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Sen is not a capability theorist

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  • Antoinette Baujard

    () (GATE Lyon Saint-Étienne - Groupe d'analyse et de théorie économique - ENS Lyon - École normale supérieure - Lyon - UL2 - Université Lumière - Lyon 2 - UCBL - Université Claude Bernard Lyon 1 - Université de Lyon - UJM - Université Jean Monnet [Saint-Étienne] - Université de Lyon - CNRS - Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique)

Abstract

This paper aims to show that, contrary to the standard understanding of his work, Sen's idea of justice does not consist in the defense of a capability theory. Under the dominant capability-centered view, Sen's idea of justice is indeed characterized principally by a switch of focus from utility to capability. We demonstrate that this view amounts to the application of formal welfarism to capabilities. We reject this characterization and defend instead a heuristic account of the status of capability in Sen's thought: capability was introduced to make a point against welfarism, but this does not imply that a commitment to a capability theory. The capability-centered view is shown to be inconsistent with Sen's idea of justice, because the latter requires agents to be involved in the definition of their own welfare. Our study of the status of capability in Sen's view of justice enables us to relocate his main contribution and to build the basis for an alternative theory of justice. Abstract. This paper aims to show that, contrary to the standard understanding of his work, Sen's idea of justice does not consist in the defense of a capability theory. Under the dominant capability-centered view, Sen's idea of justice is indeed characterized principally by a switch of focus from utility to capability. We demonstrate that this view amounts to the application of formal welfarism to capabilities. We reject this characterization and defend instead a heuristic account of the status of capability in Sen's thought: capability was introduced to make a point against welfarism, but this does not imply that a commitment to a capability theory. The capability-centered view is shown to be inconsistent with Sen's idea of justice, because the latter requires agents to be involved in the definition of their own welfare. Our study of the status of capability in Sen's view of justice enables us to relocate his main contribution and to build the basis for an alternative theory of justice.
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Suggested Citation

  • Antoinette Baujard, 2016. "Sen is not a capability theorist," Post-Print halshs-01302396, HAL.
  • Handle: RePEc:hal:journl:halshs-01302396
    Note: View the original document on HAL open archive server: https://halshs.archives-ouvertes.fr/halshs-01302396
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    1. Amartya Sen, 2008. "The Idea of Justice," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(3), pages 331-342.
    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. Muriel Gilardone, 2015. "Rawls's influence and counter-influence on Sen: Post-welfarism and impartiality," The European Journal of the History of Economic Thought, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(2), pages 198-235, April.
    4. Charles Blackorby & Walter Bossert & David Donaldson, 2005. "Multi-profile welfarism: A generalization," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 24(2), pages 253-267, April.
    5. Amartya Sen, 2004. "Capabilities, Lists, And Public Reason: Continuing The Conversation," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(3), pages 77-80.
    6. Alkire, Sabina, 2005. "Valuing Freedoms: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283316.
    7. Amartya Sen, 2005. "Human Rights and Capabilities," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(2), pages 151-166.
    8. Amartya Sen, 2012. "Values and justice," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(2), pages 101-108, June.
    9. Carter, Ian, 2014. "Is The Capability Approach Paternalist?," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 30(1), pages 75-98, March.
    10. Sugden, Robert, 1993. "Welfare, Resources, and Capabilities: A Review [Inequality Reexamined]," Journal of Economic Literature, American Economic Association, vol. 31(4), pages 1947-1962, December.
    11. Martha Nussbaum, 2003. "Capabilities As Fundamental Entitlements: Sen And Social Justice," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2-3), pages 33-59.
    12. Mozaffar Qizilbash, 2002. "Development, Common Foes and Shared Values," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 463-480.
    13. Muriel Gilardone, 2010. "Amartya Sen sans prisme," Cahiers d’économie politique / Papers in Political Economy, L'Harmattan, issue 58, pages 9-39.
    14. Amartya Sen, 1999. "The Possibility of Social Choice," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(3), pages 349-378, June.
    15. Yukinori Iwata, 2014. "On the informational basis of social choice with the evaluation of opportunity sets," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 43(1), pages 153-172, June.
    16. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "On Weights and Measures: Informational Constraints in Social Welfare Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1539-1572, October.
    17. 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.
    18. Jérôme Ballet & Damien Bazin & Jean-Luc Dubois & François-Régis Mahieu, 2013. "Freedom, Responsibility and Economics of the Person," Post-Print halshs-00930924, HAL.
    19. Fleurbaey, Marc & Blanchet, Didier, 2013. "Beyond GDP: Measuring Welfare and Assessing Sustainability," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199767199.
    20. Ingrid Robeyns, 2003. "Sen'S Capability Approach And Gender Inequality: Selecting Relevant Capabilities," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2-3), pages 61-92.
    21. Steven Pressman & Gale Summerfield, 2002. "Sen and Capabilities," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 14(4), pages 429-434.
    22. Antoinette Baujard, 2011. "Utilité et liberté de choix dans les classements d'ensembles d'opportunités," Post-Print halshs-00667694, HAL.
    23. Sen, Amartya, 1984. "The Living Standard," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 36(0), pages 74-90, Supplemen.
    24. Gasper, D.R., 2002. "Is Sen's Capability Approach an Adequate Basis for Considering Human Development," ISS Working Papers - General Series 50674, International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam (ISS), The Hague.
    25. John B. Davis, 2012. "The idea of public reasoning," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 19(2), pages 169-172, June.
    26. Fabienne Peter, 2003. "Gender And The Foundations Of Social Choice: The Role Of Situated Agency," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 9(2-3), pages 13-32.
    27. repec:ems:euriss:23177 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Antoinette Baujard & Muriel Gilardone, 2016. "Positional views as the cornerstone of Sen’s idea of justice," Post-Print halshs-01366695, HAL.
    3. Muriel Gilardone, 2018. "The influence of Sen’s applied economics on his “social choice” approach to justice: agency at the core of public action to remove injustice," Economics Working Paper from Condorcet Center for political Economy at CREM-CNRS 2018-01-ccr, Condorcet Center for political Economy.
    4. Antoinette Baujard & Adrien Lutz, 2018. "The capacity to confuse: rescuing the Saint-Simonian notion of ability from modern capability theories of social justice," Working Papers halshs-01963252, HAL.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    public reasoning; agency; paternalism; operationalization; justice; Capability; welfarism;

    JEL classification:

    • A13 - General Economics and Teaching - - General Economics - - - Relation of Economics to Social Values
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology
    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • D79 - Microeconomics - - Analysis of Collective Decision-Making - - - Other
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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