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Erasmus Masitera

There has been much debate on the question of rights in African communitarian thinking. Some scholars have averred that duties are prior to rights in African communitarian society, and that to prioritise rights is foreign to the non-Western perspective. Yet, there are others who argue that in non-Western societies rights are prior to duties. I share this view. I present my position by arguing that economic rights in African communitarianism affirms autonomy of the individual, though the same rights are expressed through the ideas of consensus and human well-being. In my argument I state that human well-being is well expressed as a communal effort climaxed through consensus where all these are premised on individual autonomy. By arguing in this way, I respond to the accusation that says African philosophers who argue for the priority of rights have failed to demonstrate how rights are considered prior to duties in African societies.

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Economy, Society, the State

The Revival of Political Economy

David Reisman

It’s all in Marshall: ‘Political Economy or Economics is a study of mankind in the ordinary business of life; it examines that part of individual and social action which is most closely connected with the attainment and with the use of the material requisites of wellbeing’ (Marshall, 1890 [1949]: 1). Well-being is better than ill-being. Production, consumption, distribution and exchange make us feel better off in our own estimation. The clergyman saves souls. The doctor saves bodies. The banker saves savings. The economist saves wellbeing. We all do what we can.

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Mark Meyers

Despite their common roots in the phenomenological tradition, Jean- Paul Sartre and Maurice Merleau-Ponty differed markedly in the way they formulated the problem of being-in-the-world. As is well-known, Sartre’s Being and Nothingness (1943) emphasized the dualistic, oppositional, and even antagonistic relationship between human consciousness and the world inhabited by consciousness, while Merleau-Ponty, in texts such as Phenomenology of Perception (1945) and The Visible and the Invisible (1964, posthumous), conceptualised a kind of originary communion between consciousness and world that stressed their imbrication rather than their separateness.

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Ferenc Bódi, Jenő Zsolt Farkas and Péter Róbert

The focus of this article’s research was to measure and compare the social capacity, social quality, quality of life, and subjective well-being of four Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden) and four postsocialist countries known as the Visegrád Group (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, and Slovakia) in order to analyze similarities and differences. The analysis was conducted utilizing both micro and macro approaches. On the micro level, four new complex indicators were developed from the social well-being model of the 2012 European Social Survey, based on the social quality approach, while the macrolevel analysis consisted of indicators from the Eurostat Regions database and the 2011 population census. The analysis demonstrates that using complex indicators and combining a micro-macro approach can complement each other, bringing about an understanding of nuances and subtle differences not found in singular approaches and creating a more accurate assessment of the social quality in local, city, and national levels of society.

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Sunday Paul Chinazo Onwuegbuchulam and Khondlo Mtshali

In contemporary development and political studies the Capability Approach as proposed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum has become an alternative analytical framework used to conceptualize the promotion of well-being (‘capabilities’) in society. Notably, an important component of this framework is agency, which underscores the various ‘transformation mechanisms’ towards realising well-being in societies. This study straddles the area of political theory and development studies and seeks to contribute to the literature on the Capability Approach from a fresh perspective of the contest for agency between the different political stakeholders in society’s development arena. The study interrogates the agency roles of different stakeholders in society’s development focusing on the liberal-communitarian and the state-insociety debates on the politics of state from the perspective of the Capability Approach.

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Ruth Scott

Determining when religious language is being used or abused is notoriously difficult, not least because the orthodox line on usage may well have more to do with power politics and prejudice than truth. Ruth ventures to suggest the term 'God' is widely abused since people of faith try to pin down what it means when in reality it signifies that which is beyond understanding. She also notes that the desire for clear definitions may result from a need in an insecure world for simple security rather than complex truth. She discusses how the language of faith is more like the language of art rather than that of science and explores the power of imaginative language to convey truth. She concludes that religious language may well say more about our journeys as human beings than the reality we call 'God'.

