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Capabilitarian sufficiency: capabilities and social justice

Nielsen, Lasse and Axelsen, David V. (2016) Capabilitarian sufficiency: capabilities and social justice. Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, 18 (1). pp. 46-59. ISSN 1945-2829

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Identification Number: 10.1080/19452829.2016.1145632


This paper suggests an account of sufficientarianism—that is, that justice is fulfilled when everyone has enough—laid out within a general framework of the capability approach. In doing so, it seeks to show that sufficiency is especially plausible as an ideal of social justice when constructed around key capabilitarian insights such as freedom, pluralism, and attention to empirical interconnections between central capabilities. Correspondingly, we elaborate on how a framework for evaluating social justice would look when constructed in this way and give reasons for why capabilitarians should embrace sufficientarianism. We do this by elaborating on how capabilitarian values underpin sufficiency. On this basis, we identify three categories of central capabilities; those related to biological and physical needs, those to fundamental interests of a human agent, and those to fundamental interests of a social being. In each category, we argue, achieving sufficiency requires different distributional patterns depending on how the capabilities themselves work and interrelate. This argument adds a new dimension to the way capabilitarians think about social justice and changes how we should target instances of social justice from social-political viewpoint.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2016 Human Development and Capability Association
Divisions: Government
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Sets: Departments > Government
Date Deposited: 21 Mar 2016 13:57
Last Modified: 20 Jun 2020 02:10

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