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Culture includes the set of values and institutions that enables a society to develop and maintain its identity. Cultural signatures differ around the globe and reflect, for instance, conflicting ideas about the worth of economics as an integrating system of values or about the importance of technology and technological change as springboards for human progress. They also hinge on differing concepts of justice and fairness, and on differing beliefs about the relationship between people and the natural and spiritual world.

Recent history, particularly where racism, colonialism and genocide have occurred, cannot be overlooked. Much has been said about the expansion of Western culture to the detriment of others, about reactions to this spread and about possible clashes of civilizations as a result. It is clear that many individuals aspire to Western lifestyles, while others see Western values permeating societies and associate them with selfish individualism and excessive consumption. This spread is both a cause and an effect of economic globalization, aided by the far-reaching penetration of information technologies and electronic media. At the same time, there have been clear signs of nationalist and religious reaction against it, sometimes resulting in terrorist activities and in open warfare within or between nations.

Among the four scenarios, Sustainability First assumes the largest shift from current trends in terms of culture. The ascendance of the values of solidarity, reciprocity, sufficiency and stewardship is at the heart of this scenario. To the extent that these core values are not violated, tolerance is also a key aspect of culture in this scenario. In Markets First, little change in current trends is assumed. As befits the basic notion of a market, the trend towards individualism accelerates, as does a trend towards homogenization of culture. At the same time, so do passive and active resistance by particular groups and regions. In Security First, these and other trends lead to clashes that undermine many elements of society. Policy First assumes a middle path between Markets First and Sustainability First; efforts to encourage some of the trends of the latter compete with tendencies to follow the trends of the former.