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  • Cited by 127
Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
September 2009
Print publication year:
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Book description

The capability approach developed by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen has become an important new paradigm in thinking about development. However, despite its theoretical and philosophical attractiveness, it has been less easy to measure or to translate into policy. This volume addresses these issues in the context of poverty and justice. Part I offers a set of conceptual essays that debate the strength of the often misunderstood individual focus of the capability approach. Part II investigates the techniques by which we can measure and compare capabilities, and how we can integrate them into poverty comparisons and policy advice. Finally, Part III looks at how we can apply the capability approach to different regions and contexts. Written by a team of international scholars, The Capability Approach is a valuable resource for researchers and graduate students concerned with the debate over the value of the capability approach and its potential applications.


Review of the hardback:‘Amartya Sen's notion of capabilities is a rich source of new ideas and philosophical debates about such diverse and wide ranging issues as development, poverty, inequality, human rights, gender, identity and democracy. Here is a collection of well-researched and cogently written essays discussing these many aspects and taking the debates further. It will provide a quarry of ideas for policy makers, researchers, teachers and students of these many issues.’

Lord Meghnad Desai - Emeritus Professor of Economics and former director of the Centre for Global Governance, London School of Economics

Review of the hardback:‘These essays on Amartya Sen's capability approach to thinking about human well-being, and so about poverty and development, raise fundamental questions. Can a capabilities approach yield coherent and convincing concepts of well-being and of poverty, or ways of measuring them? What, if anything, does it do better than income- or resource-based approaches? Or is a demand that it 'do better' in the terms of its rivals simply evidence of failure to think through the implications of taking capabilities, and thereby human agency and diversity, seriously? If so, how should the success of work based on capabilities be judged? Why is there so much disagreement over the supposed individualism of the capabilities approach? Has the approach led to significant practical initiatives? The essays in this ample collection offer a rich and often detailed reflection on these and other fundamental questions, and some sharp analyses of central questions about capabilities.’

Baroness Onora O'Neill - Professor of Philosophy, University of Cambridge

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