The Pursuit of Human Well-Being: The Untold Global History– new book now available!
The Pursuit of Human Well-Being:
The Untold Global History
Dordrecht: Springer; copyright 2017
Organized human history has been unfolding for more than 40,000 years. Indeed, evidence exists that Homo sapiens has been a major force on the planet for at least as long as 6–8 millennia, albeit many scholars suggest even longer. In either case, “modern” men and women are of comparatively recent origin and postdate the period of the great dinosaurs by millions of years. Homo sapiens appeared around the beginning of the current global ice age, the Pliocene-Quaternary glaciation, an ongoing period that is largely responsible for the creation of a broad range of social, political, economic, and technological innovations (especially those designed to keep the people living in northern countries warm). The current ice age, with all of the challenges that it presented and continues to present to humanity, has compelled people throughout the world to live in highly interdependent communities; to share in advancing the well-being of one another, but especially that of their families and local communities; and to create forms of housing, energy sources, transportation sources and networks, and communication systems that keep people in close proximity to one another. This volume covers developments in human well-being that have taken place worldwide. More specifically, we have drawn on the component measures of the United Nations Human Development Index as the basis for framing our analysis—human advances over the long term related to improvements in the quality of and access to health and health care, education, and income.
The book’s major findings concerning national, regional, and international changes are organized in terms seven dimensions: (1) philosophical advances in well-being; (2) global advances in population; (3) global advances in health; (4) global advances in education; (5) global advances in income and poverty reduction; (6) global advances in social welfare, in particular, the steadily increasing levels of income security provided to the world’s growing population via income security programs and other publicly and privately financed social initiatives; and (7) global advances in subjective well-being. All of these components are essential to assessing changes in well-being, and each reveals unique patterns of the human condition in various nations and regions of world. Interspersed throughout are discussions of advances in well-being that have occurred worldwide with respect to women and other historically disadvantaged
population groups (such as children and youth, the elderly, persons with serious disabilities, those who are financially impoverished, and other social, political, cultural, religious, and sexual minority groups). We also discuss contributions made by medical and other technologies in advancing well-being over time that benefit people everywhere in the world (e.g., advances in telecommunications, transportation, preventive and curative health care, and finance and accounting technologies).
In sum, much of the evidence suggest that political life has improved dramatically. People are able to participate more actively in helping to shape the laws and public policies by which they are governed. Major threats to democratization—especially fraud, public corruption, centralization of political power in the hands of despots—have diminished significantly. The world’s economic situation has changed rapidly, especially with regard to the distribution of income and wealth across and within countries. Some of the findings reported here were somewhat discouraging, given the continued widening gap between the most and least economically privileged groups in every society. However, significant advances in well-being were made for those population groups that live on the margins of social, political, and economic life. We examined the role of women in society as well as the large numbers of persons who cannot provide fully for their own economic needs: children and youth, the elderly, the poor, persons with severe physical or emotional disabilities, prisoners, and illegal migrants. Our unequivocal conclusion, based on the evidence, it that much progress in well-being has been made for these historically disadvantaged groups.
The entire content of the book reflects steady, significant progress in well-being over time and in all regions of the world. The well-being gains realized since the Second World War are especially remarkable, given their magnitude and the rapid pace at which they unfolded. We believe that global and positive well-being trends since at least 1945 will continue well into the future, despite the economic and political uncertainties that characterize some of the world’s regions. The use of a historical approach to study well-being has resulted in an optimistic picture concerning the present and future states of well-being, quality of life, and life satisfaction. Today, humanity is in a much better position to advance individual and collective well-being than ever before. Throughout this book, we have suggested various future pathways to maintain the positive momentum. “Working together, we can inspire, innovate and accelerate sustainable social interventions that promote human wellbeing” (Halloran Philanthropies 2015).
To purchase the book or for more details, visit: http://www.springer.com/us/book/9783319391007