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Capabilities, Entitlements, Rights: Supplementation and Critique

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  • Martha Nussbaum
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    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.

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    Article provided by Taylor & Francis Journals in its journal Journal of Human Development and Capabilities.

    Volume (Year): 12 (2011)
    Issue (Month): 1 ()
    Pages: 23-37

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    Handle: RePEc:taf:jhudca:v:12:y:2011:i:1:p:23-37
    DOI: 10.1080/19452829.2011.541731
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