Francis Hsu & Alfred J. Kraemer & L. Robert Kohls


Three Lists of American Values


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Hsu’s Postulates of Basic American Values: Francis Hsu (1969) The Study of Literate Civilizations

  1. An individual’s most important concern is self-interest: self-expression, self-improvement, self-gratification, and independence. This takes precedence over all group interests.
  2. The privacy of the individual is the individual’s inalienable right. Intrusion into it by others is permitted only by invitation.
  3. Because the government exists for the benefit of the individual and not vice-versa, all forms of authority, including government, are suspect. But the government and its symbols should be respected. Patriotism is good.
  4. An individual’s success in life depends upon acceptance among his or her peers.
  5. An individual should believe in or acknowledge God and should belong to an organized church or other religious institution. Religion is good. Any religion is better than no religion.
  6. Men and women are equal.
  7. All human beings are equal.
  8. Progress is good and inevitable. An individual must improve himself or herself (minimize efforts and maximize returns); the government must be more efficient to tackle new problems; institutions such as churches must modernize to make themselves more attractive.
  9. Being American is synonymous with being progressive, and America is the utmost symbol of progress.


Kraemer’s Postulates of Mainstream American Values

As a spinoff product of a training course for U.S. government personnel stationed abroad, Alfred J. Kraemer (1973) identified 21 values of mainstream U.S. culture that influence behavior in Americans, behavior that is often rather “inscrutable” from the perspective of people from another culture

  1. Individualism – the belief that each person is a distinct entity and ought to assert and achieve independence from others.
  2. Egalitarianism – the belief that all human beings are equal in their intrinsic worth.
  3. Action orientation
  4. Perception of interpersonal encounters primarily in terms of their immediate utility, and downgrading of the social significance of such encounters
  5. Universalism – the value attached to being guided in ones action in certain situations primarily by an obligation to society, i.e., by general standards of conduct – laws, regulations, rules, established procedures, etc. (In other situations, the value of individualism prevails).
  6. Definition of persons (including oneself) in terms of their work and achievements.
  7. The belief that the collective wisdom of the group is superior to that of any individual
  8. The idea that the process of decision-making requires evaluation of the consequences of alternative courses of action, and selection of the one that, on balance, seems most advantageous.
  9. The belief that competition is a good way of motivating people. (creative tension)
  10. The idea that there is usually a best way of doing something, which should be determined and then followed.
  11. The belief that knowledge gained through observation is superior to knowledge gained in other ways
  12. The belief that quantifying aspects of experience with numerical precision increases credibility
  13. Placing a higher value on utilitarian aspects of experience than on aesthetic ones
  14. Problem orientation – the tendency to perceive “problems” in the world and in one’s existence in it, and to look for “solutions”
  15. The beliefs that thoughts cannot directly influence events
  16. Reasoning in terms of probability
  17. Impatience – the tendency to be annoyed by the pace of activities, if it is slow by one’s own standards (because of one’s own standards?)
  18. The tendency to make comparative judgments
  19. The willingness to offer one’s services for the benefit of “the common good”
  20. The belief in a behavior pattern called “self-help”
  21. The belief that the use of absurd suppositions will help communicate ideas or elicit ideas from other persons


L. Robert Kohls (1984)

“The Values Americans Live By” – article aimed at international students

Even competition for artsy things like poetry, painting and sculpture – first prize, etc.