Sustainable Development: Capabilities, Needs, and Well-being, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Sustainable Development

Capabilities, Needs, and Well-being, 1st Edition

Edited by Felix Rauschmayer, Ines Omann, Johannes Frühmann


192 pages | 13 B/W Illus.

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This groundbreaking new work establishes links between sustainable development, needs, well-being, and the capabilities approach that is central to human development and the United Nations Development Programme. By challenging the role of people in sustainability policy, this collection’s argument refocuses sustainable development on needs and makes it easier for people to relate positively to its core values. This exciting new book incites a whole new way of looking at sustainable development.

Even though the word ‘needs’ is central to the most popular definition of sustainable development, the concepts of needs and capabilities remain within the debate on human development, without going further into intergenerational justice or environmental protection. The discussion of needs reaches non-academics in a more direct way than talking about abstract thresholds, substitutability and other issues dear to academic debate on sustainability. This collection links the questions of intra- and intergenerational justice with issues of quality of life, life courses, and well-being. Dealing with needs entails dealing with deeper layers of consciousness, revealing emotions and questioning habits and values. In this way, the collection presents an opportunity for substantial social change as well as a challenge for research and policy-making.

This thought-provoking collection asks its readers to reconsider the role of needs based on the philosophical arguments presented, to understand how sustainability can become a part of the capability approach, to better consider the dependency of life chances on birth contingencies, and to see the relationship between capabilities, needs, and well-being in a different light. The editors finish by clarifying the possibilities and challenges of a needs-based sustainability policy for policy makers, and explain the role of deeply held values. This book should be of interest to postgraduates and researchers in Environmental and Ecological Economics, as well as many other disciplines including Political Economics, Social Ecology, Human Ecology, Sustainability Science and Developmental Politics.


'With contributors from economics, sociology, philosophy and psychology, the book provides a comprehensive discussion on the challenges of using needs, capabilities and other perspectives on hedonic (subjective assessments and feelings) and eudaimonic (human flourishing) well-being to address sustainable development. […] Overall, the book presents a commendable effort to revive the sustainable development debate drawing on different approaches to human well-being. […] The audacity, personal involvement and academic rigor of the editors of this volume make it a reference work for researchers and policy advisors interested in sustainable development and human flourishing.'Applied Research in Quality of Life, Mónica Guillén-Royo, University of Bath, UK

'This collection of essays in this volume represents a significant and admirable effort to explore [the] links between capabilities, needs, and well-being and sustainable development.'Ecological Economics, Dale S. Rothman, University of Denver, USA

'Altogether, the volume gives a broad and instructive overview of conceptual links between the concepts of need, capability and wellbeing themselves and between them and certain dimensions of sustainable development. [..] This book provides an informative first step to a hopefully very lively debate of relevance for sustainability science, developmental politics, ecological economics and (environmental) ethics alike.'Environmental Values, Lieske Voget-Kleschin, University of Greifswald, Germany

'Here the authors consider sustainable development as if humans mattered, exploring a variety of complementary approaches to understanding it as something worth achieving. The authors of this volume have their experience among the world’s affluent, but their insights are of universal relevance. In this volume they have shown that explorations among enriched conceptions of wellbeing can be rigorous as well as imaginative and committed.' — Futures, Jerome Ravetz, Research Methods Consultancy Ltd.

‘The book will be important reading for all those who want to engage in the CA sustainability debate.’ — Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Andrew Crabtree, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark

Table of Contents

Preface: The Death and Rebirth of Economics 1. Needs, Capabilities, and Quality of Life: Refocusing Sustainable Development2. The Overshadowing of Needs 3. Sustainability as a Challenge to the Capability Approach 4. From Individual Well-Being to Sustainable Development: A Path Where Psychologists and Economist Meet 5. The Life-Chances Concept: A Sociological Perspective on Equity and Sustainable Development 6. Human Needs Frameworks and Their Contribution as Analytical Instruments in Sustainable Development Policy-Making 7. A Plea for the Self-Aware Sustainability Researcher: Learning from Business Transformation Processes for Transitions to Sustainable Development 8. Transition Towards Sustainable Development: Which Tensions Emerge? How To Deal With Them?

About the Editors

Felix Rauschmayer is a senior research fellow at the Helmholtz-Centre for Environmental Research, Leipzig, Germany.

Ines Omann is a senior researcher at the Sustainable Europe Research Institute, Austria. She is also a lecturer in ecological economics and sustainability at the University of Graz and the University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences, Austria.

Johannes Frühmann is a researcher at the Sustainable Europe Research Institute, Austria.

About the Series

Routledge Studies in Ecological Economics

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Economics / General
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Development / Sustainable Development
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Environmental Economics