In this next module of U.S. Cultural Values and Ideals 101, we will discuss the concept of egalitarianism in American culture.

Equality as an Ideal

Egalitarianism Defined


Egalitarianism is one of the ideological principles of American culture. 

The theme of equality was central to our nation’s founding, with the declaration that “all men are created equal.”  Our country’s history has witnessed the gradual evolution of that core principle from a ruling class that countenanced slavery and subordination toward an egalitarian vision that embraces the inherent equality of all people.  We fought a civil war in part to give life to this proposition.  It is embodied in our Constitution’s guarantee of equal protection under law, and in the other Civil War amendments.  And epic social movements of the past two centuries have moved our country, in fits and starts, further still toward the reality of truly equal opportunity. 

As Abraham Lincoln said of the Founders’ vision: “They meant to set up a standard maxim for free society, which should be familiar to all, and revered by all; constantly looked to, constantly labored for, and even though never perfectly attained, constantly approximated, and thereby constantly spreading and deepening its influence, and augmenting the happiness and value of life to all people of all colors everywhere.” 

The Struggle for Equality

The American Declaration of Independence states that "all men are created equal", but in reality, not all citizens have been treated the same. The struggle for equality for all continues even into modern times.

In Barack Obama's 2013 inaugural speech, he talks candidly about the struggle for equality in modern times. 


At the 2016 Democratic National Convention, the idea of equality was pushed even further to include women.

Watch and compare both videos. Discuss your thoughts and observations about equality in the U.S. with your instructor and group.


Power Distance at Home

     The ideal of equality for all extends into American's private and public lives.

The USA has been termed a "low power distance country" according to Professor Geert Hofstede  (He) identified cultural dimensions that are globally applicable and are reflected in all aspects of life, including family life, child-rearing practices, education, employment, and health care practices.

Power distance refers to the extent to which less powerful members of organizations and institutions (including the family) accept and expect unequal power distributions. This dimension is measured not only from the perspective of the leaders, who hold power, but from the followers. In regard to power distribution, Hofstede notes, "all societies are unequal, but some are more unequal than others."

In a large power distance society, parents teach children obedience, while in a small power distance society parents treat children as equals. Subordinates expect to be consulted in small power distance societies, versus being told what to do in large power distance societies.  

Have you noticed how egalitarianism looks in modern American relationships and families? How does it differ from your native country's view of familial bonds? Discuss your observations with your instructor and group.

Power Distance at Work

The general lack of deference to people in authority is one example of equality. Titles, such as "sir" and "madam" are seldom used. Managers, directors, presidents and even university instructors are often addressed by their first or given name.

Watch this video and discuss with your instructor or group how power distance affects American business relationships.

Optional homework: Use this link to compare your native country with the USA according to Hofstede's study. Share your insights with your instructor and group.

Equality as a Global Ideal

Equality is a global ideal as stated in the Democracy Overview of the United Nations.

Democracy is a universally recognized ideal and is one of the core values and .... to the global acceptance of democracy as a universal value and principle. .... for democracy as they ensure inclusivity for all groups, including equality .

Watch the video below . Do you agree or disagree with Bono's point of view ? Discuss your opinion with your instructor or group.