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

  • David Clark
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    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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    File URL: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/00220380500186853
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    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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    1. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2002. "Development, Common Foes and Shared Values," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 463-480.
    2. 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.
    3. Alkire, Sabina, 2005. "Valuing Freedoms: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283316, March.
    4. 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.
    5. Sen, Amartya, 1983. "Development: Which Way Now?," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 93(372), pages 742-62, December.
    6. Gasper, D.R., 2002. "Is Sen's Capability Approach an Adequate Basis for Considering Human Development," ISS Working Papers - General Series 50674, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    7. 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.
    8. Alkire, Sabina, 2002. "Dimensions of Human Development," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 30(2), pages 181-205, February.
    9. repec:ems:euriss:23177 is not listed on IDEAS
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