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maggio 18, 2011

In “Dimension of Human Development”, Sabina Alkire try to explain why scholars that are usually involved in studies about development creates a list of “foundamental ingredients” just to define the quality of life and to underline what they usually call Basic Human needs. All these researches have created a set of list of dimension.

These lists are the result of a subjective research of one (or more than one) scholar . Their studies are obviously based on what they consider more relevant, and, also, on the context that they have analized. So, probably, they should give more importance to some set of dimension  rather than others.

The paper compare different kind of set of dimension obtained from different disciplines and makes an assessment of how these dimension can be specified and they can be helpful for the study of theory of development.

A definition of Dimension should be “ any of the components aspects of a particular situation”.  At the same time, the author want to give an idea of Development that looks widest as possible. It means that She doesn’t want to limit her consideration to the possibility that the population shouldn’t be private of its material items,  but she wants to consider also all the capabilities that the population should have. And so the possibility of  choose the religion, partecipate in public debates or partecipate to the politic life without any kind of limitation .

Now that we have defined Dimensions we should ask ourself  why we feel the necessity of specifying these dimension and why the evaluation of the level of income should not be cosidered a good way to follow?

First of all income can be considerate a proxy that is absolutly necessary but not sufficient to define the well-being (in fact, there are a lot of countries that are characterized by an high level of income and a low level of wellness and viceversa other characterized by low income and high level of freedom). For this reason, the World Development Report of 2000/2001 about poverty define basic needs following the capabilities Apporach of Amarthya Sen and it propose a multidimensional approach that allows communities to value different tradeoffs (the cost of a choice compared to the benefits that it had). ovviously the possibility to have more indicators allow to make a more detailed analysis.

All these question and statements that we have just enounched are the starting point of debates about “which should be the set of dimension that must be considerated”.

Sen defines Development using the Capabilities Approach which says that development  is not defined as an increase of GNP per capita, healt and education, but as an expansion of capabilities. Capability are refered to the freddom of people to promote or achieve functionings. He recognize that create a set of dimension should be too overspecified. So the question that the author propose is if can exist a list that it’s able to satisfy Sen’s ideas and, at the same time, to satisfy others who critics Sen’point of view.

In this regard, Alkire suggest a list of dimension that comes from the studies about basic needs of Finnis. That list is based on the fact that every basic need should be identified by any different subject ( who cames from  any social and cultural class) who simply ask himself “why do I do what I do?” and “Why do other people do what they do?”. Considering that the starting point of Finnis’s argument is that there are no universal basic reason and that nobody have to accept any kind of list,  he however create a list whose elemnts are all self evident ( so anyone can recognize them), incommensurable, irreducible and nonhierarchical. This list  is called “Basic Reason For Action” and comprend : Life,Knowledge and aestethic experience, Work and Play, Friendship, Self Integration, Self Expression and Religion that we can consider dimension of Human development.

These characteristic clarify that dimension doesn’t come from an idea of what rapresent a good quality of life, but from what Finnis call “reason for action” that are knowable by person simply using their ( and of the others ) experience.

So, after an introduction on Finnis list, and taken as a starting point his approach, Alkyre analize a pool of possible combination theoretically  and empirically motivated. She enounched different point of view of different scholars whitout doing any kind of critic (negative or positive), but taking into account that all these studies are the results of the analysis of different context, different ideas and different staring point.

So the author analized a list of set of dimension proposed by some scholar like Martha Nussbaum, Manfred Max Neef, Deepa Narayan, Shalom Schwartz, Robert Cummins, Murray Ramsay and, finally,  Doyal and Gough.

I’m going to sum up all of them and to value author’s consideration with the intent of comment the paper.

Matha Nussbaum creates an account of universal values “as a foundation for basic political principles that should underwrite constitutional guarantees”. That list summarizes the set of human capabilities that are fundamental to ensure a good quality of life in every context

The central human functional capabilities are Life, Body integrity and Body healt ( that result separate from the conception of life, while for Finnin’s reason for action are a unic voice),  and she also includes categories like Senses, Thought, Immagination, Other Species and Emotions. Finally she consider Affiliations that looks similar to Finnin’s friendship.

