The debate on social policy at the local, national or world level makes many references to concepts such as equality, justice and liberty. These are abstract concepts of great ambiguity and imprecision. However, in attempting to formulate social policy for the future, values must be fed into the decision- making process. Therefore, the utility of any such policy depends on an understanding of the complex and shifting architecture of values that regulates human behaviour.
At the same time, throughout the whole developed and developing world, there is a widespread feeling that the value systems that have guided people's actions in the last few generations require re-examination and almost certainly should be altered in many important respects. Hardly any of the older ethical assumptions remain unquestioned.
What are values, how do they relate to one another, and how do they change? How do they relate to the problems with which society is confronted? Knowledge of these matters remains primitive relative to the needs of the time. And, no problem can be recognized, or adequately formulated, unless the values involved, and the apparent threat to them, are stated. Many world problems can be specifically associated with the values which they threaten or violate in some way.
The Human Values and Wisdom section of the Encyclopedia aims to address these challenges through identifying and describing concepts which can be termed human values, including those not normally recognized in public debate and those which are cited in essentially different and frequently non-interacting sectors of society. Identify relationships between the values, and entries in other sections of this publication - in particular, the world problems detailed in the World Problems and Global Issues section. The aim is to provide a sense of the coherence of systems of values as checks and balances whose integrity is vital to individual and collective psychic integration.