Sen's Capability Approach

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Amartya Sen, an Indian economist and political philosopher, first articulated the “The Capability Approach” in the late 1970s and 1980s in order to create an alternative and new framework of thinking and evaluating issues of poverty, development, well-being and equality by embracing complexity, plurality and individualism with the aim to not overlook anything. Through his creation of the Capability Approach, Sen shows that his primary concern is to create a pluralistic conception of poverty and development. His intention was to create a framework of thinking and evaluating that would embrace the complexity that comes with issues that of well-being and development. In other words Sen believes that reality, poverty, people and development are intrinsically complex and therefore an intricate and pluralistic evaluation of these matters should be adopted. This creation of an alternative framework that embraces complexity and individualism also acts as a criticism of traditional and other approaches to evaluating human well-being. Sen’s focus on creating a pluralistic conception of development and wellbeing that focuses on opportunities lies in stark contrast with previous and more traditional schools of thought on these issues which are mostly concerned with outcomes, commodities, standards of living and justice as fairness (Walker & Unterhalter, 2007:4). Sen states that he is against Welfarist and Utilitarian approaches and any other income/resourced based theory on development (Robeyns, 2003:9) because he disagrees with how these theories tend to rely on exclusively one aspect of development. Sen states how he is much more concerned with the information that these theories tend to exclude. The Capability Approach also criticizes how economists’ have a tendency to focus on utility in their theoretical work which often translates in to a focus on income in applied work. For Sen, income is only a rough proxy. As well as criticizing the income perspective on...
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