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Poverty as Capability Deprivation: Conceptualising and Measuring Poverty in Contemporary Europe

  • Rod Hick (a1)

Poverty analysis is in the midst of a multidimensional “turn” due, in part, to the growing awareness of the limitations of relative income measures of poverty. In this paper, we argue that the conceptualisation of poverty remains a neglected aspect of this multidimensional turn to date, and demonstrate that the counter-intuitive results which flow from relative income analyses are not problems of measurement, but are entirely consistent with the conceptualisation of poverty under Peter Townsend’s dominant Poverty as Relative Deprivation framework. In response to these problems we articulate an alternative framework, Poverty as Capability Deprivation, drawing on Amartya Sen’s capability approach, and argue that this provides more persuasive explanations as to why some nations have greater poverty than others and why poverty remains a problem even in the richest nations.


L’analyse de la pauvreté est au beau milieu d’un « tournant » multidimensionnel dû, en partie, à la prise de conscience croissante des limites des mesures de pauvreté en termes de revenus relatifs. Dans cet article, nous affirmons non seulement que la conceptualisation de la pauvreté reste un aspect négligé de ce tournant multidimensionnel, mais nous démontrons que les résultats contre-intuitifs qui découlent des analyses en termes de revenus relatifs ne sont pas des problèmes de mesure, mais sont avant tout congruents avec le cadre dominant de la pauvreté défini par Peter Townsend dans son ouvrage intitulé La Pauvreté comme Privation Relative. Pour résoudre ces problèmes, nous élaborons un cadre alternatif qui s’appuie sur l’approche des « capacités » d’Amartya Sen, La Pauvreté comme privation de capacité, et qui permet d’expliquer pourquoi certaines nations conservent un niveau de pauvreté plus élevé que d’autres et pourquoi la pauvreté demeure un problème même dans les nations les plus riches.


Die Armutsdiagnose befindet sich inmitten einer multidimensionalen Wende, die zum Teil auf das wachsende Zugeständnis zurückzuführen ist, dass Einkommensmaßnahmen nur begrenzte Auswirkungen auf die Armut haben. In diesem Beitrag behaupten wir, dass die Konzeptualisierung der Armut im Rahmen dieser multidimensionalen Wende vernachlässigt wird und zeigen auf, dass die gegenintuitiven Ergebnisse, die auf relativen Einkommensuntersuchungen fußen, keine Messfehler sind, sondern sich durch Peter Townsends Konzeptualisierung der Armut, wie in seinem Werk „Poverty as Relative Deprivation“ beschrieben, erklären lassen. Zur Problemlösung tragen wir mit einem alternativen Raster bei, „Poverty as Capability Deprivation“ – Armut als Fähigkeitsentzug, aufbauend auf Amartya Sens Fähigkeitsansatz und argumentieren, dass dieser Ansatz besser erklärt, warum manche Nationen eine größere Armut als andere kennen und warum Armut selbst in reichsten Ländern ein Problem bleibt.

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European Journal of Sociology / Archives Européennes de Sociologie
  • ISSN: 0003-9756
  • EISSN: 1474-0583
  • URL: /core/journals/european-journal-of-sociology-archives-europeennes-de-sociologie
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