Critiquing capabilities: the distractions of a beguiling concept.
Critical Social Policy, 29
The article provides a critique of the concept of 'capabilities', initially advanced by Amartya Sen. The concept has directly influenced the workings of both the international United Nations Development Programme and the UK's domestic Equality and Human Rights Commission. It is argued that it is essentially a liberal-individualist concept. Despite its attractions - which the article acknowledges - the 'capability approach' obscures or neglects three key realities: the constitutive nature of human interdependency; the problematic nature of the public realm; and the exploitative nature of capitalism. The article argues for an emancipatory politics of needs interpretation that would be better served by a discourse of rights than a discourse of capabilities.
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