This online panel discussion will focus on a recently revised edition of the book, Understanding Human Need, by Hartley Dean.
Human need is a central but elusive concept of decisive significance for Social Policy at a time when humanity as a species is subject to a confluence of intersecting and, in several respects, self-inflicted existential threats. This new book not only reprises existing distinctions between ‘thin’ needs and ‘thick’ needs and between needs defined from the ‘top-down’ and those identified from the ‘bottom up’, but pays particular attention to the question of just what is human about human need. To do this the book revisits the radical humanist perspective to be found especially in the Karl Marx’s earlier writings on the characteristics of the human species and what it essential to being human.
Tania Burchardt (Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion at the LSE) will reflect from the perspective of the capability approach, initially championed by Amartya Sen, and of which she is a well-known advocate.
Hartley Dean (Emeritus Professor of Social Policy at the LSE) will explain how the approach he has taken in his new book places particular emphasis on the essential or constitutive needs of humans as ‘species-beings’ and how this might commend the idea of Social Policy as a ‘humanising’ project.
Ian Gough (Visiting Professor at the Centre for the Analysis of Social Exclusion and Associate of the Grantham Research Institute at the LSE, and Emeritus Professor at the University of Bath) will respond by reflecting from the perspective of his celebrated Theory of Need, which he established with Len Doyal in the 1970s.
David Taylor (Emeritus Professor of Social Theory and Social Policy at the University of Brighton) will also reflect from the perspective of his seminal work on psycho-social approaches in Social Policy and issues of relational wellbeing.
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