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Capabilities, Entitlements, Rights: Supplementation and Critique


  • Martha Nussbaum


Capabilities are closely related to human rights. Capabilities are important human entitlements, inherent in the idea of basic social justice, and can be viewed as one species of a human rights approach. This paper explores this relationship, expanding on earlier publications, notably Capabilities and Human Rights (1997), Women and Human Development (2000), Capabilities as Fundamental Entitlements (2003), and Frontiers of Justice (2005). Capabilities are complementary to and augment, rather than competing with, human rights. Capabilities can supplement the language of rights in clarifying the basic concept of human rights, by emphasizing the material and social aspect of all rights and the need for government action to protect and secure all rights. They also ground entitlements in the lives of ordinary people, without tying them down to a specific cultural context. Human rights can also supplement the language of capabilities. Human rights makes clear that the idea of capabilities is not an optional entitlement, but an urgent demand that should not be ignored nor compromised in pursuit of other objectives such as expansion of aggregate wealth. Human rights have gained support and endorsement the world over, and the idea of rights has the capacity to mobilize political action.

Suggested Citation

  • Martha Nussbaum, 2011. "Capabilities, Entitlements, Rights: Supplementation and Critique," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(1), pages 23-37.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jhudca:v:12:y:2011:i:1:p:23-37
    DOI: 10.1080/19452829.2011.541731

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    Cited by:

    1. repec:nms:mamere:1861-9908_mrev_2012_2_canton is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Ulriksen, Marianne S. & Plagerson, Sophie, 2014. "Social Protection: Rethinking Rights and Duties," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 64(C), pages 755-765.
    3. Burchi, Francesco & De Muro, Pasquale, 2016. "From food availability to nutritional capabilities: Advancing food security analysis," Food Policy, Elsevier, vol. 60(C), pages 10-19.
    4. Quentin Farmar-Bowers, 2015. "Finding Ways to Improve Australia’s Food Security Situation," Agriculture, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 5(2), pages 1-27, May.
    5. repec:nms:mamere:1861-9908_mrev_2012_2_lehwess-litzmann is not listed on IDEAS
    6. Andrea Vigorito, 2011. "Bibliography on the Capability Approach 2010--2011," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 12(4), pages 607-612, November.
    7. repec:pal:develp:v:59:y:2016:i:1:d:10.1057_s41301-017-0075-z is not listed on IDEAS

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    Human rights; Capabilities; Justice;


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