The article aims to answer the question whether peculiarities of Ukraine’s population values prevent development of Ukrainian society during a period of independence and what should be done for its successful modernization. Based on the longitudinal data of the World Values Survey (WVS), the European Values Study (EVS) 1990’s – 2010’s as well as the data of the Research Institute of Credit Suisse Group the article demonstrates that high levels of poverty and social inequality are barriers for the development of Ukraine and impede the spread of emancipatory post-materialist values among the population. Application of modernization and value change model, which was developed by R. Inglehart et al., indicates absence of substantial value cleavage in Ukraine. Also the relationship between value orientations and paternalist expectations of the population is not observed.
It is found that despite the fact that there are fewer people who share emancipatory values compared to other East European countries, Ukraine, nevertheless, also encounters a latent fundamental shift from traditional materialist value priorities towards emancipatory post-materialist orientations. Yet, Ukraine is poorer and has significantly more unequally distributed wealth than the rest of neighboring countries. Based on the research results one can predict that the increase of well-being and a corresponding rise in a sense of existential security among the population will accelerate the change of values that will create opportunities for civic participation and more effective control over the state institutions. Discovered significance of historical effect in value change leads to a substantial elaboration of the existing modernization model.
The efforts of national government, local authorities, international organizations, civil society should be directed at assistance to Ukrainian people in becoming capable social agents and escaping “the poverty trap”. Thus, the purposeful and competent policy of Ukrainian government, true institutional reforms, restriction of “crony capitalism” rent-seeking practices and social inequality reduction provide a chance to modernize Ukrainian society successfully.
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