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The Ends and Means of Sustainability

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  • Amartya Sen

Abstract

The idea of ‘sustainability’ received serious attention in the so-called Brundtland Commission Report that has many attractive features. In particular, it highlighted the importance of intergenerational justice while maintaining a concern for the poor of each generation and shifted the focus away from resources to human beings. I argue that this way of understanding sustainability, while a great improvement, is still incomplete. There are important grounds for favouring a freedom-oriented view, focusing on crucial freedoms that people have reason to value. Human freedoms include the fulfilment of needs, but also the liberty to define and pursue our own goals, objectives and commitments, no matter how they link with our own particular needs. Human beings are reflective creatures and are able to reason about and decide what they would like to happen, rather than being compellingly led by their own needs—biological or social. A fuller concept of sustainability has to aim at sustaining human freedoms, rather than only at our ability to fulfil our felt needs. Some empirical examples are given to illustrate the distinctive nature and the reasoned importance of seeing sustainability in terms of sustaining human freedoms and capabilities.

Suggested Citation

  • Amartya Sen, 2013. "The Ends and Means of Sustainability," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(1), pages 6-20, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:jhudca:v:14:y:2013:i:1:p:6-20
    DOI: 10.1080/19452829.2012.747492
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Richard A. Easterlin, 1980. "Population and Economic Change in Developing Countries," NBER Books, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc, number east80-1, April.
    2. Richard Easterlin, 1980. "Introduction to "Population and Economic Change in Developing Countries"," NBER Chapters,in: Population and Economic Change in Developing Countries, pages 1-4 National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    3. Dasgupta, Partha & Maler, Karl-Goran, 1995. "Poverty, institutions, and the environmental resource-base," Handbook of Development Economics,in: Hollis Chenery & T.N. Srinivasan (ed.), Handbook of Development Economics, edition 1, volume 3, chapter 39, pages 2371-2463 Elsevier.
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    Cited by:

    1. Krumm, Raimund & Volkert, Jürgen, 2015. "Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der politischen Realisierbarkeit intra- und intergenerativer Gerechtigkeit," UFZ Discussion Papers 11/2015, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    2. Leßmann, Ortrud & Masson, Torsten, 2015. "Sustainable consumption in capability perspective: Operationalization and empirical illustration," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 64-72.
    3. Nandan Nawn, 2015. "For Sustainable SDGs: Righting Through Responsibilities," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 16(4), pages 625-630, November.
    4. Rauschmayer, Felix & Bauler, Tom & Schäpke, Niko, 2013. "Towards a governance of sustainability transitions: Giving place to individuals," UFZ Discussion Papers 17/2013, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    5. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:10:p:3805-:d:177232 is not listed on IDEAS
    6. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:2:p:409-:d:130229 is not listed on IDEAS
    7. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:5:p:1540-:d:145966 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Gébert, Judit, 2015. "Mit is kell fenntartani?. Fenntarthatóság a képességszemlélet perspektívájából
      [Sustaining what?. Sustainability in terms of the capability approach]
      ," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(9), pages 972-989.
    9. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:11:p:3842-:d:177802 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. repec:eee:enepol:v:117:y:2018:i:c:p:445-456 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Mabsout, Ramzi, 2015. "Mindful capability," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 86-97.
    12. repec:gam:jsusta:v:8:y:2016:i:5:p:428:d:69225 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Sabrina Neugebauer & Silvia Forin & Matthias Finkbeiner, 2016. "From Life Cycle Costing to Economic Life Cycle Assessment—Introducing an Economic Impact Pathway," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 8(5), pages 1-23, April.
    14. Yoann Verger, 2018. "First steps for a Sraffian ecological economics. An answer to Martins' “The Classical Circular Economy, Sraffian Ecological Economics and the Capabilities Approach”," Working Papers hal-01700228, HAL.
    15. repec:eee:ecolec:v:147:y:2018:i:c:p:21-28 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. 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.
    17. 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.
    18. repec:gam:jsusta:v:10:y:2018:i:6:p:1703-:d:148611 is not listed on IDEAS
    19. Rauschmayer, Felix & Bauler, Tom & Schäpke, Niko, 2015. "Towards a thick understanding of sustainability transitions — Linking transition management, capabilities and social practices," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 211-221.
    20. León Tamayo, Dorian Fernando, 2018. "Enfoque de las capacidades," EconStor Preprints 182466, ZBW - Leibniz Information Centre for Economics.
    21. Damien J.A. BAZIN & Sylvie FERRARI & Richard B. HOWARTH, 2018. "Introducing Environmental Ethics into Economic Analysis: Some insights from Hans Jonas’ Responsibility Principle," Cahiers du GREThA 2018-17, Groupe de Recherche en Economie Théorique et Appliquée(GREThA).

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