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Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential


In the Encyclopedia the sections are positioned in an alphabetic order within each volume. The position is determined by the initial mnemonic letter code. This enables the significance of cross-reference and index entries to be more easily remembered and understood during use. In Volume 2, for example, the Human Development (Section H) appears before the Integrative Knowledge (Section K).

In the following discussion of the contents, however, it is appropriate to review these sections in a particular logical sequence different from the mnemonic order. Other such sequences could also be usefully envisaged.

Volumes 1 and 2 of the hardcover Encyclopedia contain 19,913 entries. These are linked by 158,679 cross-references. The two major indexes for each volume contain a total of 81,419 entries. In addition the values section now serves as a unique index to both world problems and human development. Volume 3, on Organization Strategies, contains 8,963 entries. A much larger number are presented in the CD-ROM version of the Encyclopedia as a whole.

1. World problems (Section P)

(a) Intent and scope: The purpose of this section, filling Volume 1 as the largest in the Encyclopedia, is to identify the complete range of world problems perceived by international constituencies, whether as a focus for their programme activities, their research, their protest, their recommendations, or as part of their belief system. An entry has been established on each. This provides a context within which the network of specific relationships perceived between these problems may also be identified.

As a whole this section endeavours to present all the phenomena in society that are perceived negatively by groups transcending national frontiers. These are the phenomena that engender fear and irrational responses as well as constituting a challenge to creative remedial action. Groups are very strongly motivated by the problems that infringe their values and arouse their indignation. As such they are a major stimulus driving the development of society.

(b) Content: The section contains entries on 12,203 "world problems"; 9,836 have descriptive entries (13 percent more than in the 1991 edition). It is divided into 7 sub-sections. Of these, Sections PB through PF contain the descriptive entries, whilst the 2,367 entries of Sections PG and PJ are indexed and cross-referenced, but are not printed in this edition. Sections PG and PJ are used to register problems on which information is being sought, or which are inadequately distinguished from others already described, or which, as sub-problems, fall below a cut-off level of specificity presently documented in some hierarchy of problems appearing in Sections PA through PF.

With each entry may be associated up to 7 different types of cross-reference to other problems: more general, more specific, related, aggravating, aggravated, alleviating, alleviated. There are 12,0205 cross-references of this kind (49 percent more than in the 1991 edition).

The index to the section (see Section PX) has 53,825 entries, although problems are also effectively indexed by cross-references from human values (Section VD). There is a bibliography (see Section PY) of 4,650 items. Comments and explanations on the section are given in a set of Notes (see Section PZ)

(c) Constraints: Information on problems transcending national frontiers tends to be:

The majority of conventional responses to problems take the form of short-term budgetary commitments to politically acceptable short-term programmes, irrespective of the long-term nature of the problems that they are supposedly designed to contain. There is a need to group information on the network of perceived world problems to facilitate comprehension of their pattern as a whole, in all its variety and detail. There is also a need to facilitate comprehension of ways in which the constituent problems are interrelated, as a means of encouraging the emergence of more appropriate conceptual, strategic and organizational networks to contain them.

(d) Implications: The perceptions documented raise useful questions concerning the nature of problems and what is meant by the "existence" of a problem, especially when other groups consider that perception irrelevant, misleading or misinformed. There is great difficulty in obtaining and editing material on problems, rather than on incidents, remedial programme action, theories, or other frameworks through which perception of problems is filtered. So to that extent, it could be argued that this section assembles information on which people collectively have great difficulty in focusing, namely information whose significance, whether deliberately or inadvertently, is collectively repressed, displaced onto some less threatening problems, or projected in the form of blame onto some other social group.

Of great potential interest is the ability to analyze the networks of problems to detect both vicious and serendipitous cycles or loops linking problems. Some preliminary results on identifying these cycles is presented in Section TZ. This demonstrates the possibility of shifting the unit of analysis from isolated problems to those problem cycles that tend to be self-sustaining. It also suggests the possibility of serendipitous cycles through which problem alleviation may be reinforced.

2. Human values and wisdom (Section V)

(a) Intent and scope: The importance of values is frequently cited in relation to the global problematique, whether it be in debates in international assemblies, in studies criticizing "value-free" approaches to research, or in discussion of quality of life and individual fulfilment. Values are deemed especially important in questions of cultural development and are central to concern for the preservation of cultural heritage.

