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Human well-being and social structures: relating the universal and the local

Gough, Ian ORCID: 0000-0002-0597-3106 (2004) Human well-being and social structures: relating the universal and the local. Global Social Policy, 4 (3). pp. 289-311. ISSN 1468-0181

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Identification Number: 10.1177/1468018104047489


There exists a contradiction between the domination of postmodernism and cultural relativism in intellectual life and the universalism and globalism dominant in the real world of institutions and politics. In this topsy-turvy world, core values and needs are relative and local, while means and policies are global and universal. This article contributes to those challenging this world-view. The first part looks at human well-being and contrasts the intellectual case for a universalist understanding of all people’s capabilities and the case for localism, respect for people’s values and knowledge, before exploring theoretical attempts to reconcile the two. The second part turns to the world of institutions and structures. It considers ideas of globalization as a universal trajectory before moving on to defend multi-level and middle-range frameworks. The article concludes by arguing for a clearer distinction between universal needs, local need satisfiers and subjective understandings, together with a comparative middle-range theory to explain contemporary success and failure in improving human well-being.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2004 Global Social Policy
Divisions: Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
Date Deposited: 09 Jun 2011 13:10
Last Modified: 16 May 2024 00:16

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