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Combining the capability approach and Max-Neef’s needs approach for a better assessment of multidimensional well-being and inequalities: a case study perspective with vulnerable teenagers of the region of Paris (France)

Pelenc, Jérôme (2014): Combining the capability approach and Max-Neef’s needs approach for a better assessment of multidimensional well-being and inequalities: a case study perspective with vulnerable teenagers of the region of Paris (France).

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Abstract

Few works have tried to articulate 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 precisely to combine those two approaches in order (i) to build a truly multidimensional framework for assessing well-being and inequalities and (ii) to capture the complexity of human well-being from freedom of choice to needs satisfaction. To test this new framework we have conducted an empirical experimentation with vulnerable teenagers (15-17 years old) living in the suburbs of Paris (Dammarie-les-Lys, France) who suffer strong social exclusion and education difficulties. We have organized participatory workshops and then a questionnaire survey with the vulnerable groups and with a control group in order to assess subjective well-being inequalities. The results clearly demonstrate that the group of vulnerable teenagers suffers inequalities in all dimensions of well-being that we tested. These dimensions correspond to the nine axiological needs (Subsistence, Protection, Affection, Understanding, Participation, Leisure, Creation, Identity, Freedom) and the four existential needs (Being, Having, Doing, Interacting) that Max-Neef identifies in his matrix. Addressing inequalities in all of these dimensions clearly help to operationalize multidimensional well-being assessment. Regarding the theoretical side, on the one hand, our tentative for articulating the two approaches allows us to introduce the two categories of axiological and existential capabilities, to better link the concepts of capabilities, functionings, satisfiers and needs and finally to debate further the idea of a list of well-being dimensions by offering a matrix of ten capabilities. Moreover, the fundamental human approach is complemented by integrating freedom of choice into the conceptualization and assessment of well-being. This allows investigating the potential causes of needs deprivation by using the different parameters that condition the acquisition of capabilities.

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