The Relationship between quality of life, education, and poverty & inequality in South Africa: the capability approach as an alternative analytical framework
In this thesis I present – from the perspective of the capability approach and within the context of South Africa – a conceptual analysis of the relationship between quality of life, education, poverty and inequality. The role of education within the South African context is of particular importance. The capability approach, which was pioneered by economist-philosopher Amartya Sen and significantly further developed by philosopher Martha Nussbaum and a growing number of other scholars across the humanities and social sciences, is a theoretical framework for the assessment and comparison of quality of life and social justice. The argument is made that when inquiring about the prosperity of a nation or region in the world, traditional economic approaches – such as gross domestic product (GDP), which is the most commonly used indicator of economic activity – are not, by themselves, accurate or adequate. When assessing individuals and societies‟ quality of life and sense of well-being, we need to know not only about their levels of income, wealth, or consumption; but also about the opportunities they have, or do not have, to choose and to act. The capability approach provides a more comprehensive conceptualisation of quality of life, because it takes into account broader and more encompassing measures of well-being. Conceptualising quality of life from the perspective of the capability approach, makes it clear that large numbers, if not the vast majority, of people experience many forms of unfreedom that impedes their development (i.e. their freedom to choose), and prevents them from leading lives they consider valuable and worthwhile. Many people lack capabilities. The capability approach asserts that the expansion of the real freedoms that people enjoy (i.e. what people are effectively able to be and to do) is both the primary end and the principle means of development. Expansion of freedom equates to enhanced individual agency as a result of an increase in capabilities. Furthermore, individual agency is central to addressing various deprivations (both individual and societal).