by David A. Clark. Cheltenham, U.K., and Northampton, Mass.: Edward Elgar. 2002.ISBN: 1840649828, $95.00. 282 pages.
This is a wide-ranging book. It spans the space from abstract ideas about development to surveying people about their well-being. Given the limited space, not all topics can be expected to have been covered as well as a specialized monograph on a single topic may have done. Nevertheless, this book is a valuable contribution to the development field.
The four substantive chapters after a brief introduction discuss respectively the concepts of development in the abstract, the ideas of capabilities and human development, an "augmented theory of good life," and how people perceive development. Chapter 4--Perceptions of Development-describes the methodology and findings of the survey-based empirical approach. This is the heart of the empirical contributions of the author from his PhD dissertation field research in South Africa.
There is much to admire and at the same time to be critical of in this effort. The undertaking of research in two poor communities in South Africa in itself is a good thing. The two communities seem to have not much else in common beyond their poverty. One is an isolated village in the Karoo desert. The other is a semi-urban squatter camp near Cape Town. Yet they seem to share a vision of good life, which, thanks to the painstaking surveys of the author, can be seen in great detail. In particular, the emphasis that these people put both on having a modicum of material goods and on spiritual-mental aspects of what they think of as a "good life" are revealing and indicative of the potential of this non-elitist survey-based approach. Although various aspects of the survey ranging from the formulation of questions to the manipulation and interpretation of the statistical data can be questioned and improved upon, this study is a landmark beginning in an important area of research on well-being and poverty.
The survey of the theories of good life in the earlier chapters is also valuable although this does not break much new ground. Synthesizing a number of mainly descriptive approaches with a modest critique of the thick vague theory of the good by Nussbaum leads to an "augmented theory of the good" (ATG). However, the philosophical basis of the ATG is not clear. Nussbaum is clear about the Aristotlean roots...