The purpose of this section is to register a complete range of values with which people identify, to which they are attracted or which they reject as abhorrent. The elusive notion of "wisdom" may be usefully considered as the art of dealing with value dilemmas.

(b) Content: The section contains 3,254 entries (43 percent more than the 1991 edition). It is divided into four parts: Section VC, Section VD, Section VP, Section VT. Section VC contains 987 constructive value words (eg peace, harmony, beauty), whereas Section VD contains 1,992 destructive value words (eg conflict, depravity, ugliness). The entries in these two sections are linked by 11,600 cross-references to 230 entries in Section VP. These entries are value-polarities (eg agreement-disagreement, freedom-restraint, pleasure-displeasure) derived from the organization of Roget's Thesaurus. These in turn cross-reference 45 entries in Section VT in an attempt to identify major value categories. The section as a whole contains 23,237 cross-references (60 percent more than the 1991 edition), plus 16,311 cross-references to world problems and 8,335 to human development.

None of the entries contain "descriptions" of the value(s) implied. In most cases this would be superfluous. The words in Section VC reflect values which tend to be accepted without questioning. Those in Section VD reflect values which tend to be rejected without questioning. The emphasis is placed on using the cross-references to indicate the range of connotations of particular value words. The entries on value polarities, Section VP, do however list proverbs, aphorisms or quotations selected to illustrate the dynamic counter-intuitive relationship between constructive and destructive values.

A major step has been undertaken in this edition to relate negative values explictly to world problems through cross-referencing from Section VD. The linking concept is the "negative operator" in a problm title, namely the term which identifies its problmatic character. A second major step has been undertaken to relate positive and negative values to entries in the human development section in the light of the value words used in descriptions of human development. In this way the values sections now serve a unique integrative function in creating a bridge between problems and human development.

They endeavour to draw on popular wisdom or insight to demonstrate the negative consequences and limitations of blind adherence to constructive values or to demonstrate the positive consequences and creative opportunity of judicious action in the light of destructive values. They point to the existence of a more fundamental and challenging dynamic than that implied, for example, by peace-at-all-costs and total rejection of conflict.

The items in the section are indexed in the general index to Volume 2 (see Section X). There is a bibliography (see Section VY). Comments and explanations on the section are given in a set of Notes (see Section VZ)

(c) Constraints: Whilst it had been hoped to develop lists of values from documents of international bodies, no adequate lists of values were located, even within the intergovernmental agencies (such as UNESCO) specifically concerned with human values, and despite numerous reports and meetings on "values" in recent years. The values referred to are very seldom named, although the commonest may be cited as examples. The list presented here has therefore been elaborated by the editors as an experiment based on the selection and interrelationship of constructive and destructive value words.

(d) Implications: This exploration of values is of special interest in relation to the world problems in Section P. Many problems are named in international debate using a destructive value word (e.g. insufficient, unrealistic, unjust, inappropriate). Problems defined in this way imply the existence of some corresponding value whose expression is infringed by the problem. Such values may or may not be noted in defining the purposes underlying remedial action in response to the problem, although often they form part of the wording of any rallying slogan in support of some international strategy (see Section S, 1986 and Volume 3, 1995). But the set of constructive and destructive value words does indicate a way of coming to grips with the range of problems which the existing language renders perceivable and nameable. They also indicate possible dimensions of human development. This section is of course limited at this stage by the biases inherent in Roget's Thesaurus and the English language. It does however create a framework which could enable these limitations to be transcended.

3. Human development (Section H)

(a) Intent and scope: The purpose of this section is to describe briefly the complete range of concepts of human development with which people identify, consider meaningful or reject in their search for growth and fulfilment in life. The scope of this section has been deliberately extended beyond the unrelated concepts accepted with great caution by intergovernmental agencies: the job-fulfilment orientation of ILO, the health-oriented concepts of WHO and the education-oriented concepts of UNESCO. It includes concepts legitimated by the psychological and psychoanalytical establishments as well as those promoted by the various contemporary growth movements. It also includes concepts from religions and from belief systems of different cultures. Entries are included on explicit concepts of human development and on therapies, activities or experiences in which a particular understanding of human development is implicit.

