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Freedom or happiness? Agency and subjective well-being in the capability approach


  • Kotan, Murat


Human agency is a pivotal part of freedom and happiness. This article outlines two aspects of agency - power and control and self-establishment of goals - and situates it in the capability approach and vis a vis SWB. One can view the CA as an integration of 'agency' and 'outcome' oriented approaches. When agency is possible, it has primacy. When not, it is valued achievements (among others SWB) that acquire importance. Therefore agency is key for understanding how SWB fits in the general policy framework as a valued outcome. Two important functions of SWB information in this respect are outlined: as a frame of problem and as a signalling device on the effectiveness of policy.

Suggested Citation

  • Kotan, Murat, 2010. "Freedom or happiness? Agency and subjective well-being in the capability approach," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 39(3), pages 369-375, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:soceco:v:39:y:2010:i:3:p:369-375

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Ed Diener, 1994. "Assessing subjective well-being: Progress and opportunities," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 31(2), pages 103-157, February.
    2. Daniel Kahneman & Robert Sugden, 2005. "Experienced Utility as a Standard of Policy Evaluation," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 32(1), pages 161-181, September.
    3. Easterlin, Richard A., 2006. "Life cycle happiness and its sources: Intersections of psychology, economics, and demography," Journal of Economic Psychology, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 463-482, August.
    4. Flavio Comim, 2005. "Capabilities and Happiness: Potential Synergies," Review of Social Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 63(2), pages 161-176.
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    Cited by:

    1. Victor, Bart & Fischer, Edward F. & Cooil, Bruce & Vergara, Alfredo & Mukolo, Abraham & Blevins, Meridith, 2013. "Frustrated Freedom: The Effects of Agency and Wealth on Wellbeing in Rural Mozambique," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 47(C), pages 30-41.


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