The poverty debate with application to the Republic of Guinea.
The thesis argues for one proposition: 'philosophical assumptions matter'. It uses a contemporary
debate about poverty to show how philosophical assumptions matter. The poverty debate pits the
Income/Consumption (IIC) approach to poverty against the Participatory (PA) approach to poverty.
The philosophical assumptions are epistemological, with implications for methodology, and
normative, with implications for conceptions/aspects of well-beinglill-being. It is argued that
philosophical assumptions matter in three ways: I) they affect research orientation; 2) they affect
conceptual categories in use; 3) they may affect research outcomes (with potential policy
The first issue is addressed in Chapter 2 which examines epistemological/methodological links
between two different traditions of inquiry in the social sciences, Empiricism and critical
hermeneutics, and the IIC and PA approaches to poverty, respectively. It examines both historical and
analytical links. The latter establish connections between conflicting epistemological positions
concerning knowledge and truth/validity and methodological aspects of the two poverty approaches
concerning: determination of well-beinglill-being, measurement of ill-beinglwell-being, stance
toward individual preferences, sources of data and prescriptive aims.
The second issue is addressed in Chapter 3 which examines links between two different approaches
to normative theory, Naturalist Normative Theory (NNT) and Discursive Normative Theory (DNT),
and the conceptions/aspects of ill-being used in the IIC and PA approaches to poverty, respectively.
As above, it examines both historical and analytical links. The latter establish connections between
different modes of normative theory construction and the constituents/aspects of ill-being in the two
The third issue is addressed in Chapters 4 and 5 which compare findings of the IIC and PA poverty
approaches undertaken in the Republic of Guinea with a view to determine if they identify different
groups as 'poor' or 'worse-off' because they are using different conceptions/aspects of ill-being.
Chapter 4 examines the poverty condition of female-headed and male-headed households, the
distribution of girls and women in poor households, and the intrahousehold, gender distribution of
food and health, to determine if women or girls face greater consumption poverty than men or boys.
Chapter 5 presents the results of a Participatory Poverty Assessment which used a variety of
techniques to determine if villagers considered women as a group to be 'worse-off than men.
Chapter 6 concludes and offers a number of reasons why the central argument matters.