The Foundations of Value and Values

How do new values emerge; and where does value come from in current society?

The Foundations of Value and Values

How do new values emerge; and where does value come from in current society?


’Value’ as a concept has traditionally been particularly dominant in economics, ethics, and philosophy, but it is also relevant in other social science disciplines and the humanities: It has long and often been the focus of contention of various disciplines and, more specifically, schools of thought. THE NEW INSTITUTE aims to stimulate dialogue and debate between them: Motivated by a recognition that there are different (and differing) versions of how society and the economy function, which, in turn, lead to competing visions for the future, THE NEW INSTITUTE encourages a thorough thinking through of these various approaches to their logical conclusions. By allowing time and space for intensive conversation and reflection, not only amongst different disciplines, but also between different schools of thought, THE NEW INSTITUTE and its partners hope to break up, and move beyond, disciplinary enclaves. We approach these questions by looking at values as taking a central role in shaping behaviour and driving change.


What does it mean to initiate a sustainable transformation of society driven by values? Before approaching such a question, however, it is important to refresh and enhance our understanding of “value” and “values” per se:

  • How do new values emerge; and where does value come from in current society? Are there any universal values grounded in the human life-form or are values more or less path-dependent?

  • What are features of our economic and political systems that allow people to develop and articulate their values and to strive for a life in line with them?

  • What does it mean to initiate a sustainable transformation of society driven by values? How can we ensure that values are desirable from societies’ perspectives and, once realised, also lead to a sustainable behavioural change at the individual and societal level?


Akinbode Akinbiyi, Bar Beach, Victoria Island, Lagos, 2006. From the series Sea Never Dry. Courtesy of the artist.

In the ongoing series “Sea Never Dry,” Akinbode Akinbiyi documents sacred ceremonies, communal gatherings and environmental degradation in the coastal zones of Europe and West Africa. The photographs featured in this edition are situated at Bar Beach on the shoreline of Lagos. Meditative and festive at once, his images capture intimate, seemingly timeless moments where the sacred and the profane are no longer separate.

Curatorial Note

Together with the Program Lead for The Foundations of Value and Values, Markus Gabriel, a group of fellows took up their fellowships in Hamburg in October 2021. Discussions focus on the interfaces of ethical and economic values. We are currently looking for fellows to join us in the academic years of 2022/23 and 2023/24.



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