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Expert of the Month
May 2001

Paul H. Ray, Ph.D.

Soulful Living's May 2001 Expert of the Month, Paul H. Ray, Ph.D., is a sociologist and co-author of the new book, "The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World."

In honor of our "Conscious Living" May 2001 issue, Paul H. Ray was on hand all month to answer questions about the lifestyle of the Cultural Creatives in this interactive "Question and Answer" column.

To Learn More About the Cultural Creatives, Read the Q&A:


Q:  So, who are the Cultural Creatives? 

A:  The Cultural Creatives are 50 million Americans who care deeply about ecology and saving the planet, about relationships, peace, social justice, and about authenticity, self actualization, spirituality and self-expression. Surprisingly, they are both inner-directed and socially concerned, they're activists, volunteers and contributors to good causes more than other Americans.  (There are probably about 80-90 million Cultural Creatives in the European Union as well.)

However, because they've been so invisible in American life, Cultural Creatives themselves are astonished to find out how many share both their values and their way of life. They have no idea how big a group they are, a quarter of the adults in America, and how important they can be to American life. If you ask them, "how many people share your values, what you see as most important in life?" they will tell you that it's just them and a few of their friends. Press them on this point and they'll say, "Oh maybe 1% or 5% of Americans" But with that 5% they're ready to pull back, sure that they've exaggerated their numbers. Once they realize their numbers, their impact on American life promises to be enormous, shaping a new agenda for the twenty-first century.

Q:  Why do you call them the Cultural Creatives?

A:  Because they are literally creating a new culture. Innovation by innovation they are shaping a new American culture for the 21st century.

Q:  Well, what kinds of things are the Cultural Creatives doing?

A:  In between the pure profit making business and the begging-for-money charity, there's a whole rainbow spectrum of new kinds of organizations and social experiments.

Take a yoga center for example: is it a business, a spiritual place, an education center, a health and exercise place, or a way of life? The answer is Yes to all the above. We're crossing categories all the time.

We interviewed a sculptor named Vijali Hamilton who travels around the world creating something she calls the World Wheel. In each community she creates an environmental sculpture and she does community building. She asks the people to go deep into who they are and how they connect to the rest of the world, and from their answers they create a piece of theatre, and music, and a community ritual. Is this art, community building, entertainment, spirituality, ecology? Again, Yes, to all the above.

Q:  Why does all of this make such a difference?

A:  What makes Cultural Creatives different than most Americans is that when you're involved in several movements you've been exposed to their reframing a lot of times, because that's what these movements do.

Reframing is a big deal. It lets us look at our old problems from a new angle of vision. And it gives a new way of explaining them, and a new way to state our moral concerns.

The Cultural Creatives are the ones who have been really paying attention, applying those reframings in their own lives.

Reframing means you start to question the unspoken assumptions of the social codes all around you. It's not okay to let big business destroy the environment. 

It's not okay to have nuclear power. It's not okay to let the foreign policy elite send our young people off to wars without involving the citizens. It's not okay to put down, or harm, people who are different than you are. And so on.

If you are exposed to half a dozen big reframes, two things happen: the content changes your whole world view, and you get comfortable with the process of questioning the unspoken assumptions of the old culture. That's where the Cultural Creatives came from. And that's where a lot of our new direction is coming from.

All those people who have questioned the unspoken assumptions had to rely on their own direct experience. How else could you take off the old culture's eyeglasses? This has an incredible potential potential for opening up creativity in our lives. It gives us some comfort in going into the unknown. And that is where our whole society is going anyway at this time in history.

This is a part of the personal life changes that so many Cultural Creatives have gone through. So often they said to us that they had to live more authentic lives after opening up questions they really cared about, and having to live through the experiences they've had. The Black Freedom Movement called it "walking your talk" and this need for authenticity was picked up by every social and consciousness movement since then.

This emphasis on authenticity is at the center of who the Cultural Creatives are today, and is one of the key values they've brought into American life. 

Are You A Cultural Creative? Take Our Quiz and Find Out.


Paul H. Ray, PhD is co-author of the new book, "The Cultural Creatives: How 50 Million People are Changing the World."  He is also a founding partner in a new consulting firm, Integral Partnerships, LLC, designed to help those organizations whose constituencies or customers are Cultural Creatives to be more successful, by aligning their internal activities and values with the values and needs of their constituencies or customers. 

He has surveyed and classified well over 100,000 Americans in the past thirteen years, showing how the subcultures of values permeate all aspects of American life. During the time of the research reported in the book, he was Executive Vice President of American LIVES, Inc., a market research and opinion polling firm specializing in surveys and focus groups based on the Lifestyles, Interests, Values, Expectations and Symbols of Americans. The research projects that led to discovery of the Cultural Creatives include studies of the effects of values on consumer choices and preferences of Americans in housing, cars, food, recreation, vacation travel, finances, health, political causes (e.g., environment), media use, and altruism; and he also leads studies of innovation by consumers and business. He still consults with American LIVES on research.


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