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Going Largely Unnoticed, A Dramatic Shift in Our Culture is Underway
Published on Saturday, June 8, 2002 in the Asheville Citizen-Times
Going Largely Unnoticed, A Dramatic Shift in Our Culture is Underway
by Bruce Mulkey

"Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society - in its world view, its basic values, its social and political structures, its arts, its key institutions - rearranges itself. . We are currently living through such a transformation."
Peter Drucker, Post-Capitalist Society

“Because something is happening here
But you don't know what it is
Do you, Mister Jones?”
--Bob Dylan, Ballad of a Thin Man

Do you have a deep commitment to the preservation of our environment? Do you place a high value on your psychological and spiritual growth?

Are you unhappy with both the Democrats and Republicans, and long for political candidates who are willing to work for the common good?

Do you have a positive vision of the future? Are you actively working to improve your community?

If you answered "yes" to these questions, then you are probably a Cultural Creative. (Visit to take the Cultural Creative quiz)

After 13 years of research on values and lifestyles, Paul Ray coined the term "Cultural Creatives" to describe the people who are literally creating a new culture in America. In their groundbreaking book, "The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People Are Changing the World," Ray and co-author Sherry Anderson describe how 26 percent of adults in the United States have undergone a dramatic shift in their values and the way in which they live their lives in just the past few decades.

Through the convergence of social movements - peace, civil rights, women's rights, gay liberation, environmental and others - and personal consciousness movements - Gestalt therapy, bodywork, experiential workshops, meditation, etc. - the Cultural Creative subculture has emerged.

With a strong sense of the sacred in nature, a commitment to spiritual and psychological growth and a willingness to support ecological sustainability, Cultural Creatives desire to live their lives congruent with their deepest beliefs. Yet this entire social phenomenon has taken place beneath the mass media's radar.

In addition to the Cultural Creatives, Ray and Anderson contend that there are two other large subcultures in America: the Moderns, today's dominant culture, weighing in at approximately 50 percent of the U.S. adult population; and the Traditionals, social conservatives who comprise the remaining one-fourth of our adult populace.

As a group, the Moderns value success, financial wealth, economic growth and technological progress; they are not overly altruistic or very concerned with living a spiritual life.

Both Presidents Bush fall into this category, as do Madonna and Bill Gates.

Traditionals, on the other hand, typically value patriarchy in family life, the Bible for personal guidance, the primacy of their religion, homogeneity and the freedom to carry arms. Jesse Helms, Dolly Parton and H.L. Hunt are all Traditionals.

To see a full expression of the Modern lifestyle all you have to do is turn on TV. Wear the latest styles, get the coolest new technology, emulate the rich and famous.

It's enough to drive Traditionals to Rush Limbaugh and Cultural Creatives to Bill Moyers, who is, by the way, a Cultural Creative as are Anita Roddick and former Asheville mayor Leni Sitnick.

Because their values are not reflected in the dominant culture, Cultural Creatives frequently lack a sense of their growing numbers and often feel isolated.

Nonetheless, when this subculture unites, it is a force to be reckoned with.

We are in the midst of an epic shift in American culture. And while some may become dispirited at its pace or with the violence and turmoil surrounding it, the transformation of our cultural paradigm is unfolding just as it should.

This groundswell of compassion, sustainability and justice cannot be contained. And now is the time for those who are willing to step into the unique role for which they were intended in its support.

A special thanks to Loyd and Ken Kinnett and Peter and Esther Fisher for helping to bring the Cultural Creative phenomenon into my consciousness. Bruce Mulkey's e-mail address is



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