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Why the Capability Approach?

  • Sabina Alkire

In addressing operational challenges such as poverty or economic development, many researchers and practitioners wish to build upon insights raised by Sen's capability approach and related writings. This paper argues that the comprehensive reach and foundation of the human development and capability approach has a value independent from and additional to their practical outworkings, and yet also that operational specifications are both possible and vital to the further development of the approach. The paper begins with a thumbnail sketch of the core concepts of the capability approach, and supplements these with additional informational and principle requirements that Sen argues to be necessary for a more complete assessment of a state of affairs. It traces some important avenues along which the Human Development Reports and other empirical studies have operationalized certain aspects of Sen's capability approach. The paper then articulates further developments that might be expected, arguing that such developments must also build upon cutting edge research in other fields. It also identifies certain 'value judgments' that are inherent to the capability approach and should not be permanently dismissed by some methodological innovation.

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

Volume (Year): 6 (2005)
Issue (Month): 1 ()
Pages: 115-135

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Handle: RePEc:taf:jhudca:v:6:y:2005:i:1:p:115-135
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