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Progress: Concept and Measurement

  • Heinz-Herbert NollEmail author
Chapter
Part of the Social Indicators Research Series book series (SINS, volume 60)

Abstract

The idea of progress, which is usually considered to be a child of the age of enlightenment and a ‘trademark’ of modernity, has seen a remarkable revival in recent years in conceptual as well as measurement terms. Apparently, the renewed interest is closely related to the currently flourishing debate on well-being and its measurement ‘beyond GDP’. In its first conceptual part, this article presents a brief review of the history and the different notions of the idea of progress and discusses also current views and discourses concerning the meaning of progress in our contemporary societies. In its second part, the article addresses measurement issues and distinguishes different measurement approaches. While focusing on the crucial issue of unidimensional measurement of a multidimensional concept like progress, two approaches are discussed in more detail: composite indices and life satisfaction as a summary measure of subjective well-being. Whereas the construction of composite indices is confronted with various methodological challenges, some of them apparently not yet sufficiently met, life satisfaction turns out to be a poor measure of progress, due to its insensitivity to change and particular susceptibility to adaptation mechanisms.

Keywords

Societal progress Social progress Measurement of progress Social indicators Composite index Subjective well-being indicators 

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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Formerly Social Indicators Research Centre of GESISMannheimGermany

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