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Is Sen's Capability Approach an Adequate Basis for Considering Human Development?

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  • Des Gasper

Abstract

Sen's capability approach (SCA) has supported valuable work on Human Development (HD). It has brought attention to a much wider range of information on people's freedoms and well-being than in most earlier economic planning; but it also has troubling features and requires modification and enrichment. This paper first identifies the approach's components, the contributions of the HD Reports, and the doubts about whether SCA has a sufficient conception of human personhood to sustain work on HD beyond finding indices superior to GDP. It then examines SCA's central concepts. The concepts of capability and functioning lead us to consider both possibilities and outcomes, but their definition and use has been confusing. Besides Sen's opportunity concept of 'capability' we must distinguish skills and potentials; and distinguish levels and types of 'functioning'. To understand both consumerism and what can motivate and drive more humanly fulfilling development, we must elaborate different aspects and sources of 'well-being' and the content and requirements of 'agency', more than in Sen's chosen strategy. SCA's priority category of opportunity-capability must be read as a measure of personal advantage relevant in many public policy situations, rather than as a theory of well-being; and its concept of freedom must be partnered by concepts of reason and need.

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  • Des Gasper, 2002. "Is Sen's Capability Approach an Adequate Basis for Considering Human Development?," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 435-461.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:14:y:2002:i:4:p:435-461
    DOI: 10.1080/0953825022000009898
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Des Gasper, 2000. "Development as freedom: taking economics beyond commodities-the cautious boldness of Amartya Sen," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 12(7), pages 989-1001.
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    Cited by:

    1. Berenger, Valerie & Verdier-Chouchane, Audrey, 2007. "Multidimensional Measures of Well-Being: Standard of Living and Quality of Life Across Countries," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 35(7), pages 1259-1276, July.
    2. Antoinette Baujard & Muriel Gilardone, 2017. "Sen is not a capability theorist," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(1), pages 1-19, January.
    3. Ballet, Jérôme & Marchand, Lucile & Pelenc, Jérôme & Vos, Robin, 2018. "Capabilities, Identity, Aspirations and Ecosystem Services: An Integrated Framework," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 147(C), pages 21-28.
    4. Marco Grasso & Enzo Di Giulio, 2003. "Mapping sustainable development in a capability perspective," HEW 0309001, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    5. David A. Clark, 2007. "Adaptation, Poverty and Well-Being: Some Issues and Observations with Special Reference to the Capability Approach and Development Studies," Economics Series Working Papers GPRG-WPS-081, University of Oxford, Department of Economics.
    6. AfDB AfDB, 2006. "Working Paper 83 - Are African Countries Richer Than They Are Developed? A Multidimensional Analysis of Well-Being," Working Paper Series 2217, African Development Bank.
    7. Tara Natarajan, 2014. "Shifting economics: fundamental questions and Amartya K. Sen’s pragmatic humanism," The Journal of Philosophical Economics, Bucharest Academy of Economic Studies, The Journal of Philosophical Economics, vol. 8(1), November.
    8. Lanzi, Diego, 2007. "Capabilities, human capital and education," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 424-435, June.
    9. Sung-Geun Kim, 2015. "Fuzzy Multidimensional Poverty Measurement: An Analysis of Statistical Behaviors," Social Indicators Research: An International and Interdisciplinary Journal for Quality-of-Life Measurement, Springer, vol. 120(3), pages 635-667, February.
    10. Pelenc, Jérôme, 2014. "Développement humain responsable et aménagement du territoire. Réflexions à partir de deux réserves de biosphère périurbaines en France et au Chili [Responsible Human Development and Land-Use Plann," MPRA Paper 56094, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    11. Saeed, Muhammad Kashif & Hayat, Muhammad Azmat, 2020. "The Impact of Social Cash Transfers on Poverty in Pakistan-A Case Study of Benazir Income Support Programme," MPRA Paper 99805, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    12. Gasper, Des, 2007. "What is the capability approach?: Its core, rationale, partners and dangers," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 36(3), pages 335-359, June.
    13. Agni Kalfagianni, 2014. "Addressing the Global Sustainability Challenge: The Potential and Pitfalls of Private Governance from the Perspective of Human Capabilities," Journal of Business Ethics, Springer, vol. 122(2), pages 307-320, June.
    14. David Clark, 2005. "Sen's capability approach and the many spaces of human well-being," Journal of Development Studies, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(8), pages 1339-1368.
    15. Paul Shaffer, 2008. "New Thinking on Poverty: Implications for Globalisation and Poverty Reduction Strategies," Working Papers 65, United Nations, Department of Economics and Social Affairs.
    16. Gough, Ian, 2003. "Lists and thresholds: comparing our theory of human need with Nussbaum's capabilities approach," LSE Research Online Documents on Economics 36659, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Library.
    17. Pelenc, Jérôme, 2014. "Combining the capability approach and Max-Neef’s needs approach for a better assessment of multidimensional well-being and inequalities: a case study perspective with vulnerable teenagers of the regio," MPRA Paper 66277, University Library of Munich, Germany.
    18. AfDB AfDB, 2006. "Working Paper 83 - Are African Countries Richer Than They Are Developed? A Multidimensional Analysis of Well-Being," Working Paper Series 2297, African Development Bank.

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