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Sen's capability approach and the many spaces of human well-being

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  • David Clark
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    Abstract

    Following Amartya Sen, this paper contends that the capability approach provides a better framework for thinking about human well-being and development than more traditional approaches which typically focus on utility or resources. This is illustrated by drawing on the results of a survey which investigated how ordinary people in South Africa view human well-being (a 'good' form of life). However, the results of this exercise indicate that the capability approach overlaps with both utility (happiness, pleasure, etc) and resource-based concepts of well-being. The distinctions between commodities (and their characteristics), human functioning and utility is less robust than Sen implies. In particular, the capability approach needs to make more space for the role of utility (defined broadly to include all valuable mental states) and say more about the material basis of well-being.

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    Bibliographic Info

    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Development Studies.

    Volume (Year): 41 (2005)
    Issue (Month): 8 ()
    Pages: 1339-1368

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:jdevst:v:41:y:2005:i:8:p:1339-1368

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    References

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    1. Sen, Amartya, 1983. "Development: Which Way Now?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 93(372), pages 742-62, December.
    2. Des Gasper, 2002. "Is Sen's Capability Approach an Adequate Basis for Considering Human Development?," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 435-461.
    3. Qizilbash, M., 1996. "The concept of well-being," Discussion Paper Series In Economics And Econometrics 9634, Economics Division, School of Social Sciences, University of Southampton.
    4. Alkire, Sabina, 2005. "Valuing Freedoms: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283316, September.
    5. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2002. "Development, Common Foes and Shared Values," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 463-480.
    6. Alkire, Sabina, 2002. "Dimensions of Human Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 181-205, February.
    7. Gasper, D.R., 2002. "Is Sen's Capability Approach an Adequate Basis for Considering Human Development," ISS Working Papers - General Series 360, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    8. Sen, Amartya, 1988. "The concept of development," Handbook of Development Economics, in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 1, chapter 1, pages 9-26 Elsevier.
    9. Gasper, D.R., 2002. "Is Sen's capability approach an adequate basis for considering human development?," ISS Working Papers - General Series 360, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
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    Cited by:
    1. Megan King & Vivian RenĂ³ & Evlyn Novo, 2014. "The Concept, Dimensions and Methods of Assessment of Human Well-Being within a Socioecological Context: A Literature Review," Social Indicators Research, Springer, vol. 116(3), pages 681-698, May.
    2. Adriana Cardozo & Melanie Grosse, 2009. "Pro-Poor Growth Using Non-Income Indicators: An Empirical Illustration for Colombia," Courant Research Centre: Poverty, Equity and Growth - Discussion Papers 9, Courant Research Centre PEG.
    3. Van Ootegem, Luc & Spillemaeckers, Sophie, 2010. "With a focus on well-being and capabilities," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 384-390, June.
    4. Anderson, Bret, 2012. "Converting Asset Holdings into Livelihood: An Empirical Study on the Role of Household Agency in South Africa," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 40(7), pages 1394-1406.
    5. David A. Clark, 2005. "The Capability Approach: Its Development, Critiques and Recent Advances," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-032, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    6. David A. Clark, 2007. "Adaptation, Poverty and Well-Being: Some Issues and Observations with Special Reference to the Capability Approach and Development Studies," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-081, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    7. David Alexander Clark, 2011. "Adaptation and development: issues, evidence and policy relevance," Brooks World Poverty Institute Working Paper Series 15911, BWPI, The University of Manchester.
    8. Natera, Jose Miguel & Pansera, Mario, 2013. "How Innovation Systems and Development Theories complement each other," MPRA Paper 53633, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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