This paper compares two recent books addressing issues in human wellbeing, rights and development: A Theory of Human Need by Doyal and Gough and Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach by Martha Nussbaum. The first part identifies the common project which underlies both works: to clarify and defend those universal human interests which underpin an emancipatory and effective political programme for all women and men. The next two sections set out in some detail the different approaches in terms of needs and capabilities respectively, the taxonomies of each and the thinking behind them. In the fourth section, the two approaches are compared in terms of their components, derivation and thresholds, and some preliminary evaluations are offered. The paper concludes that the hierarchical approach of the Doyal-Gough theory can mediate between Nussbaum’s ‘thick’ and Amartya Sen’s ‘thin’ approach to capabilities and wellbeing
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