Schwartz Value Theory Essay

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Schwartz’s value theory originated in the psychology literature and has now been used in business research as well. Based on data collected in the 1980s and 1990s from 60,000 respondents in 64 countries, Shalom H. Schwartz identified 57 items that represented 10 value types on an individual level and seven value orientations on the cultural level. The Schwartz Value Survey (SVS) avoided ethnocentric cultural bias by including questions from all world religions and all areas of the globe, including Africa and Asia.

The SVS questionnaire consists of three parts: two value lists and one list of demographic questions. The 57 value-list items are rated on how important they are for the respondent as a guiding principle in life on a scale between “0” (not at all important) and “6” (very important). Additionally, outstanding values, which are either opposed to the respondent’s principles or which are regarded “of supreme importance,” are scored as -1 and 7 respectively on the scale.

The basis for the value theory is that values direct people’s individual choices and can be ranked in the order of importance. The 10 motivationally distinct values can be further organized around two bipolar dimensions: openness to change versus conservation and self-transcendence versus self-enhancement. This illustrates that the goals are in conflict with each other, e.g., individual versus collective goals. The 10 dimensions are defined as follows:

  • Power: attainment of social status and prestige, and the control or dominance over people and resources
  • Achievement: demonstrated competence in terms of what is valued by the system or organization in which the individual is located
  • Hedonism: pleasure or sensuous gratification for oneself. It is derived from physical needs and the pleasure associated with satisfying them
  • Stimulation: excitement, novelty, and challenge in life. Thrill seeking can be a result of strong stimulation needs
  • Self-direction: independent thought and action in choosing, creating, and exploring. It comes from a need for autonomy and independence
  • Universalism: understanding, appreciation, tolerance, and protection of the welfare for all people and for nature
  • Benevolence: preserve and enhance the welfare of people with whom one is in frequent personal contact
  • Tradition: respect, commitment, and acceptance of the customs and ideas that one’s culture or religion imposes on the individual
  • Conformity: restraint of action, inclinations, and impulses likely to upset or harm others and violate social expectations and norms
  • Security: safety, harmony, and stability of society or relationships, and of self

Based on the above individual level values, Schwartz further identified three polar dimensions of culture:

  • Conservatism (Embeddedness) versus Autonomy: The former emphasizes social relationships and tradition, while the later implies finding meaning in one’s own uniqueness and being encouraged to express one’s attributes. Autonomy can further be of two types: intellectual (self-direction, creativity) or affective (pursuit of stimulation and hedonism).
  • Hierarchy versus Egalitarianism: legitimacy of hierarchical role and resource allocation versus transcendence of self-interests and promoting others’ welfare.
  • Mastery versus Harmony: mastering the social environment via self-assertion (success, ambition) versus being “at peace” with nature and society. Organizations are viewed as a part of the broader social system.

There appears to be a slight overlap between Schwartz’s typology and that of Hofstede. The “autonomy” in Schwartz’s model appears to be synonymous with the individualism/collectivism dimension of Hofstede, whereas “hierarchy” is close to Hofstede’s power distance. “Mastery” is similar to masculinity in that both emphasize goal achievement. “Harmony” and uncertainty avoidance are fairly close, and finally Schwartz demonstrated strong positive correlation between “egalitarianism” and femininity.


  1. Adrian Furnham and Halldór Valgeirsson, “The Effect of Life Values and Materialism on Buying Counterfeit Products,” Journal of Socio-Economics (v.36/5, 2007);
  2. Imm Ng, Julie Anne Lee, Geoffrey N. Soutar, “Are Hofstede’s and Schwartz’s Value Frameworks Congruent?” International Marketing Review (v.24/2, 2007);
  3. David A. Ralston, David H. Holt, Robert H. Terpstra, and Yu KaiCheng, “The Impact of National Culture and Economic Ideology on Managerial Work Values: A Study of the United States, Russia, Japan, and China,” Journal of International Business Studies (v.39/1, 2008);
  4. Shalom H. Schwartz, “Are There Universal Aspects in the Content and Structure of Values?” Journal of Social Issues (v.50, 1994);
  5. Shalom H. Schwartz, “Evaluating the Structure of Human Values With Confirmatory Factor Analysis,” Journal of Research in Personality (v.38, 2004);
  6. Shalom H. Schwartz, “Values and Behavior: Strength and Structure of Relations,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (v.29, 2003);
  7. Shalom H. Schwartz and A. Bardi, “Moral Dialogue Across Cultures: An Empirical Perspective,” in Autonomy and Order—A Communitarian Anthology, E. W. Lehman, ed. (Rowman & Littlefield, 2000);
  8. Shalom H. Schwartz and A. Bardi, “Value Hierarchies Across Cultures,” Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology (v.32/3, 2001);
  9. Shalom H. Schwartz and K. Boehnke, “Evaluating the Structure of Human Values With Confirmatory Factor Analysis,” Journal of Research in Personality (v.38, 2004);
  10. Shalom H. Schwartz et al., “Extending the Cross-Cultural Validity of the Theory of Basic Human Values With a Different Method of Measurement,” Journal of Cross-cultural Psychology (v.32/5, 2001);
  11. Guangping Wang, Wenyu Dou, and Nan Zhou, “Consumption Attitudes and Adoption of New Consumer Products: A Contingency Approach,” European Journal of Marketing (v.42/1–2, 2008).

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