The Capability Approach: Its Development, Critiques and Recent Advances

Nov 2005 | GPRG-WPS-032

Authors: David A. Clark, University of Manchester


Over the last decade Amartya`s Sen`s Capability Approach (CA) has emerged as the leading alternative to standard economic frameworks for thinking about poverty, inequality and human development generally. In countless articles and several books that tackle a range of economic, social and ethical questions (beginning with the Tanner Lecture `Equality of What?` delivered at Stanford University in 1979), Professor Sen has developed, refined and defended a framework that is directly concerned with human capabillity and freedom (e.g. Sen, 1980; 1984; 1985; 1987; 1992; 1999). From the outset Sen acknowledged strong connections with Adam Smith`s (1776) analysis of `necessities` and living conditions and Karl Marx`s (1844) concern with human freedom and emancipation. Later Sen (1993, p. 46) recognised that `the most powerful conceptual connections` (which he initially failed to appreciate) relate to Aristotle`s theory of `political distribution` and his analysis of eudaimonia - `human flourishing` (see Nussbaum, 1988; 1990).
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