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The Importance Of Economic And Human Development

856 words - 3 pages

This essay compares and contrasts two key paradigms for measuring poverty, namely economic and human-centered approaches. I argue that economic development (ED) and human development (HD) should be viewed as complementary and, as such, both are needed to promote human well-being. Nussbaum (2011) echoes this notion when she suggests that people need a combination of opportunities and capabilities in order to function in society (p. 25). Thus, I will first consider these models separately to determine how they respond to one another. And then, I draw parallels to reveal underlying commonalities. To conclude, I examine the role of the state in guaranteeing opportunities and capabilities. I aim to show that broader theoretical interpretations are useful for thinking about how policies address the issue of poverty.
The gamut of economic strategies include neoliberalism and ‘basic needs’ claims, the latter of which maintains that people require essentials, including nutrition and education, to rise above poverty. Neoliberalism affirms that such an investment in people ultimately produces a feedback loop for promoting economic activities, ensuring that incomes remain high (Fukuda-Parr 2003). In this sense, well-being is defined as utility maximization (Fukuda-Parr 2003, p. 304). However, one problem with this notion is that what benefits the majority is not always good for everyone (Deaton 2011). For example, ‘stop and frisk‘ policies in New York allow the police to search anyone with a suspicious appearance on the street. The intended result is expressed as making communities feel safer. However, many of those who are stopped have a minority background, which perpetuates negative attitudes toward this group of people. Therefore, the HD approaches, including the capabilities approach (CA) and human rights, emphasize what people are ‘able to do and to be’ (Robeyns 2007, p. 94; Nussbaum 2011, p. 29 & 33). This describes functionings; whereas, capability is the freedom to pursue functionings that people have ‘reason to value’ (Sen 1999; Robeyns 2007; Alkire 2007). Therefore, HD brings the human element back into poverty discourse to create space for contemplating people’s identities and how they shape developmental outcomes. In this way, HD approaches focus on social justice, underscoring equality not solely in terms of uniformity, but whether individual needs are being met on account of the intrinsic value that human life possesses (Nussbaum 2011, p. 36).
In the case above, such policies force identities on people via prejudice, which reduces a person’s agency and, according to Fukuda-Parr (2003), manifests poverty. Sen (1999) maintains that assessments of poverty are often shortsighted in the sense that poverty is regarded as a ‘lack’ of something, such as...

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