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Combining Capabilities and Fundamental Human Needs: A Case Study with Vulnerable Teenagers in France

Jérôme Pelenc ()

Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, 2017, vol. 133, issue 3, 879-906

Abstract: Abstract In the field of human development few studies attempted to combine the capability approach originally developed by Amartya Sen and the fundamental human needs approach developed by Manfred Max-Neef. The goal of this paper is to combine the two approaches in order to build a dynamic and multidimensional framework of human well-being. This framework enables a better description and assessment of the complexity of human well-being ranging from freedom of choice to needs satisfaction. To test this framework we conducted an action-research project with vulnerable teenagers who suffer severe social exclusion and educational difficulties. In order to assess subjective well-being inequalities, we organized participatory workshops followed by a questionnaire survey with the vulnerable group and with a control group. The results clearly demonstrate that the group of vulnerable teenagers suffers inequalities on almost all the dimensions of well-being that we tested. In sum, the theoretical reflections and the operationalization of the combined framework enables us (i) to better define and link the different concepts of capabilities, functionings, satisfiers and needs; (ii) to debate further the idea of a universal list of human well-being dimensions; (iii) to discuss the risk of aspirations adaptation of vulnerable students; (iv) to discuss the potential of needs and capabilities for improving education in a human development perspective; (v) to offer a matrix compounded of ten axiological capabilities and four existential capabilities; and (vi) to formulate a new definition of sustainable human development that reconciles needs and capabilities.

Keywords: Capabilities; Fundamental human needs; Well-being; Inequalities; Education; Participatory methods (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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