What are universally accepted human values that define ‘a good life’? Historical perspective of value theory

Lijadi, A.A. (2019). What are universally accepted human values that define ‘a good life’? Historical perspective of value theory. IIASA Working Paper. IIASA, Laxenburg, Austria: WP-19-006

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Project: The Demography of Sustainable Human Wellbeing (EmpoweredLifeYears, H2020 741105)


Aim: This paper reviews existing theories over five decades on universally accepted human values from a multidisciplinary perspective. The main purpose is to assess the broad acceptability of the different dimensions of “Years of Good Life (YoGL)”, a newly proposed human well-being indicator (Lutz et al. 2018) that has been designed to serve as criterion for sustainable development. The Years of Good Life well-being indicator aims to measure well-being in any population or population subgroup around the world. The fundamental dimension of YoGL is being alive, and a good life is measured by having capable longevity – being in acceptable health, being out of poverty and being cognitively functioning – and overall satisfaction with life.
Problem: Besides being alive, what are universally accepted human values that define ‘a good life’? Approach: Human values are the basis for people’s behavior and define what individuals deem important and worthy of having, keeping, and pursuing. We identify 14 human values from relevant theories in social sciences, ranging from values that are based on cognitive instigators and motivation to achieve ultimate meaning of life (value theories by Allport-Venon-Lindzey, Rokeach, or Schwarz, social fulfilment (List of Values by Kahle), fulfillment of basic needs (basic needs theories by Galtung and Triandis), cultural differences
(Hofstede’s work-related values, and Ingelhart-Welzel’s Cultural Map), capability approach (Nussbaum and Social Progress Index Worldwide), and accumulation of previous categories (Allardt’s theory for Scandinavia, Max-Neef’s Model of Human Scale Development, Narayan’s values based on the poor, Wolfensberger’s Social Role Valorization, and the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services). Some theories have become obsolete over time, some have been re-evaluated and improved. The most recent basic values, such as values employed by the Social Progress Index Worldwide, are an abstraction and adaptation of the capabilities theory with a focus on the attachment between human beings and their environment. Limitation: This paper is fully relying on a review of existing literature.
Significance: The key findings of the literature review on human values highlight the interdisciplinary approach needed to support the subjective and objective well-being dimensions of the YoGL indicator.

Item Type: Monograph (IIASA Working Paper)
Research Programs: World Population (POP)
Depositing User: Luke Kirwan
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2019 11:48
Last Modified: 27 Aug 2021 17:32
URI: https://pure.iiasa.ac.at/16049

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