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The Individual and the Social

A Comparative Study of Quality of Life, Social Quality and Human Development Approaches

David Phillips

The overall aim of this paper is to compare the human development (HD) and social quality (SQ) approaches in the context of quality of life in general and in relation to development in particular. It commences with a broad overview of several perspectives including: prudential values; Sen's capability approach; Berger-Schmitt and Noll's overarching quality of life construct; Phillips' quality of life construct; and Doyal and Gough's theory of Human Needs. en HD and SQ are introduced. HD emphasises well-being, enlarging people's choices, living a long and healthy life, being educated and enjoying a decent standard of living. All this is predicated on the UNDP's insistence that it is people who comprise the real wealth of nations: HD emphasises the well-being of individuals. Two sets of tensions are then discussed: first between the ability to exercise individual freedom and the constraints upon freedom imposed by the provision of compulsory education of children which facilitates that freedom (an institutional threshold to 'the social'); and secondly, the relationship between personhood, social relationships and collective capabilities (an interactive threshold to the social). This is followed by an exploration of whether HD's individualistic orientation is a weakness or whether its explicit incompleteness is a strength. The paper concludes with a discussion of possible ways forward in developing the HD construct, either by incorporating the notion of 'the social' within its framework or else via strategies of using it in partnership with the social quality theory that can both extend it and provide it with a richer theoretical justification.

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Flora Lu

The tropical rainforest houses a wealth of both ecological and cultural diversity, and the species richness, ecosystem services, genetic wealth, and repository of indigenous and local environmental knowledge stored in this endangered region represent a global commons at risk. As articulated by Donald Nonini in the introduction to this forum, ‘the commons’ refers to those assemblages and ensembles of resources that human beings hold in common or in trust on behalf of themselves, other living human beings, and past and future generations of human beings, and that are essential to their biological, cultural, and social reproduction. In the Amazon, many ecological resources lend themselves to being held in a commons because of practical reasons, such as the difficulty of dividing it into smaller pieces (e.g., due to resource unpredictability, mobility, or the loss of ecological functioning if broken into pieces), and/or the costliness of excluding potential users. But social reasons and values foster the communal management of resources as well: various commons exemplify shared identity, provide economic buffering, mitigate subsistence risk, foster cooperation and conflict resolution, and serve as a pillar in the edifice of societies supporting socialization and social reproduction.

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Luísa Schmidt, Ana Horta, Augusta Correia and Susana Fonseca

In a time of economic crisis the need to adopt energy conservation practices comes to the fore. It is helpful to evaluate the role of young people as both consumers and potential agents of change bridging the gap between school and family to encourage lower household energy consumption. Based on two surveys of parents and students of a secondary school in Lisbon, plus in-depth interviews with parents, this article analyzes the complexity of this challenge, highlighting adults' perceptions of their children's contribution to energy saving. Results show that parents see young people as major energy consumers. Young people's engagement with electronic equipment as essential components of their lifestyles and their belief in technology as a solution to energy problems thwart them from being promoters of energy saving. In this context of scarcity, parents try to protect their children's well-being and opportunities in life by accepting their children's unrestricted energy use.

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Lissa Weinstein and Banu Seckin

When Craig, an oft-humiliated and unsuccessful street puppeteer, discovers a portal into the body of John Malkovich, he finds that fusion with a live “celebrity puppet” offers a solution to the dilemmas of being human— imperfection, vulnerability, and death. In this fantastical context, the filmmakers raise questions about intention, identity, authorship, and the wisdom of elevating narcissism over Eros. Although a desire to transcend the limitations of the mortal body may be ubiquitous, the unique solution offered in Being John Malkovich is the apparent triumph of this narcissistic fantasy, rather than an acceptance of reality. This article first explores the film's use of the universal imagery of narcissism and then examines how technology, which allows widespread access to a visually oriented media culture, and changes in the meaning of fame have altered the expression of narcissistic fantasies, as well as the anxieties that accompany their fulfillment.