Social Indicators Research

, Volume 118, Issue 2, pp 797–818 | Cite as

Harmony in the World 2013: The Ideal and the Reality

  • Daniel A. Bell
  • Yingchuan Mo


Many global indicators rank countries according to valued goods such as freedom, wealth, or happiness, but they all share the same flaw: they neglect the importance of rich and diverse social relations for human well-being. The Harmony Index (HI) is an effort to remedy this flaw. It measures four types of relations that matter for human well-being. The HI attempts to measure the extent of peaceful order and respect for diversity—what Confucian thinkers call harmony—within each relation, and ranks countries according to the score for overall harmony. This inaugural HI made use of comprehensive and reliable comparative data for 27 countries. Our findings show that small and relatively wealthy countries tend to be more harmonious countries. Compared to other leading global indices, however, the Harmony Index is less influenced by gross domestic product per capita and by the extent of democracy in a country. Population has a greater impact on harmony than either wealth or political system. We constructed another HI with fewer measurements for family well-being but covering a broader range of countries. A chart with 43 countries demonstrates that it is possible to achieve a high score on the HI without a high level of wealth or democracy. A detailed breakdown of the findings allows us to draw some tentative policy implications at the end of the report. Establishing and nourishing harmonious social relations and a non-destructive approach to the environment is a goal shared by most of the world’s cultures, ethical systems, and religions, and a harmony index can and should be used as a key indicator of social progress and regress.


Harmony Index Social Relations Peaceful order Respect for diversity 



We are grateful for discussions with Chenyang Li, Jing Jun, and Tamarshi Jamieson that helped conceptualize this project, as well as to Joseph Carens, Stein Kuhnle, Chenyang Li, Peter Katzenstein, Parag Khanna, Paik Wooyeal, Qian Jiang, and two anonymous referees for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article. We would also like to thank conference participants for comments on earlier drafts of this report presented at the Goethe Institute in Hong Kong, February 26, 2013; the Chinese/African Philosophy Colloquium, Shanghai Jiaotong University, May 11, 2013; and the conference on 关注家庭建设, 促进家庭幸福——“国际家庭日”中国行动 (Valuing Family Building and Improving Family Happiness—China’s Action on the “International Family Day”), Friendship Hotel, Beijing, May 15, 2013. We are thankful for materials sent by Stephen Angle, Joseph Chan, Benedict Kingsbury, Parag Khanna, Hagop Sarkissian, and Sebastian Woitsch.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Philosophy, Center for International and Comparative Political TheoryTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina
  2. 2.Center for International and Comparative Political TheoryTsinghua UniversityBeijingChina

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