Values — Ideas
by Dominique Collin
VALUES - GOVERNANCE, MARKET AND CIVIL SOCIETY VALUES
We see universal values as falling into - and sometimes cutting
across - three distinct spheres : two of which, the governance
sphere or public sector and the market sphere, which includes both
business and knowledge sectors, are almost entirely encompassed
within a third, the community sphere or civic sector.
in the governance sphere are the values and the institutions whose
goal it is to provide peace, order, security and social justice. The
market sphere includes the commercial and intellectual values and
the institutions that provide for efficiency in the exchange of
information and goods. In "Systems of Survival",
Jane Jacobs describes how each of these two spheres has its own
legitimate set of ethical values which she calls the "guardian"
moral syndrome and the "commercial" moral syndrome.
an overview of the guardian and commercial moral syndrome please
see these two spheres as nestled within a third, the community
sphere: the social and
cultural bedrock of shared values that gives legitimacy to
governance and market values and validates the roles of government
and business institutions. At
the heart of the community sphere is a group of fundamental civic
values that are distinct from the governance and market values.
These are the values that underlie what we call Philia, that
reserve of human warmth, affect, enthusiasm and generosity that
nourishes and stimulates the fellowship that is at the heart of
civic life. These values which include hospitality,
resilience, reciprocity, trust, civility, tolerance, forgiveness,
respect, courage, and love, are not carried by political or
market-based institutions, but rather by what is increasingly
referred to as "civil society".
They are very close to and overlap with the traditional list
of personal virtues expounded by philosophers since antiquity :
temperance, wisdom, courage, justice, generosity, compassion, mercy,
gratitude, humility, simplicity, tolerance, etc. and include some of
the political virtues of the good citizen identified by Mark
Kingwell in his recent book “The World We Want”.
society is made up of all the voluntary, formal and informal
associations and bonds between groups and individuals that do not
pursue governance or market related goals : from immediate family
and neighborhoods to virtual communities on the Internet.
It can be considered the cultural and social incubator for
both the public and the private sides of life in society.
Social science has directed much attention to civil society
in recent years. There is a concern that the invasion of private
life by government, technocrats and experts, as well as business, is
slowly but surely eroding the "social capital"
which makes democratic debate and institutions possible and provides
the informal basis of the trust relationship that makes economic
The following graph illustrates the relationships between the
three spheres described above.
The expression "universal values" is sometimes used to
mean values that apply - or should apply - to everyone, in every
society and every culture. Since the beginning of times,
conquerors and colonizers of all creeds and colors have justified
their claim for domination by posing as defenders of sacred and
universal values - their own. In today's world, two competing
groups of values have emerged as modern candidates for universality
: governance-related values and market-based values. Civic
values, embodied in informal and uncoded community ways,
increasingly tend to be dismissed as traditional, "local"
or tied to specific cultures.
It has been argued that universal values are culture-free; this is
said to be the case for religious and material values, including the
laws of science, technology, logic and mathematics, as well as some
- but not necessarily all - of the values related to social
communication, trade and debate. We think that universal
values are universal in that, in a general way, they are shared by
all societies and fundamental to social life. However, we
acknowledge that most of them - and this includes many of the
governance and market-related values - manifest themselves in very
different ways from one society, culture or tradition to another,
and within societies, from one epoch to another. Hospitality, for
example, is a value found in every known society. The fact
that it is manifested through different ways, institutions, laws,
customs and codes of behavior in each culture does not make it any
less universal for that.
Political domination has long rested on the capacity of governments
to control the private lives of populations and curbing the
liberating influences of commerce, science and technology. In the
twentieth century, communist, nationalist and theological regimes
have attempted to subordinate all aspects of private and public life
to political and ideological control, limiting movement and personal
decisions of individuals, controlling communications, imposing
religious beliefs and dress codes, curtailing basic rights, fixing
prices and setting unrealistic technical and material production
objectives, with disastrous results to individuals, economies and
the environment. However,
commerce, science and technology have also been used by power elites
to dominate both private life and politics and even now market
values are held up by defenders of free trade and global markets to
be the only universal truths, with the result that all aspects of
private life and governance are reinterpreted through the vocabulary
of technical and financial efficiency : governments are increasingly
judged by management standards and private lives subordinated to
economic considerations, with equally disastrous results in terms of
may well be that one of the main aspects of modernization in the
twentieth century will have been how private selves and public
spaces have been usurped, in some places by political regimes, in
others by corporations and firms.
A consequence of this is that universal civic values
increasingly tend to be redefined in terms of governance or market
considerations. Reciprocity, for example, is often considered
as a primitive form of social redistribution of wealth (a governance
function) or an informal exchange of goods (an economic concept). In
fact, reciprocity has a larger, more generous, sense in most
traditional or pre-modern societies : it is not an interested
bilateral exchange subject to market considerations of equal value
or "fair" trade; and it is not an "enforceable"
right set down in statues. It
is a voluntary form of mostly non-symmetrical behavior : the service
rendered by A to B is most often not directly repaid by B, though A
may, at some point, receive other, different services from C.
We are persuaded that despite the modern trend to reduce community
life to governance or market values, there remains in our society a
solid and healthy core of vital and indestructible social values and
virtues that are at the heart of community. They are also at the
heart of what trust relationship there remains with respect to
governments and business, and provide both with their sometimes
fragile sense of legitimacy. We see them emerge vibrant and intact
in times of crisis, when neighbors emerge from their social cocoons
to engage, cooperate and assist each other. Looking at these
universal values more closely can help us rethink community and
citizenship in ways that will let the natural resilience of
communities repair the living tissues of our communities.
an overview of Jane Jacob’s Systems of
Survival, we recommend a review by Mary Ann Glendon found
explore the concept of social capital further, click
to Universal Values