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Sen- does his approach work?/Sen’s (Amartya Sen) capability concept

Sen- does his approach work?/Sen’s (Amartya Sen) capability concept.
Note on Readings about Sen’s (Amartya Sen) capability concept.
The lecture about Sen on Tuesday 26th October was based on two readings; chapters 2-7 in Sen’s (1992) Inequality Re examined, and selected chapters from The Capability Approach; concepts, measures and applications (2008) eds. Flavio Comim, Mozafar Qizilish, and Sabina Alkire. The first of these is a ‘pure’, philosophical statement of the approach. Those who want to read further theoretical work should consult:
Sabina Alkire’s (2002) book Valuing Freedoms: Sen’s Capability Approach and poverty reduction;
Sen’s (1999) Development and Freedom,
P. Vizard (2006) Poverty and Human Rights: Sen’s Capability Approach.
M. Nussaum (2000), Women and Human Development.
Clearly, the field of capability studies is multi-disciplinary; these (and other) readings reflect work in economics, development studies, political economy, philosophy, and so on.
The important question about Sen is whether and how the approach can be applied in practice. Burchardt’s paper on Monitoring Inequality: putting the Capability approach to work which is on Blackboard is a good example of how it might be applied in the context of an advanced welfare state, and the book of readings cited above (The Capability Approach; concepts, measures and applications) is an excellent selection of readable studies that apply the approach in quite varied contexts. This book of readings is particularly valuable in the way it illustrates the flexibility of the approach.
Critique of utilitarian approach to welfare based on ‘utility’
Analysis of ‘economic development’ problems and how development, including poverty reduction, should be defined and measured
Attempt to link notions of freedom and choice with levels of well-being
Development of a framework for comparing the ‘well-being’ of persons, social categories and nations.

Income analyses can be “remote from the main motivation behind our concern with poverty (the limitation of the lives some people are forced to live)”
Income/resource analyses ignore the varied capacity of people to “convert resources” into well-being
Income/resource analyses may not reflect agency- people’s freedom to formulate life goals and freedom to participate in achieving these goals.
Well-being of a person is seen in terms of the overall quality of the person’s being.
“Living may be seen as a set of interrelated functionings , consisting of beings and doings. —The relevant functionings can vary from such elementary things as being adequately nourished, being in good health, — to more complex achievements such as being happy, having self-respect, taking part in the life of the community— an evaluation of well-being has to take the form of an assessment of these constituent elements”

These represent “the various combinations of functionings (beings and doings) that the person can achieve. Capability is, thus, a set of vectors of functionings reflecting the person’s freedom to lead one type of or another”
Capability is therefore about “real freedom”; also, capability is about choice and freedom and choosing may itself “contribute directly to well-being”

“Our physical and social characteristics make us immensely diverse creatures. We differ in age, sex, physical and mental health, bodily prowess, —-
“To have an inadequate income is not a matter of having an income level an externally fixed poverty line, but to have an income below what is adequate for generating the specified levels of capabilities for the person in question”
Diverse peoples and societies;
Means (income etc.) to obtain
Capabilities (attending school)to achieve
Functionings (being an educated, literate person)

Capability analysis of the Chilean labour market;
what ‘capabilities and functionings’ does employment create? can we measure employment ‘quality’ in a capability framework? (Sehnbruch, 2008)

Sen’s approach very suitable for feminist analyses;
Sen stresses diversity; men and women may have different functionings and capabilities;
Men and women face different ‘conversion factors’ from means to capabilities to functionings because of societal constraints;
Sen allows that people’ agencies and capabilities are inter-dependent and women are at the core of the interdependence.

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