Many authors suggested that the traditional value system will converge to a modern value system when market institutions and democracy are established. According to the experience, more realistic is the assumption of creating a value syncretism or crossvergence in the process of transition from traditional society towards modern society.



The traditional value system is based on the assumption of „limited resources," as introduced by Foster (Foster, 1965)[1] The theory of limited resources suggests that land is the only apprehensible resource in agricultural societies as it cannot be increased. Given the time of their establishment, these assumptions underestimate the effect of technological improvements on the quality of yield. These observations create a specific attitude - if a person has more of the limited resource (as it cannot be increased), I will have less.  


      Land has seen as inherent; there to be divided and redivided, if necessary, but not to be augmented (Foster, 1965, str. 296). Lend meant wealth.

      The kind of effort invested into saving reputation indicates higher significance given to the said rather than the done, i.e., explicit and declarative ways of expressing beliefs, as compared to the real feelings resulting in actions which could be hidden from the curious onlookers and not subjected to the judgment of the group.


     Economic traditionalism or “economy of needs” (Sombart, 1902)[2] "Once their habitual needs had been met, the "traditionalist" workers saw no reason to go on working, for that matter to earn more money" (Bauman, 2004)[3]

     The average peasant sees little or no links between work and production methods on the one hand, and the acquisition of wealth on the other: peasants work to eat, but not to create wealth. Craftwork was prevalent, and work was centered around the farms and homes.

     Peasant societies are called “societies of mutual distrust” (Friedman, 1958, str. 24)[4] Towards the non-members, formed as a result of the constant battle over scarce resources.


    Ethics is distributive when it comes to the production of goods. In the peasant culture, hard work and thrift (proper management, ability to saving) are moral qualities of only the minor value. Great success can be obtained by lack, not by thrift and hard work (Banfield, 1958, str. 66)[5].

  The entire family economy was task-oriented, but within them, there may be a division of labor and the discipline of an employer-employee relationship between the peasant and his children.

  South Italian peasant "believes that the few who have succeeded in making a career were able to do so for some mysterious reason: on hit upon a hidden treasure; another was lucky enough to win the lottery; another was called to America by a successful uncle" (Friedman, 1958, str. 21)


      Time is cyclical, arising from changing seasonal occupations in agriculture; Hours and tasks must fluctuate with the weather: “the horses (if not the men) must be rested. There is a difficulty of supervision.” (Thompson, 1967, str. 78)[6] In the workplace, the autonomy of workers was not tolerated. A work ethic called people to choose a life devoted to labor. 

  Achievement is not desirable in traditional culture, which is dominantly closed as well as static. Personal success and innovativeness are seen as threats to peasant societies. The peasants can feel safe in not displaying any initiative.

   It might be more important who you opt for (attachment to a group determines an individual) than who you are. In such a system, the individual does not feel personally responsible but blames a “collective“ - group, family, school or a party - which sets absolute criteria on what is right or wrong.


   Peasant's lack of confidence in his ability to change his environment and living conditions (Cancian, 1961, str. 8)[7] is one of their primary cognitive orientation which discourages changes and innovativeness.




   The basis of the recruitment pattern was the use of family ties and friendships, which left those qualified to do the work outside this closed inner circle. Carrying out contractual obligations was more efficient by using informal mechanisms, such as maintaining one’s reputation.


   Peasant societies are not pregnant with the ability to delegate authority. Family ties are of vital importance regarding their capability to make an individual less dependent on the institutionally imposed rules. Social structure is segregated, in the economic and social sense, as each is mostly oriented to communication within the respective group (family, party, religious group), so that every agreement is carried out using an „informal manner," through „informal economic and social institutions."



     Traditional societies always opt for interim guidance which cannot solve problems structurally. Peasant societies are incapable of delegating power; they instead choose authority outside the community since they are a part of a broader culture. Cooperation in peasant societies is limited. The members of the peasant societies can take care of themselves with a high degree of independence, which makes them closed. Bearing in mind that leadership requires cooperation, it was evident that members of the traditional societies do not compete for authority by seeking leadership roles (Foster, 1965, str. 303)


The more in-depth analysis shows that changes in the economic system were in fact understood as an explicit change in the value system, whereas the reproduction of new systems mostly went on according to implicit values. Importance of reviewing the implied values, from the traditional, preindustrial, to the industrial society, stems from the need to understand the distance, explicit and implicit ways to express the values. Understanding the nature of that span, as well as its root, enables its control. 

[1]     Foster, G.M. (1965) Peasant Society and the Image of Limited Good. The University of California, Berkeley, 1965; American Anthropologist, Vol. 67 No.2 p. 293−315.

[2] Sombart, Werner. 1902. Der Moderne Kapitalismus. Leipzig: Duncker & Humblot

[3] Zygmunt, B.(2004) Work, Consumerism and the New Poor; McGraw-Hill; http://www.mheducation.co.uk/openup/chapters/033521598X.pdf: pg. 6

[4] Friedman, F.G. (1958) The world of „La Miseria“; The Community Development Review; No. 10, pp. 16-28; Washington, D.C., International Cooperation Administration;

[5] Banfield, E., (1958) The moral basis of a backward society; Glencoe, The Free Press, https://coromandal.files.wordpress.com/2011/02/edward-c-banfield-the-moral-basis-of-a-backward-society.pdf

[6] Thompson, E.P. (1967) Time, Work-Discipline, and Industrial Capitalism; Past and Present, No. 38; pp. 56-97; https://libcom.org/files/timeworkandindustrialcapitalism.pdf

[7] Cancian, F.; (1961) The southern Italian peasant: worldview and political behavior; Anthropological Quarterly; Vol. 34; pp.  1-18; https://escholarship.org/content/qt6b29j30j/qt6b29j30j.pdf