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The Relational Ontology of Amartya Sen's Capability Approach: Incorporating Social and Individual Causes

Author

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  • Matthew Longshore Smith
  • Carolina Seward

Abstract

While Sen has written extensively on the social factors of capabilities, the exact nature of these social factors and how they interact to form and influence capabilities is contested and unclear. Consequently, how to coherently integrate social components into capability research remains a concern for those attempting to put the capability approach to practical use. This paper proposes one approach to understanding and integrating the social nature of capabilities. Building upon two recent contributions by Martins, we argue that underpinning Sen's notion of capabilities is an ontological conception of a relational society. In this perspective, an individual's capabilities emerge from the combination and interaction of individual-level capacities and the individual's relative position vis-a-vis social structures that provide reasons and resources for particular behaviors. Crucially, this conception of society is predicated upon a contextual notion of causality that is flexible enough to incorporate both individual and social causes into social analysis.

Suggested Citation

  • Matthew Longshore Smith & Carolina Seward, 2009. "The Relational Ontology of Amartya Sen's Capability Approach: Incorporating Social and Individual Causes," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(2), pages 213-235.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jhudca:v:10:y:2009:i:2:p:213-235
    DOI: 10.1080/19452820902940927
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Alkire, Sabina, 2005. "Valuing Freedoms: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283316.
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    Citations

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    Cited by:

    1. Natera, Jose Miguel & Pansera, Mario, 2013. "How Innovation Systems and Development Theories complement each other," MPRA Paper 53633, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    2. Pansera, Mario & Owen, Richard, 2015. "Framing resource-constrained innovation at the ‘bottom of the pyramid’: Insights from an ethnographic case study in rural Bangladesh," Technological Forecasting and Social Change, Elsevier, vol. 92(C), pages 300-311.
    3. Martins, Nuno, 2011. "Sustainability economics, ontology and the capability approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 72(C), pages 1-4.
    4. repec:eee:ecolec:v:147:y:2018:i:c:p:21-28 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Ballet, Jérôme & Koffi, Jean-Marcel & Pelenc, Jérôme, 2013. "Environment, justice and the capability approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 28-34.
    6. repec:eee:socmed:v:188:y:2017:i:c:p:91-99 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. François-Xavier De Vaujany & Nathalie Mitev & Matthew Smith & Isabelle Walsh, 2017. "Renewing Literature Reviews in MIS Research? A Critical Realist Approach," Working Papers hal-01648133, HAL.
    8. repec:eee:respol:v:47:y:2018:i:1:p:23-34 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Demals, Thierry & Hyard, Alexandra, 2014. "Is Amartya Sen's sustainable freedom a broader vision of sustainability?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 33-38.
    10. Birkin, Frank & Polesie, Thomas, 2013. "The relevance of epistemic analysis to sustainability economics and the capability approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 89(C), pages 144-152.
    11. Simplice Asongu & Nicholas Biekpe, 2017. "Mobile Phone Innovation and Entrepreneurship in Sub-Saharan Africa," Working Papers 17/023, African Governance and Development Institute..
    12. Nuno Ornelas Martins & Américo Mendes, 2012. "Social Exclusion of Immigrants from a Capability Perspective: The Case of Portugal," Chapters,in: Globalization Trends and Regional Development, chapter 10 Edward Elgar Publishing.
    13. Griewald, Yuliana & Rauschmayer, Felix, 2013. "Exploring a nature-related conflict from a capability perspective," UFZ Discussion Papers 7/2013, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    14. Griewald, Yuliana & Rauschmayer, Felix, 2014. "Exploring an environmental conflict from a capability perspective," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 100(C), pages 30-39.
    15. Cecile Renouard, 2011. "Corporate Social Responsibility, Utilitarianism, and the Capabilities Approach," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 98(1), pages 85-97, January.
    16. Roberta Capello & Tomaz Ponce Dentinho (ed.), 2012. "Globalization Trends and Regional Development," Books, Edward Elgar Publishing, number 14815, April.

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