Market-based approaches to development can increase the prevalence of common mental disorders around the world. Since the 1980s, the Global North has pursued neoliberal policies and has encouraged countries in the Global South to do the same. And, while these policies focused on the liberalization of markets have led to significant economic growth, they have also challenged people’s emotional well-being. Proponents of neoliberalism, or a market-based approach, are willing to make sacrifices in order to benefit from the potential efficiency of unregulated capitalism. Negative trade-offs associated with neoliberalism include: (1) increased precarity in society, (2) the prevalence of neoliberal discourse and the pressures it places on individuals, and (3) rising inequality and a sense of deprivation in societies.

In contrast to a market-based approach to development, the capability approach to development looks to the overall well-being of populations. Proponents of the capability approach advocate for the state’s involvement in securing the capabilities of individuals. The term capability refers to the opportunities that an individual has that are a function of both their own abilities and their economic, social, and political environment (Nussbaum 2011, 20). By utilizing a capability approach to development, governments can work to mitigate the tradeoffs of neoliberal development by providing social services for individuals.

This thesis project consists of three distinct parts. Part one considers how neoliberalism impacts emotional well-being. This paper looks at neoliberal economies, societies, and politics and finds that neoliberalism creates a sense of precariousness in communities that has harmful impacts on emotional well-being and therefore has negative implications for development. The second part of this project focuses on the capability approach to development and discusses the advantages and disadvantages of different methods of measuring development work. This paper argues that when development is considered through a lens of capability deprivation, it is clear that market-based approaches to well-being are insufficient. Finally, the third part of this project is a case study. This case study demonstrates that in India precarious and informal work, along with mental illness has risen since the state pursued more neoliberal policies in the 1990s. And, while non-state actors have sought to provide a greater sense of security through unions and non-governmental organizations, ultimately the state must provide better protection for people in order to improve mental health.

Overall, this thesis project demonstrates that going forward there must be a movement away from neoliberalism. This movement away from neoliberalism is necessary to increase the emotional well-being of all rather than relying on market principles and economic growth to alleviate suffering in solely a few.

First Advisor

Professor Kontogeorgopoulos

Degree Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts in International Political Economy

Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020