(b) Content: The section contains 4,456 entries (10 percent more than in the 1991 edition). It is divided into two parts: Section HH and Section HM. Section HH describes 1,407 concepts of human development. Section HM endeavours to describe 3,049 modes of awareness, namely the experiential states associated with different stages in the process of human development as perceived by different groups (and preferably using the wording with which such groups would identify).

The entries have been interlinked by 15,237 cross-references. These either indicate relationships between more general or more specific concepts, or, especially in Section HM, the relationship between succeeding modes of awareness in some process of human development (whether linear or cyclical).

The section includes a special bibliography (see Section HY) of 2,709 items. Comments and explanations on the section are given in a set of Notes (see Section HZ)

(c) Constraints: The major constraint derives from the degree to which many entries in this section imply unconventional approaches to the use of language, challenging the rigidity of the boundary between subject and object.

(d) Implications: This section indicates ways in which people struggle within themselves for fulfilment and the experiences associated with that struggle which they find meaningful (whether or not such experiences are considered totally deluded or inappropriate by different scientific or religious establishments). That many of these experiences cannot be effectively "put into words" is indicated by the use of metaphors or symbols in naming them. These appear as strange to Western eyes as do others to Eastern cultures.

4. Integrative knowledge (Section K)

(a) Intent and scope: A principal characteristic of the global problematique is its inherent complexity. This calls for a complex response interrelating many different intellectual resources and insights and involving sensitivity to very different kinds of constraint. Integrative approaches of this kind have proved inadequate or exceedingly difficult to implement in a society characterized by specialization and fragmentation.

The purpose of this section in previous editions has been to assemble descriptions of the range of concepts or conceptual approaches which are, in some way, considered integrative and which are held by some international constituencies to provide the key to the organization of any effective strategic response to the global problematique. Many of the words used to label these concepts are those which are considered indicators of the power of an advocated approach. They frequently appear in project proposals to trigger favourable response, whether or not any content can be given to them in practice. Words like "global", "integrative", "networking" and "systematic" are the magical "words-of-power" in the modern organizational world.

(b) Content: In the 1991 edition the section contained 702 entries on integrative concepts. It was divided into three sub-sections. Section KC described 632 integrative, interdisciplinary or unitary concepts in the broadest sense, namely it included advocated methods of integrating awareness favoured by these who reject a purely conceptual approach.

The 70 entries in Section KD commented on recent efforts to interrelate incompatible conceptual approaches and the nature of the challenge that this implies. This material was derived from papers prepared by the editors during their participation in the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development project of the United Nations University, especially on problems of methodology. In Section KP, the final group of 20 entries was an exercise in designing a pattern of relationships between incompatible concepts in the light of insights in a wide range of different concept schemes that use sets of concepts of different sizes to contain qualitative complexity. Its merit lay in its deliberate attempt to internalize discontinuity and disagreement within the pattern.

For space reasons the above sub-sections have been omitted from this edition. A bibliography of 2,200 items is included (see Section KY). Comments and explanations on the section are given in a set of Notes (see Section KZ).

(c) Constraints: Despite interest in interdisciplinarity in its own right, recent years have seen an emphasis on a project-by-project pragmatic approach, which avoids the need for any form of conceptual framework transcending individual disciplines, but begs the question as to the relationship between such projects.

(d) Implications: The section as a whole attempts to respond to the dramatic problem of how to interrelate vital conceptual insights which are essentially incommensurable and in practice often mutually antagonistic. A plurality of responses is not in itself an adequate response, especially since each fails to internalize the discontinuity, incompatibility and disagreement which its existence as an alternative engenders. It is for this reason that the second part explores the possibility, implicit or explicit in recent studies, that a more appropriate answer might emerge from a patterned alternation between alternatives. This calls for a focus on the models of alternation by which the pattern and timing of cyclic transformations can be ordered between mutually opposed alternatives. It highlights the possibility that the kind of integrative approach required may not be fully describable within the language of any single conceptual framework, however sophisticated.

5. Metaphors and patterns (Section M)

(a) Intent and scope: Any form of international "mobilization of public opinion" to engender the much sought "political will to change" is dependent upon communication, especially when the insights required to guide that change are complex, counter-Intuitive or simply not clearly communicable within any one conceptual language.

The purpose of this section is therefore to review the complete range of communication possibilities and constraints. This is partly in response to the narrow focus of recent major intergovernmental initiatives under the extremely misleading titles of "International Commission for the Study of Communication Problems" (limited to the mass media) and the "International Communications Year" (telecommunications hardware) by UNESCO and ITU respectively. It is however a direct consequence of participation by the editors in the Forms of Presentation sub-project of the Goals, Processes and Indicators of Development project of the United Nations University.

