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Constructive values


Widespread recognition is currently given to the importance of identifying constructive values as a guide to formulation of policy and action programmes in response to problems. Indeed it may be argued that such problems are only perceptible in the light of the values they infringe. Specific values are frequently cited in political discourse as a rallying focus around which people may be incited to action.

It is therefore appropriate to determine the range of "concepts" that can, and possibly should, be cited in this way. Yet despite the frequent references to "values", it is not clear in most cases to what values reference is being made. There exists a core group of values (eg peace, justice) on which there is a very extensive literature. Social scientists responding to the needs of market researchers have identified value complexes with which different consumer groups identify. Religions have traditionally identified lists of virtues. But it would appear that no attempt has been made to list the values which are identifiable in contemporary society. And yet it is supposedly in the light of such values that people and groups guide the development processes in which they engage, whether consciously or unconsciously.


This section lists in alphabetic order 987 words which can be considered as reflecting "constructive" values. Because of the ambiguous connotations of many such words, they are each cross-referenced to a number of entries in Section VP. The entries in Section VP are each value categories or dimensions denoted by a pair of "constructive" and "destructive" value words in opposition, namely a "value polarity". This polar relationship sharpens the meaning that can be associated with a particular interpretation of the constructive value word identified in this section.

Associating value words with value polarities also responds significantly to potential differences of opinion as to whether a particular value should be considered "constructive" as opposed to "destructive" (as could well be the case under certain circumstances). It is for this reason that the more usual terms "positive" and "negative" were not used. It is more understandable that "destructive" action may be necessary to clear the way for "constructive" action, and that "constructive" action may reach the point at which "destructive" action is necessary to initiate some new phase.


The method is described in a commentary. It is based on selecting and interrelating words from Roget's Thesaurus which was considered a comprehensive reference work providing a useful framework for this exploratory exercise.


A keyword index to entries is incorporated into the index for Volume 2 (Section X)

Many value entries cross-reference value words in the body of the text of entries on Human Development (Section H).


Bibliographical references, by author, are given in Section VY.


Detailed comments are given elsewhere.


Distinguishing value words as "constructive" rather than "destructive" raises many useful questions. Although this may often correspond to the reality of a conventional, first-order response, the reverse may be true under other more complex circumstances. Such difficulties have been partially resolved by stressing the value dimension, indicated by the value polarities cross-referenced in Section VP, rather than the individual value words.

Sections VC and VD could therefore have been merged. As an exploratory exercise the results must necessarily be considered as preliminary, and limited by dependence on the Roget framework and the English language. To the extent that some values (eg quality of life) are associated with phrases rather than single words (eg quality, life), this single-word approach can only be considered a preliminary exercise. In conformity with the general editorial policy, borderline value words have been included if they raise interesting questions concerning the criteria governing their inclusion.

Possible future improvements

In addition to refining and extending the set of words and cross-references, ways of incorporating equivalent words from other languages need to be considered.