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Virtual preview of The Book
"Wellbeing in Developing countries:
From Theory to Research"


Ian Gough, editor
Deputy Director of WeD
Professor of Social Science
[email protected]


J.Allister McGregor
Director of WeD
Senior Lecturer in International Development, Economic Anthropology

[email protected]

Editors : Professor Ian Gough and J. Allister McGregor

Wellbeing comprises more than money, commodities and economic growth. Analyses based on limited views of wellbeing are likely to produce sub-optimal and unsustainable policies. This book integrates three challenges to existing approaches: human development; the analysis of resource distribution and use; and research on subjective wellbeing, happiness and quality of life. It shows how these can combine to form a new approach to development, based on human wellbeing. International experts from a wide range of disciplines contribute towards establishing a new strategy and methodology for researching wellbeing.

To be published in April 2007 by Cambridge University Press ISBN-13: 9780521857512

In a world where many experience unprecedented levels of wellbeing, chronic poverty remains a major concern for many developing countries and the international community. Conventional frameworks for understanding development and poverty have focused on money, commodities and economic growth. This book challenges these conventional approaches and contributes to a new paradigm for development centred on human wellbeing. Poor people are not defined solely by their poverty and a wellbeing approach provides a better means of understanding how people become and stay poor. It examines three perspectives: ideas of human functioning, capabilities and needs; the analysis of livelihoods and resource use; and research on subjective wellbeing and happiness. A range of international experts from psychology, economics, anthropology, sociology, political science and development evaluate the state-of-the-art in understanding wellbeing from these perspectives. This book establishes a new strategy and methodology for researching wellbeing that can influence policy.

• International experts from a wide range of disciplines set out a new strategy and methodology for researching wellbeing

• Challenges the dominant view of wellbeing and development being based on money and goods

• Will appeal to researchers, academics and graduate students in sociology, social policy, politics, psychology, economics, research methods and development studies

Contents and Authors

1. Ian Gough, J. Allister McGregor and Laura Camfield, WeD:
Theorising wellbeing in international development
(WeD) research was founded on three conceptual frameworks: Human Need Theory, the Resource Profiles Framework, and Quality of Life Research. This chapter provides a detailed conceptual overview of each of these in sections 2, 3 and 4. The introduction seeks to justify a wellbeing/ illbeing approach to the traditional concerns of poverty in developing countries. The conclusion summarises the links and tensions between these approaches. The intention is to provide a solid conceptual foundation for the remaining stages of the ongoing WeD programme. This includes a conceptual synthesis of the idea of wellbeing applicable to development contexts; a suitable methodology and suite of research instruments to study wellbeing; and the generation of significant, reliable and meaningful data and findings in our four research countries.


2. Des Gasper, ISS, The Hague:
Conceptualising human needs and wellbeing
3. Richard Ryan and Aislinn Sapp, Psychology, Rochester U, New York:
Basic psychological needs: a self-determination theory perspective on the promotion of wellness across development and cultures
4. Sabina Alkire, Harvard U. and Global Equity Initiative:
Measuring freedoms alongside wellbeing
5. Geof Wood, WeD:
Using security to indicate wellbeing
This chapter argues that basic security should be given greater prominence in human wellbeing. Security and predictability express a primordial instinct to seek safety for oneself and valued others, and to avoid fear of uncertainty. Although the idea of security is inextricably associated with law and order and statutory rights, here the focus is more upon the informal and social conditions for the predictability of wellbeing. The second section relates individual to societal security by building on to the human development 'freedom to' agenda a 'freedom from' security agenda, using the 'welfare regimes' framework of Gough and Wood et al. The third and fourth section focuses on informal welfare regimes and their 'dependent security', wherein poor people secure some measure of informal protection and predictability in return for dependence on patrons and longer-term insecurity. The remainder of the chapter defines dependent security and indicates how to track movement towards more autonomous security. It identifies seven principles to improve poor people's security: altering time preference behaviour; enhancing capacities to prepare for hazards; formalising rights; 'de-clientelisation'; enlarging choice via pooling risks; improving the predictability of institutional performance; and strengthening membership of well-functioning collective institutions. In each case, indicators are proposed to track these and monitor security. The chapter identifies those ingredients of behaviour which are, or could be, in the control of ordinary people in poor situations, given modest policy support. In this way, the paper concludes, socio-economic security can be better integrated into our analysis of wellbeing.

