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American Values


Explanations > Values > American Values


An early study, based on an investigation into political speeches, was published in 1961 by Edward Steele and Charles Redding that identified a set of archetypical American values.

Puritan and pioneer morality

The world is made up of people who are good and bad, foul and fair. You are either one of the good guys or you are one of the bad guys. If you are not with us, you are against us.

Value of the individual

The individual has rights above that of general society and government. Success occurs at the level of the individual. People should not have to fight for their rights. The government should protect the rights of the individual, not the other way around.

Achievement and success

Success is measured by the accumulation of power, status, wealth and property. What you already have is not as important as what you continue to accumulate. A retired wealthy person was successful, but is now less admirable.

Change and progress

Change is inevitable. Progress is good and leads to success. If you do not keep up, you will fall behind. Newer is always better. The next version will be better than the last.

Ethical equality

All people are equal, both spiritually and in the opportunities they deserve. This includes differences in race, gender, disability, age, sexual preference and so on.

Effort and optimism

Hard work and striving is the key to success. The great American Dream of fame and fortune comes to those who work hard and never give up.

Efficiency, practicality and pragmatism

Solution is more important than ideology. Utility is more important than show. A key question to any idea is 'Will it work?'

So what?

Are these values still apparent? Values change very little. If you think they do, then this may give you an insight into how to communicate effectively with Americans. If you embody these values, they are more likely to look up to you. If you appeal to these values, they are likely to buy into your message.

If you think this is a damn fine set of values, they are probably your values -- and maybe you are an American (or at least you will easily agree with a lot of Americans).

See also



Steele, E.D. and Redding, W.C. (1962). The American Value System: Premises for Persuasion, Western Speech, 26, 83-91


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