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Too Soft for Economics, Too Rigid for Sociology, or Just Right? The Productive Ambiguities of Sen’s Capability Approach

  • Milena I. Kremakova (a1)

Abstract

The capability approach has been developed by Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum and others as a human-centred normative framework for the evaluation of individual and group well-being, quality of life and social justice. Sen and Nussbaum’s ideas have influenced global, national and local policy and have been further developed in a number of academic disciplines, but so far have remained largely unnoticed in sociology. This article examines recent capability-informed theories and empirical applications in the sociology of human rights and other academic fields adjacent to sociology, focussing on examples of social policy studies in the fields of welfare, the labour market, health and disability, and education. The article outlines several potential areas in which capability-informed frameworks are relevant for critical social theory, public sociology and global sociology.

L’approche en termes de « capacités » a été développée par Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum et quelques autres comme cadre normatif d’évaluation du bien-être des individus et des groupes, de la qualité de vie et de la justice sociale. Les idées de Sen et Nussbaum ont eu une influence politique à tous les niveaux – mondial, national et local – et ont connu des approfondissements dans plusieurs disciplines universitaires, mais fort peu en sociologie jusqu’à maintenant. L’article examine les théories récentes qui mettent en œuvre des capacités et passe à des applications empiriques dans différents domaines proches de la sociologie, principalement politique sociale, soutien public et marché du travail, santé et dépendance. On circonscrit ainsi plusieurs champs dans lesquels les cadrages à partir des capacités apparaissent pertinents tant pour la sociologie critique, que pour celle qui s’adresse au grand public ou traite de la globalisation.

Der von Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum und einigen anderen entwickelte Befähigungsansatz versteht sich als normativer Rahmen, um Wohlbefinden von Individuen und Gruppen, sowie Lebensqualität und soziale Justiz zu bewerten. Sens und Nussbaums Ideen haben die globale, nationale und lokale Politik beeinflusst und wurden von einer Reihe akademischer Fächer weiterentwickelt, sind aber bis dato von der Soziologie unbeachtet geblieben. Dieser Aufsatz untersucht neueste Theorien des Befähigungsansatzes und empirische Anwendungen in der Soziologie der Menschenrechte und andere, der Soziologie nahestehende akademische Bereiche, wobei ein besonderes Augenmerk Beispielen aus der Sozialpolitik gewidmet wird, die sich mit Wohlstand, Arbeitsmarkt, Gesundheit und Abhängigkeit, sowie Bildung befassen. Der Aufsatz arbeitet mehrere potentielle Gebiete heraus, in denen sich der Befähigungsansatz sowohl für die kritische, als auch für die öffentliche und globale Soziologie als bedeutend erweisen könnte.

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