Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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Scope and challenge

The Encyclopedia of World Problems and Human Potential reference work is a comprehensive sourcebook of information on recognized world problems, their interconnections and the human resources available to analyze and ultimately respond to them. Many are seldom, if ever, described elsewhere in specific or precise terms.

In addition, most encyclopedias focus only on positive, sanitized aspects of society, presenting an idealized worldview that denies the shadow of humanity. This is one of the few even to mention the existence of such phenomena as corruption (96 entries), torture and many others that do not appear on the agendas of international conferences. It attempts to present the world as many experience it, whether negatively or positively. The phenomena identified in this publication are those which inspire both hopes and fears, whether real or imaginary, about the world's future. They constitute a challenge to creative remedial action, functioning as a powerful stimulus to the development of society. 

The Encyclopedia is innovative in that considerable effort has been devoted to deliberately identifying and juxtaposing fundamental contradictions - of cultures, ideologies, beliefs and even "facts" - in an effort to explore the conflicting perceptions and priorities which constitute the dynamic reality of world society, and the complex, dynamic middle ground of possible solutions to the problems of the global village. Such information is usually difficult to extract from research literature stressing theories, administrative documents justifying programs, political manifestos defending ideological positions, or from news commentaries on current events.

Users of the Encyclopedia are encouraged to discover new approaches to understanding and action through this deliberate juxtaposition, within the same context, of contradictory perceptions and fundamentally incompatible viewpoints. By juxtaposing different, but complementary, perspectives, the Encyclopedia is deliberately designed to challenge unquestioned patterns of response to the crises of the times and to evoke new insights in the reader. In this sense it is full of shocks and creative surprises.

No other publication identifies such a complete range of problems transcending national boundaries. The World Problems section is complemented by a group of sections including Global Strategies and Solutions, Human Values, Transformative Approaches to Social Organization and Human Potential all indicating ways in which appropriate responses may be conceived. What emerges are patterns, relationships and configurations uncharacteristic of the usual fragmented and specialized perceptions, or of the policies and institutions that have themselves become barriers to understanding and meaningful change.