6. Mark McGillivray, WIDER:
Towards a measure of non-economic wellbeing achievement

7. Sarah White and Mark Ellison, WeD:
Wellbeing, livelihoods and resources in social practice
This chapter explores the ways a concept of 'resources' can contribute to our understanding of wellbeing. The major argument is that resources do not have a fixed meaning but are constituted through social practice. While we may construct 'resource profiles' to record different types of resources, their significance for wellbeing will depend on understandings about how these resources can and cannot be used in particular contexts. We must avoid reifying categories like ‘capitals’ or 'assets'. All forms of resources, such as land for example, have material, relational and symbolic dimensions. How resources are used in practice also depends critically on who is involved, and the structural forms of power they can deploy. This approach exposes the common 'conceit' when development agencies assume that because they are familiar with 'a resource' they understand what would constitute its 'rational' use in different contexts. The paper concludes with a plea for some balance between a universal framework and one sensitive to local understandings.

8. Tony Bebbington and Leonith Hinojosa, IDPM, Manchester, Diego Munoz, DfID, La Paz, Rafael Rojas, CEP, La Paz:
Livelihoods and resource accessing in the Andes: desencuentros in theory and practice
9. James Copestake, WeD
Poverty and exclusion, resources and relationships: Theorising the links between economic and social development
This chapter investigates the nature of illbeing in a Latin American context, with particular reference to debates over the relationship between resource endowments and processes of social exclusion and inclusion. It does so by summarising and criticising one particular approach - the social exclusion theory of the Peruvian economist Adolfo Figueroa. The chapter outlines how his sigma society model explains the persistence of dualism, inequality and poverty in developing societies such as Peru. What is novel for economics is how the persistence of dualism and inequality are endogenous to the model; this is because of the interest elite groups in Peru have in investing in status differences and cultural barriers to defend unequal power relations. The model warns against a false optimism that economic growth can resolve the structural dynamics that reproduce exclusion and poverty. Going beyond the model the paper argues that a more realistic framework acknowledges greater fluidity in the negotiation of relationships, rather than assuming these are quite such a rigid function of people's resources.

10. Monika Bullinger and Silke Schmidt, Hamburg-Eppendorf U.
Cross-cultural Quality of Life assessment: approaches and experiences from the health care field
11. Valerie Moller, Rhodes U, South Africa
Researching Quality of Life in a developing country: Lessons from the South African Case
12. Mariano Rojas, Universidad de las Americas-Puebla, Mexico
The complexity of wellbeing: A life-satisfaction conception and a domains-of-life approach

13. Philippa Bevan, WeD:
Researching wellbeing across the disciplines: Some key intellectual problems and ways forward
A research agenda into wellbeing requires multi-disciplinary research but this is notoriously difficult to achieve. This paper explores some of the barriers and proposes a route forward. Based on an independent research project which included the Wellbeing in Developing Countries (WeD) programme and other multi-disciplinary poverty research as its subjects, it develops what is labelled the Foundations of Knowledge Framework (FoKF). The FoKF identifies nine foundational elements of conceptual thinking in the social sciences as they attempt to study poverty: the domain or research question, the value or normative standpoint, the ontology or underlying assumptions about the nature of the world, the epistemology or ways of knowing about the world, the central theories and models, the associated methodologies and modes of analysis, the nature of the empirical findings, the rhetorical language in which the results are couched, and the implications for policy and practice. It is argued that these generate the intellectual barriers to successful multi or inter-disciplinary communication and work. All nine must be considered when academics from different disciplinary or sub-disciplinary backgrounds come together in efforts to collaborate effectively. The Framework makes explicit what assumptions, presumptions or blind spots are present in particular disciplinary contributions to the study of poverty or wellbeing. The final part builds on the framework to advocate ways of handling the nine elements to enable successful multi-disciplinary studies of wellbeing.