(b) Content: In the 1991 edition this section consisted of 444 entries. It was divided into three sub-sections: Section MM, Section MP, and Section MS. In different ways, these were each editorial experiments in the presentation of information. As a whole the section provides a framework within which to review alternative ways of interrelating items of information to facilitate comprehension and communication.

Section MM explored through 88 entries the possibility of designing metaphors that are appropriate to engendering a creative response to the global problematique. This section recognizes the unique importance of metaphor in politics, education, religion and scientific creativity as a means of communicating complex notions, especially in transdisciplinary contexts. The entries were elaborated as an experiment to stimulate interest in this mode as one of the few means of rapidly stimulating innovative breakthroughs in development problems, since it is not dependent on lengthy, specialized education and can, for example, be intimately interwoven into pre-existing rural community experience.

Section MP explored a "pattern language" of 253 patterns interlinked by 3,491 relationships. The pattern language was originally elaborated by a team led by the environmental designer Christopher Alexander as an aid to designing physical contexts in which quality of life is enhanced. Selected patterns have been used, according to the methods of the previous section, as substrates for metaphors such as to suggest ways in which social, conceptual and intra-personal contexts may also be "designed". Its special merit is the integration between the component patterns provided by relationships reflecting an understanding of the socio-physical environment which is both extremely realistic and exceptionally harmonious.

Section MS reviewed in 103 entries the range of symbols used in modern and traditional cultures as a way of communicating multiple levels of significance in a compact and reproducible form. It emerges from the recognition of the special importance of symbols in embodying significance and giving focus to any campaign or programme and establishing its identity in relation to other initiatives. As a focus for public attention, their choice is far from being an arbitrary matter. It is a response to constraints which need to be better understood if human resources are to be more effectively mobilized. They give visual form to abstract concepts by which development processes are organized especially in traditional cultures which do not respond to conventional forms of presentation. The relationship between the symbols by which people are motivated (or alienated) is also of vital importance.

For space reasons the above sub-sections have been omitted from this edition, although a bibliography of 299 items is included (see Section MY). Comments and explanations on the section are given in a set of Notes (see Section MZ)

6. Transformative Approaches (Section T)

(a) Intent and scope: The purpose of this section is to provide a context for the presentation of new approaches to the challenges highlighted by the information in the other sections. The emphasis is on configuring information in new ways, notably during meetings, to create a framework for new intitiatives.

(b) Content: In the 1991 edition the section contained 304 entries. It was divided into two sub-sections: Section TC and Section TP.

Section TC contained 207 entries with descriptions on new ways of conceiving meetings and meeting processes. Meetings, and especially international meetings, are a vital feature of social processes and the initiation of change. They are a principal means whereby different perspectives are "assembled". Through such occasions resources are brought to bear upon questions of common concern. They may also provide the environment in which supposedly unrelated topics can emerge and be juxtaposed. But despite the assistance of professionals and the increasing number of such events, there is rising concern that many do not fulfil the expectations of participants, nor of those whose future may depend upon the outcome. This is particularly true of events most concerned with social transformation. Current meeting procedures, despite efforts at innovation, on such questions tend to give rise to little of more than short-term public relations impact and in this form can themselves constitute an important obstacle to social change. In a very real sense meetings model collective (in)ability to act and the ineffectiveness of collective action. The challenge is therefore to provoke reflection on a new attitude or conceptual framework through which meeting dynamics may be perceived and organized in order that they may fulfil their potential role in response to the global problematique.

Section TP contained a network of 64 entries, linked by 384 relationships, based on the pattern of concepts implicit in the much-publicized Chinese classic, the Book of Changes. These were transposed into a language which highlights the significance of such a complex pattern of transformations in relation to sustainable policy cycles. Its special merit is the explicit recognition of the need to shift from condition to condition in order to ensure both healthy development and the ability to respond to a turbulent environment. An extended version is now available as a web demo with an accompanying commentary.

The above sub-sections have been omitted from this edition for space reasons. However the comments and explanations have been considerably expanded with the introduction of much new material (see Section TZ).

7. Organization Strategies (Section S)

This is described separately

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