Sharing Values as a Foundation for Collective Hope


  • Niki Harré
  • Helen Madden
  • Rowan Brooks
  • Jonathan Goodman


A widespread “tale of terror” amongst those seeking social change is that people in modern Western societies are caught in a neo-liberal paradigm and have come to care most about materialism, individual success and status. Our research attempted to challenge this tale. Study 1 involved New Zealand participants (N = 1085) from largely, but not exclusively, left-leaning groups. We used an open-ended process to identify their “infinite” values (that which they consider of value for its own sake); and found these concerned connection to people and other life forms, expression, nature, personal strengths, vitality, and spirituality. Systems and regulations, success and status, money, ownership and domination were named as of “finite” value (of value because of what they signify or enable). These findings suggest that our participants readily distinguished between what is inherently valuable and what is of instrumental value or signifies social status. Study 2 (N = 121) investigated participants’ responses to a word cloud that displayed the infinite values identified in Study 1. These were predominantly a sense of belonging to a human community, reassurance, and feeling uplifted and hopeful. We suggest that the word cloud offered a “tale of joy” showing that, contrary to standard neo-liberal rhetoric, people do care deeply about the common good. We also suggest that such a tale is critical to social movements that depend on a sense of collective hope.