Development of humanity. A critical perspective on the Human Development Index by reconsidering Sen and Goulet

  • Roline Schaink

Student thesis: Master's Thesis: Humanistic Studies


In this thesis, I evaluate the Human Development Index (HDI) as to contribute to recent political and social debates on development cooperation. The focus lies on the way development is usually approached. The HDI is a renown instrument to assess countries’ performance in terms of development. However, the flipside of high development is that it sometimes has inversely proportional effects on less developed countries. This is not reflected in the HDI, as the HDI only indicates countries’ level of income, longevity and knowledge The evaluation of the HDI is based on a comparison between Amartya Sen’s capability approach (the conceptual framework of the HDI) and Denis Goulet’s theory of authentic development. Sen on the one hand stresses the need to expand peoples capabilities to choose a life they have reason to value. Goulet, on the other hand, argues that development should lead to life-sustenance, esteem and freedom for every man and of the whole humanity. Both theories are explored according to the reflected views on development, the goals of development and the values on which the theories are based. This exploration is followed by a comparison of the two theories in order to evaluate the HDI. Eventually I will argue in line with Goulet’s ideas that the HDI should also include indicators of sustainability, solidarity and austerity, in order to assess countries’ levels of authentic development.
Date of Award1 Jan 2013
Original languageAmerican English
SupervisorS. L. E. van Goelst Meijer (Supervisor) & P. H. J. M. Derkx (Supervisor)

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