Abstract (DE) In Indices werden über quantitative Messungen Aussagen von Bevölkerungsgruppen und ganzer Länder getroffen. Die Frage ist, welche Aspekte des Lebens durch diese Art der Befragung gemessen werden können und welche nicht. Vielfach schneiden westliche Länder in diesen Indices besser ab als östliche Kulturen oder der globale Süden. Die Frage eines kulturellen Bias und unbewusster Werturteile liegt deshalb nahe.  In den 1980er Jahren präsentierte die Kohlberg-Gilligan-Debatte ein ähnliches Problem. Der Aufsatz versucht auf die nicht-messbaren Lebensqualitäten wie “Fürsorgeethik” (Carol Gilligan) und “organische Solidarität” (Emile Durkheim) aufmerksam zu machen. Es gibt Anreize, wie “qualitative Studien” die quantitativen Indices sinnvoll ergänzen könnten, um somit dem Ziel einer “Welt in Balance” gerecht zu werden. Dieser Artikel ist ein Vortrag, der am 6. März 2024 am Weltethos-Institut in Tübingen bezüglich der 1. “Inclusivity Index Conference” gehalten wurde.

In Indices statements about population groups and even whole countries are made through quantitative measurements. The question is which aspects of life can be measured through this type of questioning and which cannot. Western countries mostly perform better in these indices than Eastern cultures or the global south. The question of cultural bias and unconscious value judgments is therefore apparent.  In the 1980s, the Kohlberg-Gilligan debate presented a similar problem. The article attempts to draw attention to the non-measurable qualities of life, such as “care ethics” (Carol Gilligan) and “organic solidarity” (Emile Durkheim). It suggests how “qualitative studies” could usefully complement the quantitative indices to achieve the goal of a “world in balance”.  This article is a speech held at the first ”Inclusivity Index Conference” at the Global Ethic Institute in Tübingen on March 6th, 2024.

When I first read the Working Paper of this project, I was excited to see its emphasis on creating a world in balance. Especially the awareness to not design an instrument that reaffirms the current power structures but integrates the “global south” is the focus of my short talk. The topic I will address is not so easy to grasp for our common thinking, so I shall use some words that are not usually used.  Please just give it a chance and we´ll rip it apart later. A world in balance is a world that respects and values East and West, rich and poor, heart and mind. For that goal we need to address measurable aspects like security, financial stability. And we need to NOT forget immeasurable aspects like having caring relationships and emotional support.  To have a balanced wholeness, we need both sides – heart and mind, East and West, the measurable and immeasurable cultural aspects.

I will sketch the core of the problem, leaving out details to keep it to the point.

I spent more than a decade researching in Turkey. I investigated moral principles of modern and traditional economies in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul. I immersed myself into this culture, doing fieldwork, worked in different shops and did qualitative interviews. I am German with a traditional German upbringing. When I started the research for my Ph.D. thesis – I had two options:  repeating how everybody was looking at Turkey or questioning my own beliefs and values. I did the latter.

Foto von Svetlana Gumerova auf Unsplash

How we ask questions and how we design our instruments impacts the results.  Even though we as scientists aim to be objective, we are conditioned by our culture, so am I, therefore it is important to question our thinking, beliefs and assumptions. When I saw indices presented for this project, I was not surprised: Germany scored much higher than the other so-called “developing countries”. And I suggest –  This should make us think:  Could there be a bias depicted in these indices? 

Imagine looking at Germany from the “Global South”: Widely published measurable indices make Germany look very attractive. But are people in Germany happier, feel more supported, have more caring relationships and emotional support than in the “Global South”?  We do have something people from the “Global South” want more of: That social and economic stability portrayed in the indexes.  But this is not all we need as humans to have a fulfilled and balanced life. Several times while doing research in Turkey, I either didn’t have coins or only a credit card. Instead of sending me away, they gave me the food I wanted and told me to bring the money another day. This happened several times in different districts of a 16 million people city. Where does this trust come from? I could have easily run away and never brought the money back.

Foto von June Andrei George auf Unsplash

One of the shop owners at the Grand Bazaar I worked with told me that if a client doesn’t have the money, he tells them to pay later and he never got disappointed. At the end of the year his balance is fine. This is a shop that works over 5 and 6 generations with global shipping, too. Again: Where does this trust come from? Maybe the “Global South” cultures have strengths that the Western indices can’t measure yet – and even sometimes their own people can’t clearly see and value them as they take it for granted: The immeasurable aspects of caring relationships and other soft qualities.

