Transformation Without Paternalism

Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Forthcoming

26 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2016

See all articles by John B. Davis

John B. Davis

Marquette University; University of Amsterdam; Tinbergen Institute

Thomas R. Wells

Tilburg University Department of Philosophy

Date Written: January 22, 2016


Human development is meant to be transformational in that it aims to improve people’s lives by enhancing their capabilities. But who does it target: people as they are or the people they will become? This paper argues that the human development approach relies on an understanding of personal identity as dynamic rather than as static collections of preferences, and that this distinguishes human development from conventional approaches to development. Nevertheless this dynamic understanding of personal identity is presently poorly conceptualized and this has implications for development practice. We identify a danger of paternalism and propose institutionalizing two procedural principles as side constraints on development policies and projects: the principle of free prior informed consent, and the principle of democratic development.

Keywords: human development policy, personal identity, paternalism, informed consent, autonomy, democracy, capability approach

JEL Classification: D63, D99, L31, O15, O29

Suggested Citation

Davis, John B. and Wells, Thomas, Transformation Without Paternalism (January 22, 2016). Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN:

John B. Davis (Contact Author)

Marquette University ( email )

P.O. Box 1881
Milwaukee, WI 53201-1881
United States

University of Amsterdam ( email )


Tinbergen Institute ( email )

Burg. Oudlaan 50
Rotterdam, 3062 PA

Thomas Wells

Tilburg University Department of Philosophy

Dante Building
Warandelaan 2
Tilburg, 5037 AB

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