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Critiquing capabilities: the distractions of a beguiling concept

Dean, Hartley (2009) Critiquing capabilities: the distractions of a beguiling concept. Critical Social Policy, 29 (2). pp. 261-273. ISSN 0261-0183

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Identification Number: 10.1177/0261018308101629


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.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2009 SAGE Publications
Divisions: LSE
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Date Deposited: 06 Jul 2009 13:26
Last Modified: 13 Nov 2023 18:33

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