Values Bundling

My cursory Google search for “Values Bundling” produced nothing but a few pages of articles regarding the profitability and effectiveness of selling goods or services “bundled together” in a package, e.g. a computer AND printer “bundled” together and sold as a unit, telephone AND internet service “bundled” together.

I’m a little surprised that the phrase “Values Bundling” has not made it’s way to the top of search results because, from my point of view, the practice is at least as wide-spread as product bundling. What do I mean by “Values Bundling”?

“The practice, effect or result of uncritically embracing otherwise unrelated values because they have been artificially linked (or “bundled”) with a singular value that an individual or group has authentically embraced.” – Me

Here are two examples from contemporary American politics:

A young, college-educated woman living in a large city, finds herself deeply moved by the racial injustices she observed. As she grew up the value of racial justice and reconciliation were foremost in her heart and mind. As she explored these topics, sought allies and resources to give expression to this authentically held value, she inevitably encountered individuals and institutions (like her liberal arts university) which shared this value. However, she was subtly (and sometimes very directly) maneuvered into adopting a set of other values that are unrelated to the original value of racial justice, but which overtime, coalesced into a “bundle” of values that she must adopt and reflect in order to maintain membership and acceptance in what has become her community. She finds that she “must” embrace strict gun-control, single-payer health care and a pro-choice stance or she will suffer suspicion, ridicule or even exclusion or violence from her peers. Yes, an argument can be made that these secondary values have links to her authentically held “original” value, but she has not adopted them based on that or their intrinsic value – but simply because they are “bundled”.

A blue collar guy living in the rural mid-west finds himself disabled and living on a fixed income, but taxes are taking more than he can afford, and environmental regulations have rendered his land unusable. He has become convinced that the government is his adversary. He connected with people in town meetings and on the internet who share this value. However, he was subtly (and sometimes very directly) maneuvered into adopting a set of others values that are unrelated to the original value of limited government but which overtime, coalesced into a “bundle” of values that he must adopt and reflect in order to maintain membership and acceptance in what has become his community. He finds that he “must” embrace pro-military, anti-immigrant and pro-oil stance or he will suffer suspicion, ridicule or even exclusion or violence from his peers. Yes, an argument can be made that these secondary values have links to his authentically held “original” value, but he has not adopted them based on that or their intrinsic value – but simply because they are “bundled”.

This is not limited to politics. I can speak with first hand knowledge that it occurs in theological / doctrinal circles too. If you choose a church because it has an authentic, vibrant and charismatic worship service – odds are you will experience pressure to speak in tongues or “prophesy”. If you choose a different church because of their dynamic benevolence and compassion programs, there’s a chance your literal view of Genesis will be a problem.

A form of Values Bundling extends to art, fashion, sports…almost any area of human endeavor. In many of these settings it’s harmless. We experience it as a mechanism which builds a sense of unity, belonging and bonding. The consequences of uncritically adopting a favorite band or sports team are limited. The same cannot be said for morality, a world view or a foreign policy.

As we watch the world continue to polarize and each pole doubles down on their defining values, be very cautious about the values they bundle together. Don’t forget that the goal of the bundling strategy is to manipulate a hapless consumer into buying products they didn’t really want or need.

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