Hostname: page-component-594f858ff7-jtv8x Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-06-08T12:24:54.669Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "corePageComponentUseShareaholicInsteadOfAddThis": true, "coreDisableSocialShare": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 March 2014

Ian Carter*
University of Pavia,


Capability theorists have suggested different, sometimes incompatible, ways in which their approach takes account of the value of freedom, each of which implies a different kind of normative relation between functionings and capabilities. This paper examines three possible accounts of the normative relation between functionings and capabilities, and the implications of each of these accounts in terms of degrees of paternalism. The way in which capability theorists apparently oscillate between these different accounts is shown to rest on an apparent tension between anti-paternalism (which favours an emphasis on capabilities) and anti-fetishism (which favours an emphasis on functionings). The paper then advances a fourth account, which incorporates a concern with the content-independent or ‘non-specific’ value of freedom. Only the fourth account would remove all traces of paternalism from the capability approach. Whatever reasons advocates of the capability approach might have had for rejecting this fourth account, those reasons are not internal to the capability approach itself.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Alkire, S. 2002. Valuing Freedoms. Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Balestrino, A. 1996. A note on functioning-poverty in affluent societies. Notizie di Politeia 43/44: 97105.Google Scholar
Beard, M. 2000. The danger of making lists. Times Literary Supplement 5059, 17 March.Google Scholar
Berlin, I. 2002. Liberty. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carter, I. 1999. A Measure of Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Carter, I. 2007. Social power and negative freedom. Homo Oeconomicus 24: 187229.Google Scholar
Carter, I. 2009. Respect for persons and the interest in freedom. In Hillel Steiner and the Anatomy of Justice, ed. de Wijze, S., Kramer, M. H. and Carter, I.. New York, NY: Routledge.Google Scholar
Carter, I. 2011. Respect and the basis of equality. Ethics 121: 538571.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Crocker, D. A. 1995. Functioning and capability: the foundations of Sen's and Nussbaum's development ethic, part 2. In Women, Culture and Development. A Study of Human Capabilities, ed. Nussbaum, M. C. and Glover, J.. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Dworkin, R. 1981. What is equality? Part II: equality of resources. Philosophy and Public Affairs 10: 283345.Google Scholar
Fichte, J. G. 1845. Fichte's sämmtliche Werke, vol. 7. Berlin: Veit und Comp.Google Scholar
Hart, H. L. A. 1994. The Concept of Law. 2nd edn. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
Kramer, M. H. 2003. The Quality of Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nelson, E. 2008. From primary goods to capabilities. Distributive justice and the problem of neutrality. Political Theory 36: 93122.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nussbaum, M. C. 1987. Nature, function and capability: Aristotle on political distribution. In Aristoteles’ ‘Politik’. Akten des XI Symposium Aristotelicum, ed. Patzig, G.. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.Google Scholar
Nussbaum, M. C. 1990. Aristotelian social democracy. In Liberalism and the Good, ed. Douglass, R. B., Mara, G. R. and Richardson, H. S.. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Nussbaum, M. C. 2000a. Aristotle, politics and human capabilities: a response to Antony, Arneson, Charlesworth and Mulgan. Ethics 111: 102140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nussbaum, M. C. 2000b. Women and Human Development. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nussbaum, M. C. 2006. Frontiers of Justice. Disability, Nationality, Species Membership. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Olsaretti, S. 2005. Endorsement and freedom in Amartya Sen's capability approach. Economics and Philosophy 21: 89108.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Quong, J. 2011. Liberalism without Perfection. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Rawls, J. 1971. A Theory of Justice [Revised edn 1999]. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
Raz, J. 2001. Value, Respect, and Attachment. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sen, A. 1980. Equality of what? Tanner Lectures on Human Values 1: 197220.Google Scholar
Sen, A. 1985a. Commodities and Capabilities. Amsterdam: North Holland.Google Scholar
Sen, A. 1985b. Well-being, agency and freedom. Journal of Philosophy 82: 169221.Google Scholar
Sen, A. 1988. Freedom of choice: concept and content. European Economic Review 32: 269294.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sen, A. 1990. Justice: means versus freedoms. Philosophy and Public Affairs, 19: 111121.Google Scholar
Sen, A. 1992. Inequality Reexamined. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Sen, A. 1993. Capability and well-being. In The Quality of Life, ed. Sen, A. and Nussbaum, M. C.. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google ScholarPubMed
Sen, A. 1996. Freedom, capabilities and public action: a response. Notizie di Politeia 43/44: 107125.Google Scholar
Sen, A. 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
Sen, A. 2009. The Idea of Justice. London: Allen Lane.Google Scholar
Steiner, H. 1994. An Essay on Rights. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
Taylor, C. 1984. Kant's theory of freedom. In Conceptions of Liberty in Political Philosophy, ed. Pelczynski, Z. and Gray, J.. London: Athlone Press.Google Scholar
Vallentyne, P. 2005. Capabilities versus opportunities for well-being. Journal of Political Philosophy 13: 359371.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Hees, M. 2000. Legal Reductionism and Freedom. Dordrecht: Kluwer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Van Hees, M. and Wissenberg, M. 1999. Freedom and opportunity. Political Studies 47: 6782.CrossRefGoogle Scholar