Capabilities and Human Development: the critical role of

Capabilities and Human
Development: the critical role of
social institutions and social
Frances Stewart
• Individuals cannot flourish or even function alone.
• Families/neighbourhoods/society essential for survival
and flourishing.
• Yet ca and HD approaches primarily focus on individual
• What is role of collective entities?
• How can social institutions be incorporated into
• what
• is a process of enlarging people’s choices
CA and HD approaches
• CA (Sen ad Nussbaum) – aim of development is to
expand individuals’ capabilities (what they can be or
• CA difficult to measure.
• HD concerned with expansion of individual choice:
– ‘Human development is a process of enlarging people’s
– In practice focus on functionings [what people are or do]
rather than ca because of measurement issues.
– But still the individual is focus.
• ‘Human development is a process of enlarging people’s
Where does ‘social’ fit in
• Etzioni: a ‘basic observation of sociology and
psychology is that the individual and the
community ‘penetrate’ one another, and that
individuals are not able to function without deep
links to others’.
• How can social be integrated into ca approach?
• 3 stage analysis:
– 1. Where the social enters: a description
– 2. Some analysis
– 3. implications for HD: research; data; policy.
Brief definitions
• Social institutions defined as all collective
institutions, excluding market ones (includes
state at each level; communities; NGOs…)
Main concern here with non-state social
• Following North, institutions include
organisations and norms
• Social competencies are what such
institutions can do or be
Why essential for HD
• Social institutions have direct impact on HD
• Actually deliver essential services etc.
• Norms of behaviour affect HD outcomes.
• Social institutions affect power which affects
market outcomes; and state policies and
Requirements for human flourishing: or
critical CA
• Surveys of
– Range of philosophers (Rawls; Finnis, Boyle et al;
– Basic needs theorists (Doyal and Gough)
– Focus groups with poor people (Narayan-Parker)
– Surveys of opinion (Camfield).
• Result in 9 basic categories: bodily wellbeing; material
wwell being; mental development; work; security;
social relations; spiritual wellbeing; empowerment and
political freedom; respects for species and
• For each social institutions one essential influence
Critical role of norms
• Social norms include ‘moral’ commandments and non-ethical
conventions. Norms affect behaviour and HD outcomes as
shown in Table. And sometimes social institutions constrain
individual choices (children; women especially).
• Part of poverty trap (e.g. early marriage; dowery;
discrimination against women).
• Norms and education: sending children to schools (girls and
boys); support for learning at home.
• Norms and health: use of bednets; hand washing; smoking
Formation of Norms
• How do norms come about?
• Some rules state legislated.
• Many informal conventions: outcome of numerous
informal interactions among agents in a society.
• Societal dynamic, influenced by history, religion,
education, state, social interactions. V. complex and
insufficiently studied.
• Huge variation in richness and competencies of social
institutions across societies. Yet almost never
catalogued. Particularly norms.
Norms and autonomy
• Norms and institutions limit individual autonomy.
– norms are internalised so individuals are not truly
autonomous but preferences and choices partly the
outcome of social norms.
– Cannot assume autonomous individuals because
‘Individual and the community penetrate on another’
– Then who is best judge of individual decisions?
Dilemma posed by mutual penetration of social
institutions and individual for CA/HD approach
• For HD-promotion must recognise that social institutions
affect choices and behaviour.
• Nature of social norms and institutions become critical
aspect of HD. Need to support HD-promoting and avoid
HD-destroying norms.
• Yet who decides what is HD-promoting, given nonautonomy of individual?
• No simple answers: state should not decide.
Approaches to identifying HD,
independently of individual choices
• Nussbaum: overlapping consensus
• Vizard: internationally agreed Human Rights
• Common denominator of philosophical enquiries? (as
Are social competencies always HDpromoting?
• Clearly not: so ‘good’ and ‘bad’ social
institutions and competencies.
• Big issue: how to differentiate; and encourage
good, discourage bad.
Aggregate societal features
• Table shows how each individual category is affected
by social institutions.
• Can we identify general features of social institutions
at different levels which are supportive of good CA
outcomes? (including society; community; family).
• Note: societal features may affect different CA
differently. Rather low correlation among different
dimension (Ranis, Stewart, Samman 2006).
• Trade-offs possible: e.g. material well being versus
spiritual; material versus environment…
Macro level assessment -- aggregate
social dimensions of a society.
• Might be many hD-promoting social
institutions, yet not satisfactory society at
– Dysfunctional families (living alone; or oppressive
– Relations across cultures limited: ‘silo’ society.
