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Wellbeing and Social Change

Wellbeing and Social Change

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Published by Ishara Mahat
This paper examines the process of development and its implications on human well being.
This paper examines the process of development and its implications on human well being.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: Ishara Mahat on Dec 28, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial


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Poverty, Development and Wellbeing: Dimensions of Social Change
Poverty is often seen as having low income and inability to access standardized services for living.However, poverty measures have failed to measure the deprivations which are more detrimental inachieving the human well being.
Accordingly, development goal is intended to achieve the benefit that arematerially sufficient and disregards the resources which are intrinsically important. Individual’s intrinsiccapabilities are often undermined that function for their overall well being. The challenges are then toincrease the individual’s capabilities with adequate freedom and choices for the responsible well being. ______________________________________________________________________________________ 
: poverty, wellbeing, development, capabilities, and social change
1. Introduction
Development as defined by Sen (1999a) is removal of various unfreedom: “
 poverty aswell as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of  public facilities as well as intolerance or overactivity of repressive states
”. Despite the unlimitedgrowth of world’s wealth, it denies the elementary freedoms of massive poor who are themajority (Black, 1999; Simon, 1999; Morse, 2004). Lack of substantive freedoms sometimesrelate to economic poverty that can rob people’s freedoms to have basic living conditions (e.g.food to satisfy hunger and to have sufficient nutrition, to obtain remedies to treat basic illnessetc). On the other aspect, lack of social services such as education, organized health services, andother institutions to maintain the growth of civil society also restricts their social freedom(Morse, 2004; Sen, 1985: Sen, 1999a).Development constitutes a process of enlarging people’s choices; of enhancing participatory democratic processes for making decisions; of providing human beings with theopportunity to develop their fullest potential’ and of enabling the marginalized people to1
organize for themselves to work together (Staudt, 1991 cited in Crush 1995). Hence developmentcan happen as a result of decision and choice. The critical aspect is the process and the actionhow development takes place. Development is both means and goal and the goal of developmentis to enlarge the choices (Crush, 1995, Peet and Hartwick, 1999). In this sense, Sen’s approach of freedom coincides to the development, as freedom can be the principal ends of development aswell the means of achieving the same. For instance, getting opportunities to receive basiceducation can be instrumental to development, while education provides further choices for  people’s development. Thus freedom involves both the processes that allow freedom of actionsand decisions, and the actual opportunities that people have, given their personal and socialcircumstances. While, unfreedom can arise either through inadequate processes (such asviolation of basic rights) or through inadequate opportunities that some people have for achieving the minimum needs such as fulfilling basic hunger (Sen, 1999; Sen, 1995). Humandevelopment is about promoting freedoms people want based on their reasoned agency that arevalid both for present and future generations (Deneulin, 2005; Sen, 1987).This paper analyzes a complex relationship between poverty and well being and how thataffects on development as human freedom. Theoretical assertions are built up by assessing thework of previous scholars especially of Chamber’s and Sen’s views of development that areattentive to well being and the quality of lives rather than merely the economic growth. Thetheoretical concepts are then integrated with the findings of case studies of rural energy programin different villages of Nepal demonstrating how the individual agency is positioned within thehistorical and social context leading to their different level of freedom and wellbeing.
2. Poverty and Wellbeing Framework 
Poverty as an individual concept is described as a person living less than a dollar per day.However, such individualization of poverty has a little meaning, unless it addresses the pervasiveinequalities (such as power relations among gender and class) which are largely persistent inevery society that contributes to the absolute poverty (cited in Vayrynen, 2005). He further commented that “poverty is not a natural state of affairs but a function of deep inequities in thenational and global systems” (Vayrynen, 2005: 11). Sahlins (1997) argues that “poverty is not acertain small amount of goods nor is it just a relation between means and ends. Poverty is asocial status. It is the invention of civilization and has grown up with civilization” (1997: 19).Poverty is created through multiple deprivations which reinforce each other (Allen andThomas, 2000). It is thus worth to examine poverty in terms of relative deprivations that createabsolute poverty. Poverty can be seen as deprivation of basic capabilities, rather than merelylow income. For instance, deprivation of elementary capabilities is reflected in prematuremortality, significant under nourishment, widespread illiteracy and other failures (Sen, 1995;Sen, 1999a).Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is often a measure of the wellbeing of countries that failsto incorporate social and human dimensions of development. However, economic output doesnot always predict social performance (Simon and Narman, 1999; Artwood, et.al.,1988). For instance, when comparing poorer nations having about equal GNP per capita, eg. South Asia andSub Saharan Africa, the average life expectancy and literacy rate were higher in later one.Lately in 1990, the human development report acknowledged the multidimensionalaspects of development moving from promotion of growth to promotion of the well being. TheHDI 1990 was based on Sen’s capability approach, which emphasized on the broad concept of human development incorporating the non monetary indicators. World Bank (2006) has also3

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