In the 1980s Lawrence Kohlberg designed the Moral Development Index. In the result, African men and Western women were the “least moral”, white western men scored the highest moral standards. It looked like there were no morals in Africa and in women.

I have to polarise a bit to make my point clear.

His staff member, Carol Gilligan, realised that the index design might be biased and developed  “Care Ethics” – an addition to the common “Ethics of Justice”. 

After having a hard time questioning the Status Quo this topic is now discussed in Feminism, but unfortunately not that often in projects like this who strive for a balanced world. „Care Ethics“ suggests that moral action centres around interpersonal relationships and sees care and benevolence as a highly desirable quality in a culture.

I learned about Carol Gilligan and the “Care Ethics” after finishing my Ph.D. but interestingly came to similar results in my examination of Turkish Culture and the Traditional economies. “Care Ethics” is only one part of a culture where caring for each other is more important than productivity.  But how to quantify these immeasurable qualities like care?  How do we measure the “quality of life”?

The French well known sociologist Emile Durkheim distinguished between organic and mechanical solidarity. It is both solidarity but it has different qualities. To give you an example that you might even have experienced yourself. There is a big difference between caring relationships and institutionalised care.

A caring relationship is more difficult to measure, but we know from a lot of medical studies its effects on our health and even medical outcomes.

Institutionalised care is built on systematised mechanical relationships, not on caring personal relationships.  Germany has a world-famous institutionalised care system, but many patients don’t feel treated like humans. They don’t feel cared for. This shows what is missing. Maybe we could say: mechanical and organic care? It FEELS different, although it looks the same.

Southern and Eastern cultures can help us see values we disregarded in favour of productivity – if they can see it, because I also sometimes made the experience they tend to think the west has all the solutions. A world in balance is a world with intercultural understanding and support, similar to a healthy relationship where two people help each other to grow and reach their full potential.  When I looked at the indices of this project I proposed that the aspect of “care” isn’t represented enough because you can’t measure it easily with the current quantitative approaches. To put it in other words as an example: Sometimes you have a workplace that is safe, but it doesn’t make you happy.

I think, this is the balance we strive for finding both in a world in balance. Science and many societies nowadays value the analytical, productivity-focused mind more than anything else.  I propose that this leads to many problems we currently face worldwide.

We have to balance heart and mind, mechanical and organic solidarity, and develop an instrument that measures the “quality of life” as well as the “security or productivity of life”. Developing those instruments will be a challenge. To be clear here – I am not saying: The indices are wrong.  No, they are right from a specific perspective,  but I think they are missing something important.  And when we add that missing piece, which revolves around the value of “care” and “organic solidarity”, it could change the whole picture.

I was thinking about some solutions/steps to take we could discuss:

  • Revisiting the questions they ask in the indices you have already used. E.g. social trust, corruption perception … (opinion based, not knowledge based)
  • Revisiting Carol Gilligan and Lawrence Kohlberg material
  • Anthropological field studies for the different countries
  • Reading sociologists like Emile Durkheim and others who put their focus on this problem from a theoretical perspective and see how we could translate it into a practical approach

Out of doing those 3/4 things (revisiting index, Gilligan/Kohlberg and the Sociological Classics) creating a “Fifth Element” in addition to the “Magical Square” that focus on Heart/Care/”organic solidarity” and then look how the other indexes change their influence.

This is a suggestion and first approach to be discussed and developed further.


  • Durkheim, Emile: The Division of Labor in Society. French Original 1893. Several issues
  • Gilligan, Carol: In a Different Voice: Psychological Theory and Women’s Development. 1982
  • Gilligan, Carol: In a Human Voice. 2023
  • Harding, Sandra (1995): Die auffällige Übereinstimmung feministischer und afrikanischer Moralvorstellungen. Eine Herausforderung für feministische Theoriebildung. IN: Nunner-Winkler, Gertrud (Hrsg.): Weibliche Moral. Eine Kontroverse um geschlechtsspezifische Ethik. München. S. 162-192
  • Kohlberg, Lawrence: The Philosophy of Moral Development: Moral Stages and the Idea of Justice. 1981
  • Sigg, Gabriele Maria: Ehre revisited. Die Charakterhaltung als gesellschaftliche Grundlage. Dissertation Humboldt-Universität Berlin. 2017

Posted by Gabriele Maria Sigg