– Hierarchical society, little contact across levels
– Stratified society: little social mobility.
• All relevant to aggregate social assessment.
2. Social institutions and power
• State not autonomous and ‘platonic’.
• Decisions outcome of political pressures.
• Policy change depends on political struggle. Individuals
alone are powerless; only acquire power by forming
social institutions:
• Market conditions also influenced by formation of
• At:
– Micro-level
– Meso-level
– Macro-level
Micro level: importance of collective
• Sex-workers in Calcutta: fragmented, exploited
and weak group came together into group and
improved material conditions and self-respect
• Squatter Women in Capetown (Crossroads)
formed group and successfully challenged stateevictions, contributed to overthrow of apartheid.
• Scavengers’ organisation into coops greatly
improved conditions - Colombia earned 1.5 of
minimum wage.
Meso-level: Political movements
• Orang Asli in Malaysia formed Peninsular Malaysia
Orang Asli Association from 18 groups to protect
culture and improve state treatment
• Luhya in Kenya became political force through
formation of single organisation (the Luhya Elders
• Rural indigenous people in Peru – some areas
organised collectively to promote security and improve
conditions; other areas with no organisation
penetrated by Shining Path. But all weak because of
weak local state to negotiate with.
• Brazil landless workers movt. Took over millions of
acres, built schools etc.
Macro-level: need for strong collective
institutions to promote change (Polanyi)
• India: NREG, following mass campaign
• Venezuela: workers and peasants movt. supported
Chavez leading to land reforms, improved terms with
oil cos, and improved income distribution.
• Similar in Brazil workers and peasants movts put Lula in
power: raised min wage; increased transfers; improved
eudc.; income distribution improved.
• Bolivia; Morales: new constitution giving more power
to indigenous people; state control over natural
resources; pensions; education; land reforms.
Social institutions not always HD-promoting
• Mobilisation for violence and criminality
• Collective institutions of elite can undermine
conditions of the poor:
– Lobbies against taxation; against worker
– Landlords associations to evict tenants or worsen
• Norms encouraging adverse behaviour
– Smoking; drinking;
Summary: Relationship between social
institutions/competencies and individual
1. Huge instrumental importance of social institutions
for individual ca.:
1. Directly via production and behaviour
2. Via changing terms of producers
3. Via political choices
2. Institutions/ norms affect individual choices among
and between valuable and non valuable ca.
3. Some aspects affect individuals yet concern
relationships among individuals, and cannot be
assessed by looking at individuals alone (relational
like social cohesion), though whether social cohesion
is desirable depends on how it affects individuals.
Major conclusion:
• Assessment of CA/HD of a society must
include assessment of social institutions and
– Because affects production of individual CA
– Because influences nature of individual choices –
individuals not independent of social institutions;
– Because societal relationships important as well as
individual outcomes
3. Measuring social institutions and
competencies at a country level – 4
Cataloguing of social institutions and norms
Measure of social interactions
Measure of social inclusion/HIs
Assessments of societal outcomes.
Measures at aggregate level:
1. Social cohesion
• Social interactions across cultural and
economic groups (no silo society; nor
hierarchical; nor stratified). Possible measures:
– Socialising across groups
– Marrying
– Joint membership of social institutions
– Trust in others, across groups
– Social mobility
2. Social inclusion
• Where no group(s) suffer multiple
• Low HIs
• Lack of social inclusion or HIs generally imply
lack of social cohesion
3. Outcome measures
– Homicide rate
– Criminality
– Single parent families
– Abandoned children
– Suicide rate
– Deaths in armed combat.
• But some may also be measures of freedom;
and product of reporting.
Implications for CA/HD approaches
1. Analysis: beyond individual (and beyond state
and market) to:
– Formation and impact of groups/social institutions
– Incentives and constraints on collective action
– Role of norms
– How norms are formed
– Relationship with political economy
– Interactions among individuals and groups
2. Empirical work
• To identify social institutions associated with
improved HD.
• Catalogue social institutions and identify
conditions that lead to good institutions
• Explore relationship between indicators of
social cohesion and societal outcomes.
3. Policy
• To promote HD-promoting social
• Facilitate empowering institutions
• Promote socially cohesive outcomes
• Reduce inequalities.
4. Measurement and Assessment
• Very little done to date. Should complement
economic and political assessment of societies
with social assessments.
• Note preliminary research shows social
performance not correlated with economic
nor political.