Manfred Max-Neef’ studies result different from the Nussbaums. Infact he create a matrix of human needs, than he used it to conduct exercises in rural and urban areas. He used it in Argentina, Bolivia,Chile, Colombia, Sweden and UK. He divided people in group of ten, who gather for two days. Using brain storming they analized ten needs (proposed from Max-Neef)  that have “constructive and distructive effects” in their society. Finally , analizing the result of the studies, he defined nine elements: Substistence, protection, affection, understanding, partecipation, leisure, creation, identity adn freedom.

The most interesting aspect of his studies is that the final Matrix’s element just enounched can be considered parallel to Finnis’ set with the exception of marriage and religion.

Deepa Narayan and her team did a great job (composed of two steps) that the author consider “pioneering” because it included over 60000 person primarily poor and illitterate. The report  was called “Voices of the poor” and it underlined components of “well-being” and “ill-being”.  The result create a list of elements of well-beings that can be divided in six macroclass: Material, Bodily and Social well-being, Security, Freedom of choiche and action and Psycologichal well-being. The most important difference that we can observe with Finnis’point of view is the absence of Knowledge, considered irrelevant.

Shalom Schwartz proposed and revised a “Theory of the universal Content and Structure of Human Values” based on an empirical and crosscultural research. His list is based on values, which represent “desirable transituational goals, varying in importance, that serve as guiding principles in the life of a person or other social entity”. It means that values can be used to justify and motivate action, to give orientation and as standard for judging. Schwarz assume that each value contain both terminal and instrumental aspects. for his studies, he create a sort of questionary where he enounched 56 values (30 terminal and 26 instrumental) and he proposed it to more than 60000 partecipant. They had to give a rating to each value in a scale from 7 to 0.

Finally, he create a ist of 10 universal value that comprend: Power, Achievement, Hedonism, Stimulation, Self-Direction, Universalism, Benevolence, Tradition, Conformity and Security.  It’s important to underline the absence of marriage, but, above all, the presence of new suggestion like conformity, tradition and universalism.

Robert Cummins made a study about quality of life domains. He create a first list of 27 different account of quality of life domain, then, he proposed it to an important Number of  respondents. Finally he defined 7 basics domains wich are Material well-being, Healt, Productivity, Intimacy/friendship, Safety, Community, Emotional Well-being. It’easy to note that all the Finnin’s components are presents in Cummins’list, except  knowledge which is not considered relevant.

Maureen Ramsay was interesed in identifying “objective and essential” psychological needs prior to developing empirical indicators for these needs ( and conseguently, to create her list). Her Study started from the analysis of the point of view of 10 different author about their importance given the psychological needs.  She create a set of Human needs that comprend: Physical Survival, Sexual Need, Security, Love and Relatedness, Esteem and Identity, Self-realization. Compared to Finnis she doen’t mention knwoledge, work, play and religion and she insert Sexual needs as new voice.

The last study analized is the Doyal and Gough ones. In “A Theory of Needs” they define two universal basic needs:  Physical Healt and Autonomy.  Around these ones, they create a short list of intermediate needs. The most important difference with other approaches is that Doyal and Gough think that need can be specified without consulting the related population.

All these theories allow to make some conclusion about the importance of dimension in studies about human development. Alkire start her argoument from the fact that dimension must be valuable, must combine scope with specificity, must be critical and complete and do not pertain to one view of googd life. These features are useful for understanding that create a list of final and definitive dimension of human development in not so convenient. Infact, the modern society is caratterized by an enormous and heterogeneous group of different culture and people. All the studies that we have previously analized are all interesting and scientifically and empirically demonstrated. But nonetheless it’s not possible to adeguate all of them at all the kind of society (just think that probably what is considerer useful for someone who comes from developed and industrialized countries is different from what is considered a “basic needs” for someone who comes from poorest countries).   Also we have to consider that all the studies are based on different reading and letterature and, it’s easy to substain that , for example, maybe a list created by Western scholar should not be accepted by Orientals because of their different culture and idea about quality of life.

So, in conclusion, is not relevant to create a definitive list of set of dimension. According to Capabilities Approach of Amarthya Sen, i think is important to understand that we don’t have to put a limit on the dimension of human development. If we do so, probalby we must be closed in a limitated space and we should consider only some aspects of the situation of the population.

As Sabina Alkire proposed, If we want to have an accurate idea of condition of development in all the different context, we must use a process (in creation of that set of dimension) that should be revisable ( because we are not certain of the staticism of condition of the society), collaborative (and it means that it doesn’t have to be limitated to singular point of view), and defensible ( so empirically and scientifically demonstrated).


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