Flows, funds and the complexity of deprivation: Using concepts from ecological economics for the study of poverty
Poverty has been increasingly conceptualized as being multidimensional, involving deprivation in many dimensions of life. This paper discusses issues and implications of multidimensional poverty by adopting concepts commonly used in ecological economics. In particular, poverty is approached as an irreducible, complex phenomenon for which many legitimate, but non-equivalent descriptions exist. Issues of social and technical incommensurability are illustrated for different meanings and measurement types of poverty. Georgescu-Roegen's flow/fund framework is interpreted, informed by the capability approach of Amartya Sen. The paper argues that a predominant focus on flows as a proxy to analyze poverty represents rather a short-term perspective on access to satisfiers to fulfill particular needs. Contrary to that, focusing on valued funds may provide useful information for the analysis of capabilities that persons and societies might pursue in the long term. Furthermore, it is argued that strong poverty alleviation needs to adopt analytical tools that can deal with non-trade-off cases: improvements in one poverty dimension cannot always compensate for the deterioration of other poverties. This implies to rethink the usefulness of aggregate multidimensional poverty indices, as well as the predominant use of income measures.
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