Encyclopedia of World Problems

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title:5.3 Beyond the problem-lobby mindset

1. Competition for problem recognition

Many of the problems of society are believed to call for initiative by local, national or international government bodies. Such bodies are held to be the focus for action decisions within society, especially given their central role in any political process. To a lesser degree, an equivalent role is played by non-governmental bodies that are a focus for deciding priorities concerning action on problems and the allocation of resources to them. Foundations are one example.


title:5.2 Approaches to problems

It is useful to review some of the ways in which individuals and organizations tend to approach problems. Russell Ackoff (1986), for example, suggests that there are four ways of treating problems: absolution, resolution, solution, and dissolution. To absolve a problem is to ignore it and hope it will go away or solve itself. To resolve a problem is to do something that yields an outcome that is good enough, that satisfies. To solve a problem is to do something that yields the best possible outcome, that optimizes.


title:4.4 Patterning the problematique

The number of problems and their degree of interrelationship are a continuing challenge to comprehension. Without any patterning, the amount of information is overwhelming. The simplistic patternings characteristic of conventional practice in documentation systems are however part of the conceptual problem rather than the solution. They disguise complexity and create deceptive impressions of order where order is lacking, or rather where higher forms of order are implicit. The very simple ordering used in this Section P is designed to keep this challenge to the forefront.


title:4.3 Language games

This project is in many ways an exploration of the use of language and the effects of its use on the distinctions which are accepted in international discourse. The question is to what extent use of legitimate-sounding problem names in practice signals the distinct existence of the named problems. Furthermore, to what extent problems can be effectively named without their having meaningful existence. This project is on the receiving end of documents naming problems. The names attributed may be intended to signal the existence of new problems.


title:4.1 Concept refinement process

The above procedure was initiated in 1972 and has increasingly become a purely "administrative" matter, especially since the proportion of new problems or new classes of problems continues to diminish. The ongoing concern is therefore much more with the conceptual processes whereby the "problem" associated with any given number is clarified through the naming (descriptor allocation) process. This may involve grouping different problems under one number or splitting one problem into several different problems.



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