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Commensurable freedoms in the capability approach


  • Antoinette Baujard

    (CREM – CNRS)


The basis of the capability approach (CA) was recently attacked by a paper by Prasanta Pattanaik and Yonghseng Xu: the CA is strongly committed to two substantial principles, dominance on the one hand, and relativism on the other hand. The authors have shown these two principles, along with a harmless continuity condition, are together inconsistent. The aim of this paper is twofold. On the one hand, it provides a discussion on the interpretation of this result, based on a reading of the literature on the CA, which brings to the fore the diversity of the approaches. On the second hand, it aims at proposing a way out from the impossibility, which yields to further discussions of Sen's CA.

Suggested Citation

  • Antoinette Baujard, 2007. "Commensurable freedoms in the capability approach," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 200703, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.
  • Handle: RePEc:tut:cremwp:200703

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Amartya Sen, 2004. "Capabilities, Lists, And Public Reason: Continuing The Conversation," Feminist Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 10(3), pages 77-80.
    2. Alkire, Sabina, 2005. "Valuing Freedoms: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199283316.
    3. Gravel, Nicolas, 1994. "Can a Ranking of Opportunity Sets Attach an Intrinsic Importance to Freedom of Choice?," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 84(2), pages 454-458, May.
    4. Nicolas Gravel, 1998. "Ranking opportunity sets on the basis of their freedom of choice and their ability to satisfy preferences: A difficulty," Social Choice and Welfare, Springer;The Society for Social Choice and Welfare, vol. 15(3), pages 371-382.
    5. Antoinette Baujard, 2006. "Conceptions of freedom and ranking opportunity sets. A typology," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 200611, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.
    6. Sen, Amartya Kumar, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Scholarly Articles 3612779, Harvard University Department of Economics.
    7. Sen, Amartya, 1970. "The Impossibility of a Paretian Liberal," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 78(1), pages 152-157, Jan.-Feb..
    8. Qizilbash, Mozaffar, 1998. "The Concept of Well-Being," Economics and Philosophy, Cambridge University Press, vol. 14(01), pages 51-73, April.
    9. Sen, Amartya, 1988. "Freedom of choice : Concept and content," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 32(2-3), pages 269-294, March.
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    Cited by:

    1. Antoinette Baujard, 2013. "Welfare economics," Working Papers 1333, Groupe d'Analyse et de Théorie Economique Lyon St-Étienne (GATE Lyon St-Étienne), Université de Lyon.

    More about this item


    freedom; commensurability; capability; relativism; universalism; local ethics;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • I31 - Health, Education, and Welfare - - Welfare, Well-Being, and Poverty - - - General Welfare, Well-Being

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