Encyclopedia of World Problems - Archived Information

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Destructive values


Most of the world problems in this volume are identified by names incorporating a word implying some form of destructive value (eg injustice, imbalance, inadequate, endangered). Indeed it may be argued that it is the availability of such words as operators which enable certain conditions to be defined and perceived as problematic. For example, the word "endangered" as a value operator, may be applied to many physical and social phenomena, thus raising the question as to whether they constitute recognized potential problems (eg endangered whales, endangered minorities, endangered cultures).

Given the considerable difficulty in distinguishing between problems identified by similar value operators of this type, it is important to explore the way available destructive value words lead to perception of problems.


This section lists in alphabetic order 1,992 words which can be considered as reflecting "destructive" 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 entries also cross-reference world problem entries (in Section P) on the basis of negative value words in problem names. Some cross-reference human development entries (in Section H) on the basis of negative value words in the body of the descriptions of human development.


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


Detail comments are given elsewhere.


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 destructive values are associated with phrases rather than single words (eg intolerant misunderstanding), this survey at present only covers "elementary" values (eg intolerance, misunderstanding). 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.