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The Capability Concept and the Evolution of European Social Policy


  • Simon Deakin


Amartya Sen’s capability approach has the potential to counter neoliberal critiques of social welfare systems by overcoming the false opposition between security and flexibility. In particular, it can be used to promote the idea of social rights as the foundation of active participation by individuals in the labour market. This idea is starting to be reflected in the case law of the European Court of Justice concerning free movement of persons but its use in the European employment strategy is so far more limited, thanks to the continuing influence of neoliberal ‘activation policies’.

Suggested Citation

  • Simon Deakin, 2005. "The Capability Concept and the Evolution of European Social Policy," Working Papers wp303, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cbr:cbrwps:wp303
    Note: PRO-2

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Simon Deakin & Hannah Reed, 2000. "The Contested Meaning of Labour Market Flexibility: Economic Theory and the Discourse of European Integration," Working Papers wp162, Centre for Business Research, University of Cambridge.
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    More about this item


    capabilities; welfare state; social rights; European Union law;

    JEL classification:

    • J38 - Labor and Demographic Economics - - Wages, Compensation, and Labor Costs - - - Public Policy
    • K31 - Law and Economics - - Other Substantive Areas of Law - - - Labor Law

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