems will create friction with the American value system, while any retreat of other value systems will open an opportunity for the American value system to fill up the void.

*Faisal Ahmad Qureshi, M.A International Relations, New Delhi

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