Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

The Psychological Dynamics of Modern Russian Society: An Expert Estimate

Academic journal article Psychology in Russia

The Psychological Dynamics of Modern Russian Society: An Expert Estimate

Article excerpt

The methodology of modern social science and the humanities increasingly often employs social indicators based on aggregated quantitative assessments of different societal characteristics. The term social indicators was first used in the United States in the early 1960s. It was introduced on the initiative of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, which was doing research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. In the 1970s, the U.S. government regularly published relevant data, and the Social Indicators Research journal was launched. International organizations undertook a similar approach. Interest in these data somewhat dropped in the 1980s but revived in the 1990s as a consequence of the adoption of the Sustainable Development Program by the international community; the program required the use of composite, rather than miscellaneous, social indicators, which would include different components of the indices (Stepashin, 2008). Social indicators are actively used by authoritative international organizations, such as the United Nations, the Statistical Office of the European Union, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, the World Bank, and the European Commission, and are applied by almost all European countries, as well as by the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, Latin American countries, and the Republic of South Africa.

Psychological components occupy an important place in the structure of social indicators. According to Osipov (2011), "The traditional approach was supplemented by the subjective one, which accounts for the psychological well-being of people; the concepts of life quality and functional abilities were formed" (p. 6). The indices of social moods, social health, social optimism, satisfaction with life, and others, which are calculated by sociologists, have a pronounced psychological component. Note that the primary components of these indices are also "psychologized" to a considerable extent. For example, the index of satisfaction with life, suggested by Balatskii (2005), includes creative self-realization and effective informal social contacts (friendship, communication, mutual understanding, sexual relations, and so on) as primary indicators. Other indices, such as, for example, a country's vitality coefficient, used by demographers (Sulakshin, 2006), and indicators of quality of life and associated phenomena--subjective well-being and so on (Biderman, 1970; Keltner, Locke, & Audrian, 1993)--also directly relate to psychology. Such indices as the happy life index, the happy planet index, and the gross national happiness index (the latter coined by Bhutan's fourth king and used in that country instead of the GDP index) make it possible to count the seemingly uncountable. These indices were generated in economic science, which, for example, developed happiness economics. In particular, "the dissatisfaction of economists with the explanatory potential of the profit maximization postulate led to posing the notion of well-being as the goal of economic activity, which replaced in this function the notion of wealth" (Osipov, 2011, p. 39). Well-being is usually understood as a state consisting of six factors: physical and psychological health, knowledge and understanding, work, material welfare, freedom and self-determination, and interpersonal relations (Lebedeva, 2000). One cannot but notice how deeply this notion, generated by economic science, is psychologized. Happiness economics largely inverts the traditional logic of economic and social assessments by shifting the focus to subjective well-being and assessing through it the quality of objective life conditions. It is believed that the main difference between "secondary" and "primary" modernization is to improve the quality of life and to satisfy people's needs for happiness and self-expression rather than merely to develop the economy to meet people's material requirements.

In psychological science itself, similar approaches are used for assessing the subjective quality of life; the psychological potential of a population (Zarakovskii, 2009); and social capital, which, in essence, has a social-psychological content (Tatarko, 2011). …

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