14. J. Allister McGregor, WeD:
Researching wellbeing : From concepts to methodology
This chapter presents an integrated model of wellbeing and summarises the suite of methods to assess it developed within the Wellbeing in Developing Countries (WeD) ESRC research group. The chapter begins by rehearsing the underlying notion of wellbeing in the WeD project: an interplay between the resources that a person is able to command; what they are able to achieve with those resources; and the meanings that frame these and that drive their aspirations and strategies. The second part identifies five key ideas that underpin a new theory of human wellbeing. These are: the centrality of the social human being; harm and needs; meaning, culture and identity; time and processes; resourcefulness, resilience and adaptation. Part three then draws these together to present an integrated model of wellbeing. This requires an interdisciplinary research methodology outlined in part four. The WeD suite comprises six research components grouped into three pairs: those that deal with outcomes, those that deal mainly with structures and those that deal with processes. The paper concludes by noting the challenges that still confront the wellbeing agenda: how to undertake inter-disciplinary research, how to make it accessible to policy-makers and politicians, and how to reconcile competing visions, notably global and local deliberations on the universal and normative.

Background information
This book brings together papers by leading international scholars on researching wellbeing in developing countries. The book stems from an intensive international workshop held in July 2004 at the Hanse Institute for Advanced Study in Germany, co-sponsored by the ESRC Research Group on Well-Being in Developing Countries (WeD) at the University of Bath, the WIDER Institute in Helsinki and the Hanse Institute. The book presents the outcomes of WeD’s first, conceptual phase of research.

The book reviews new thinking on human well-being and its component themes of needs, resources, and quality of life across the social sciences and address the challenges in translating this into meaningful empirical research in developing country contexts. It has two specific aims: first, to report on and evaluate the state-of–the-art in understanding well-being from different disciplinary perspectives. Second, it critically evaluates the emerging research strategy developed in ‘WeD’ (Wellbeing in Developing Countries), a major ESRC-financed research programme at the University of Bath. Among other things this will research and evaluate human well-being in four poor and middle income countries (Ethiopia and Bangladesh, Peru and Thailand).

Understandings of and prescriptions for development in poor and middle-income countries depend on and change with dominant conceptions of well-being. The dominant conception has been and probably remains an economic one – well-being comprises the resources people or nations control and can utilize and dispose of, measured by income and at aggregate levels by national income per head. But over the last two decades this has been challenged at the level of conceptual argument and, equally important, in devising new measures and indicators.

Three challenges are of particular importance. First, the idea of development has been extended from economic to human development. The earlier challenges from the Basic Needs Approach were strengthened by Sen’s ideas of human functioning and capabilities and the construction of the Human Development Index. There is now a vigorous intellectual community discussing the nature of human needs, capabilities, freedoms and so on represented for example in the Capability Approach Network.

The second challenge critiqued the narrow notion of resources in the standard economics approach and progressively extended this from monetised commodities and certain public services to include human capital, natural capital and later on social capital. This was synthesized in the Livelihoods Approach and later on in the debates on Social Capital. Again there is now a large academic and policy-related literature interrogating these ideas, developing new indicators and debating their policy implications.

The third, more recent challenge, has returned to the individual subject to question the ends of development and how we conceive and measure them. The related ideas of Subjective Well-being, Life Satisfaction, Quality of Life, Happiness etc has brought subjective evaluations centre-stage and proposes to measure these directly rather than via proxies such as income or human development. The explosion of interest in the economics of happiness or the psychology of subjective well-being relate to - yet challenge - both of the above discourses.

This book is the first to set out, discuss and relate all three of these critical approaches to conceiving and researching well-being in developing countries.

One novel feature of the book is its inter-disciplinary range. The contributions come from anthropology, economics, political philosophy, psychology and sociology. Moreover, the disciplines do not reside in separate compartments. Thus we find a psychologist writing about basic needs, a sociologist writing about resources and an economist writing on subjective life-satisfaction. The book sets out an integrated cross-disciplinary method for researching well-being in developing countries.

To reflect all three of the above debates the book is divided into three sections: on Human Needs, Resources and Quality of Life. In each section papers cover both conceptual and methodological issues. In addition, each section contains explicit discussion of the methods available to research wellbeing in developing countries.

The last section of the book addresses the inter-disciplinary issues raised by trying to combine and research these broader conceptions of well-being. Lastly it sets out some of the implications for development policy of putting human well-being at the centre of research in poorer countries, and summarises the evolving research programme in the ESRC-financed research programme at the University of Bath.


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