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Re-conceptualising sustainable development on the basis of the capability approach: A model and its difficulties

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  • Leßmann, Ortrud
  • Rauschmayer, Felix

Abstract

This paper sketches a re-conceptualisation of sustainable development (SD) on the basis of the capability approach (CA). The notion sustainable development was developed as a compromise in a political process and has been re-interpreted (some say: diluted) again and again in the last 20 years. When modelling the notion through the lenses of the capability approach, difficulties occur that are at the core of SD and of CA or that are due to their combination. Our paper shows why it is not that easy to replace needs in the Brundtland definition of SD with capabilities. In our model, the differences between systemic and individual levels become clear and herewith the necessity to include both when dealing with issues of SD. The most salient difficulties relate to the multidimensionality and dynamics on both levels. Confronted to these difficulties, demanding individuals to consciously choose sustainable actions seems to be heroic. We propose two ways to alleviate the cognitive and moral burden on individuals by concentrating on the natural environment and by introducing collective institutions. Both alleviations are far from evident, though; this concerns their justification as well as their operationalization.

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  • Leßmann, Ortrud & Rauschmayer, Felix, 2012. "Re-conceptualising sustainable development on the basis of the capability approach: A model and its difficulties," UFZ Discussion Papers 03/2012, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
  • Handle: RePEc:zbw:ufzdps:032012
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    1. Krumm, Raimund & Volkert, Jürgen, 2015. "Möglichkeiten und Grenzen der politischen Realisierbarkeit intra- und intergenerativer Gerechtigkeit," UFZ Discussion Papers 11/2015, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    2. Leßmann, Ortrud & Masson, Torsten, 2015. "Sustainable consumption in capability perspective: Operationalization and empirical illustration," Journal of Behavioral and Experimental Economics (formerly The Journal of Socio-Economics), Elsevier, vol. 57(C), pages 64-72.
    3. Rauschmayer, Felix & Bauler, Tom & Schäpke, Niko, 2013. "Towards a governance of sustainability transitions: Giving place to individuals," UFZ Discussion Papers 17/2013, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    4. Paul Anand & Swati Saxena & Rolando Gonzales Martinez & Hai-Anh H. Dang, 2020. "Can Women’s Self-help Groups Contribute to Sustainable Development? Evidence of Capability Changes from Northern India," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 21(2), pages 137-160, April.
    5. Marco Setti & Matteo Garuti, 2018. "Identity, Commons and Sustainability: An Economic Perspective," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(2), pages 1-12, February.
    6. Gébert, Judit, 2015. "Mit is kell fenntartani?. Fenntarthatóság a képességszemlélet perspektívájából [Sustaining what?. Sustainability in terms of the capability approach]," Közgazdasági Szemle (Economic Review - monthly of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences), Közgazdasági Szemle Alapítvány (Economic Review Foundation), vol. 0(9), pages 972-989.
    7. Pelenc, Jérôme & Bazile, Didier & Ceruti, Cristian, 2015. "Collective capability and collective agency for sustainability: A case study," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 118(C), pages 226-239.
    8. Ballet, Jérôme & Bazin, Damien Jérôme Albert & Komena, Boniface K., 2020. "Unequal capabilities and natural resource management: The case of Côte d’Ivoire," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 134(C).
    9. Michael B. Wironen & Robert V. Bartlett & Jon D. Erickson, 2019. "Deliberation and the Promise of a Deeply Democratic Sustainability Transition," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 11(4), pages 1-18, February.
    10. Volkert, Jürgen & Strotmann, Harald & Moczadlo, Regina, 2014. "Sustainable Human Development: Corporate challenges and potentials. The case of Bayer CropScience's cotton seed production in rural Karnataka (India)," UFZ Discussion Papers 5/2014, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    11. Mock, Mirijam & Omann, Ines & Rauschmayer, Felix & Fuchs, Daniela, 2013. "Do community currencies enhance sustainable quality of life?," UFZ Discussion Papers 16/2013, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    12. Seckler, Matthias & Volkert, Jürgen, 2021. "The capability approach: A promising foundation for sustainable development?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 183(C).
    13. Schäpke, Niko & Rauschmayer, Felix, 2012. "Addressing sufficiency: Including altruistic motives in behavioural models for sustainability transitions," UFZ Discussion Papers 17/2012, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    14. Pelenc, Jérôme & Ballet, Jérôme, 2015. "Strong sustainability, critical natural capital and the capability approach," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 112(C), pages 36-44.
    15. 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.
    16. Rafaela Hillerbrand, 2018. "Why Affordable Clean Energy Is Not Enough. A Capability Perspective on the Sustainable Development Goals," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 10(7), pages 1-14, July.
    17. Britta Stoever & Thomas Drosdowski & Ulrike Lehr & Marc Ingo Wolter, 2014. "Socioeconomic consumption modelling in an input-output model," EcoMod2014 6721, EcoMod.
    18. Demals, Thierry & Hyard, Alexandra, 2014. "Is Amartya Sen's sustainable freedom a broader vision of sustainability?," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 102(C), pages 33-38.
    19. Dr. Thomas Drosdowski & Britta Stöver & Dr. Marc Ingo Wolter, 2015. "Consumption modelling considering different socio-economic household types," GWS Discussion Paper Series 15-15, GWS - Institute of Economic Structures Research.
    20. Rauschmayer, Felix & Bauler, Tom & Schäpke, Niko, 2015. "Towards a thick understanding of sustainability transitions — Linking transition management, capabilities and social practices," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 109(C), pages 211-221.
    21. Beling, Adrián E. & Vanhulst, Julien & Demaria, Federico & Rabi, Violeta & Carballo, Ana E. & Pelenc, Jérôme, 2018. "Discursive Synergies for a ‘Great Transformation’ Towards Sustainability: Pragmatic Contributions to a Necessary Dialogue Between Human Development, Degrowth, and Buen Vivir," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 144(C), pages 304-313.
    22. Dan Long & Houhong Wang & Peili Wang, 2021. "Built to Sustain: The Effect of Entrepreneurial Decision-Making Logic on New Venture Sustainability," Sustainability, MDPI, Open Access Journal, vol. 13(4), pages 1-20, February.

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