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Martha C. Nussbaum
Copyright Date: 2011
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    This is a primer on the Capabilities Approach, Martha Nussbaum’s innovative model for assessing human progress. She argues that much humanitarian policy today violates basic human values; instead, she offers a unique means of redirecting government and development policy toward helping each of us lead a full and creative life.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-06120-0
    Subjects: Philosophy, Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. 1 A Woman Seeking Justice
    (pp. 1-16)

    All over the world people are struggling for lives that are worthy of their human dignity. Leaders of countries often focus on national economic growth alone, but their people, meanwhile, are striving for something different: meaningful lives for themselves. Increased GDP has not always made a difference to the quality of people’s lives, and reports of national prosperity are not likely to console those whose existence is marked by inequality and deprivation. Such people need theoretical approaches that can aid their struggles, or at least provoke public debate by drawing attention to them; they do not need approaches that keep...

  5. 2 The Central Capabilities
    (pp. 17-45)

    The approach we are investigating is sometimes called the Human Development Approach and sometimes the Capability or Capabilities Approach. Occasionally the terms are combined, as in Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, the current name of the former Journal of Human Development—a title reflecting its new status as the official journal of the HDCA. To some extent these titles are used as mere verbal variants, and many people make no distinction among them. Insofar as there are any significant differences, “Human Development Approach” is associated, historically, with the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme and...

  6. 3 A Necessary Counter-Theory
    (pp. 46-68)

    Development economics is not just an academic discipline; it has wide-ranging influence on our world. Reigning theories in the field influence the choices of political leaders and policy-makers, whether directly, through their own appreciation of these theories, or indirectly, through advice they get from their economists and from international agencies such as the IMF and the World Bank. Although the dominant theories in development economics have an especially strong influence on poorer nations, which are particularly dependent on the policies of the World Bank and the IMF, these theories influence lives everywhere. Indeed, the ways of thinking that they embody...

  7. 4 Fundamental Entitlements
    (pp. 69-100)

    The earliest and still most common use of the Capabilities Approach is to supply a new account of the right way to compare and rank development achievements. When nations or regions compete with one another for ranking in the global development “marketplace,” trying to show that they offer a better quality of life than other nations do, or than they themselves used to do, the Capabilities Approach provides a new account of the right way to make such comparisons: instead of looking at GNP alone, we must look at a group of central human capabilities. Any capability may in principle...

  8. 5 Cultural Diversity
    (pp. 101-112)

    The list of Central Human Capabilities is a single list, albeit a very general one that can be further specified in many different ways. Even when used as a comparative measure, the human development paradigm applies the same standards to all nations, ranking them against one another in terms of their ability to deliver to people a range of important human capabilities. Yet we live in a highly diverse world. Isn’t it dictatorial or obtuse to apply a single set of norms to all the world’s peoples? Doesn’t this way of proceeding smack of imperialism? This important question has been...

  9. 6 The Nation and Global Justice
    (pp. 113-122)

    The early versions of the Capabilities Approach focused on the nation state, asking how well nations were doing in promoting the human capabilities of their citizens. The comparative use of the approach in the reports of the United Nations Development Programme is also nation-centered, ranking nations against one another in a variety of ways, but saying nothing, in the rankings, about obligations of richer countries to promote the capabilities of people in poorer nations. (The Arab Development Report does, by contrast, focus on supranational regions.) My initial use of the approach to construct a theory of social justice focused, once...

  10. 7 Philosophical Influences
    (pp. 123-142)

    The Capabilities Approach is a modern view, but it has a long history. Both Sen and I strongly insist that the intuitive ideas that lie behind it have their roots in many different cultures, and probably in all cultures. Questions about a person’s opportunities and options, what she is really in a position to do and to be, are ubiquitous in human life; they are probably part not just of every culture but of every individual life. Moreover, the dissatisfaction and protest to which the approach responds are also ubiquitous. Where do people not say, “I want to do X,...

  11. 8 Capabilities and Contemporary Issues
    (pp. 143-184)

    The Capabilities Approach suggests distinctive methods for dealing with a number of problems currently being faced by social and political theory. Cutting-edge work is being done by capabilities theory in a variety of areas. Descriptions must remain superficial, but they show that the approach promises a new, and relatively unified, perspective on problems that are often treated in isolation from one another. The list is to some extent arbitrary: other issues could easily be added. (Three that come immediately to mind are migration, the Internet, and global warming.)

    A longstanding debate within development economics concerns the right way to think...

  12. Conclusion
    (pp. 185-187)

    We are living in an era dominated by the profit motive and by anxiety over national economic achievements. Economic growth, however, while a part of wise public policy, is just a part, and a mere instrument at that. It is people who matter ultimately; profits are only instrumental means to human lives. The purpose of global development, like the purpose of a good domestic national policy, is to enable people to live full and creative lives, developing their potential and fashioning a meaningful existence commensurate with their equal human dignity. In other words, the real purpose of development is human...

  13. Postscript
    (pp. 188-190)

    This book tells the story of an evolving intellectual and practical movement whose professional association can be joined by anyone who cares about these ideas: the Human Development and Capability Association (HDCA). Launched in 2004 (after three years of preparatory conferences), the association holds an annual meeting, publishes a journal (the Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, affiliated with the UNDP but now editorially controlled by the association), and sponsors a wide range of seminars and activities all over the world. Although Amartya Sen and I are its two “founding presidents,” the daily work of the association is largely sustained...

  14. Appendix A: Heckman on Capabilities
    (pp. 193-196)
  15. Appendix B: Sen on Well-Being and Agency
    (pp. 197-202)
  16. Chapter Notes
    (pp. 203-210)
  17. Bibliography
    (pp. 211-230)
  18. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 231-232)
  19. Index
    (pp. 233-238)