An Unworkable Idea or a Promising Alternative? Sen's Capability Approach Re-examined
This paper presents an analysis and an assessment of Amartya Sen’s capability approach. In the first part, it gives a detailed explanation of the capability approach. It analyses the core concepts and tries to clarify confusions in the literature by looking at different interpretations and usages. In the second part of the paper the major critiques on the capability approach are scrutinised. It is argued that some of those critiques are based on mistaken interpretations, while others follow from a too narrow reading. At the same time it is recognised that theoretical and empirical applications of the capability approach nevertheless remain to address a number of difficulties. The paper also includes an annotated survey of the existing empirical applications. Ultimately, both the assessment of the critiques as well as the survey of applications provide support for Sen’s claim to see the capability approach as a framework of thought, which can address diverse problems and can be applied in quite different ways.
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