Developing and agreeing a capability list in the British context: what can be learnt from social survey data on ‘rights’?
The paper examines what can be learnt about the ‘valuation’ of freedoms and opportunities (or capabilities) using a general population social survey data source on values. On the assumption that rights can be understood as protecting underlying critical freedoms and opportunities, social survey data on public attitudes towards the rights that people “should have” is interpreted as providing empirical evidence on the ‘valuation’ of freedoms and opportunities by individuals and groups. The paper addresses the extent to which data of this type provides empirical evidence of the ‘valuation’ of the 10 domains of freedom and opportunity that are specified in the capability lists for adults and children that have been developed and applied in previous projects (namely, Life; Health; Physical security; Legal security; Standard of living; Education and learning; Productive and valued activities; Individual, family and social life; Identity and self-respect; Participation, influence and voice). Particular emphasis is put on moving beyond the ‘legalistic’ methodology for deriving a ‘human rights-based capability list’ applied in previous projects, and examining whether empirical research on values provides an alternative, overlapping or supplementary informational base for deriving a list of this type. The research findings can be interpreted as providing broad empirical underpinnings for the ‘valuation’ of nine out of the ten domains of freedom and opportunity specified in the capability lists that have been developed and applied in previous projects. The Life domain was effectively not covered by the research exercise, since the underlying social survey data did not include questions on public attitudes towards the right to life.
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