Doyal and Gough
Doyal and Gough make a parallel, if more fundamental point in their ‘theory of human need’, that one person’s obligation to act in a particular way entails their right to the level of need- satisfaction required to act in that way (Doyal and Gough, 1991: 94).
Housing might well be regarded as such a necessity: Doyal and Gough describe it as an ‘intermediate need’, which must be satisfied if the basic and universal needs of health and autonomy are to be fulfilled (Doyal and Gough, 1991: 157)
Watts 2013 p45-46
One of this paper’s key aims is to consider the difference legal rights make to meeting the housing needs of single homeless men. Need has been identified as ‘arguably, the single most important organising principle in social policy’ (Dean, 2010, p.2), and indeed, remains a key organising principle in the design and delivery of housing and homelessness policy, employed as a tool for rationing resources and prioritising certain claims over others. Nevertheless, the concept has drawn criticism for being ‘too imprecise, too complex [and] too contentious to be a useful target for policy’ (Bradshaw, 1994, p.45). Conceptions of need vary from approaches that seek to understand need through people’s claims or demands for certain things (Bradshaw 1974 and 1994), to those that draw on some theory or doctrine of what it is to be human in order to identify needs (Doyal and Gough, 1991). Conceptions also vary regarding whether need satisfaction is understood as fulfilling subjective preferences (‘thin’ conceptions of need) or attaining a more ambitious ‘eudaemonic’ notion of wellbeing (‘thick’ conceptions of need) (Dean, 2010).
In the case of homelessness, meeting housing need might be conceptualised (in minimalist terms) as ensuring that people have access to shelter to survive (to avoid pain). Alternatively, and more commonly in the literature, meeting housing need is seen (in line with ‘thicker’ conceptions) to involve ensuring access to housing of a standard that ensures its function as ‘a base for emotional development, social participation, personal status and ontological security’ (Kenna, 2011, p.192; Doyal and Gough, 1991; King, 2003; McNaughton-Nicholls, 2010).
Watts & Fitzpatrick, 2018, Ch 6
Some have argued that these rights should be understood as ‘socially constructed’ (Dean, 2004) rather than ‘natural’ in origin, rooted in a universal shared norms about what people should have access to in order to achieve a basic standard of living (for example, Nussbaum, 2000) or to have their basic ‘needs’ met (Doyal and Gough, 1991; Norman 1998).
Miller’s solution is to exploit the fact that people draw on different principles from their ‘moral repertoire’ in considering the ethicality of distributions of particular goods in distinct circumstances. Thus, according to Miller, social justice requires, first, that each person’s needs be met according to a common standard recognised across the relevant society. This is not simply a matter of ensuring that everyone reaches as a socially-defined minimum, but rather that: “need-meeting resources must be distributed according to need, in other words, there should be no preventable inequalities in the extent to which different people’s needs are met” (Miller, 1999, p.258). Following Amartya Sen (1992), he argues that such need-meeting resources are best defined as a set of ‘functionings’ that “together make up a minimally decent life for people in the society in question” (p.247, for an alternative conception of basic needs, see Doyal and Gough, 1991). Miller’s model echoes in broad terms, though is somewhat more strongly egalitarian in orientation, than the ‘consensual’ approach to the definition of poverty and deprivation that is now dominant in social science in the UK (Bramley and Bailey, 2018).
Dean 2000: 55
Our social rights by definition reflect our needs.
Doyal and Gough (1991) have argued that, logically, human beings have a right to have their basic needs for health and autonomy met if they themselves are to have the capacity to fulfill such moral obligations as society demands of them. However, it is when our ‘needs’ are formulated as ‘claims’ that they become tangible (see Spicker, 1993) and the point about social rights is that they incorporate not some a priori universal definition of human need, but a substantive policy objective (for example, Hirst, 1980)
Discussions of human need are widely framed in terms of whether it is absolute or culturally relative (e.g. Doyal & Gough, 1991).
Emmel 2017: 461
Difficulties in accessing basic needs and material deprivation can significantly curtail the range of possible ways of being (Doyal and Gough, 1991), where the notion of being does not capture mere existence of basic needs but the relations needed to acquire those needs.
Emmel 2017: 464
Now labelled meeting basic needs (Doyal and Gough, 1991), this dimension extends explanation to recognise a broader consideration of services, goods and wants. These include intermediate basic needs such as childhood security and safety. The relatively affluent grandparent, Mark, who attempts to secure the safety of his grandchildren is an example of this. Minimal needs continue to be recognised in this dimension, Geoff and Margaret’s struggle with deprivation emphasise this. These basic needs are universal and knowable. They are also, as this article has emphasised, dynamic and evaluated by people (Rawls, 1973;Sayer, 2011). As Doyal and Gough (1991) emphasise a basic needs approach requires explanation of the capacity for action through agency