Präsentation zu Sen in Wirtschaftsethik: Präsentation

Text von Ingrid Robeyns, den ich empfohlen hatte: The Capability Approach a Theoretical Survey

The Capability Approach:
(Ingrid Rebeyns)

What is the capability approach?
- broad normative framework for the evaluation and assessment of individual well-being and social arrangements/design of policies/proposals about social change in society.
- alternative tools for social cost-benefit analysis
- NOT a theory which aims to explain poverty, inequality or well-being. It tries more to conceptualize and evaluate these things.

Core characteristic:
à Focus on what people are effectively able to do and to be

Sen: Focus on what people are able to do and be, on the quality of theirs life and on removing obstacles in their lives so that they have more freedom to the kind of life, “they have reason to value”.

Nussbaum: CA as the foundation for a partial theory of justice.

Distinction between means and ends of well-being
- often blur (i.e.: good health is end and means to the capability to work)

Ends of well-being is the capability to function.

Sen: Functionings(working, being respected, being literate etc.) make a life valuable.

Ultimately important is that people have the freedoms (capabilities) to lead the kind of lives they want to lead à liberal school of thought

What does the CA ask for?
Is ask among others for wheather peolple have access to clean water, food supply, high-quality educational system and to real political participation.

Main inputs: financial resources, economic production AND political institutions, social insitutions, cultural practices, social structures
à It covers all dimenstions of human well-being.

Sen: A theory of justice must include both aggregative considerations as well as distrivutive ones, whereas the CA does not specify an aggregate principle. Moreover a theory of jsuitce also requires procedural components , such as the principle of non-discrimination.

Welfarist theorist / Utilitism rely exclusivly on utility and this exclude non-utility information from our moral judgements (i.e. the principle that men and women should be paid the same wage for the same work). Sen rejects the exclusive reliance on mental states.

Income can only serve as a rough proxy for what instrinsically matters, namely people’s capabilities.

Critique to Rawls: Primary goods can’t serve for interpersonal comparison as they are just means and not intrinsic ends. Because of human diversity different people need different amounts and different goods to reach the same levels of well-being.

Means versus functionsings

Conversion Factors

Good and service should not necessarily be thought of as exchangeable for income money.
(Bicycle example)

Relation between goods and functionings are influenced by three of conversion factors:

Personal factors:
(metabolism, physical condition, sex, reading skills)
If a person ist disabled a bike wouldn’t enable the functioning of mobility.

Social factors:
(public policies, social norms, gender roles)

Environmal factors:
climate geographcial locations)
If there is no paved road the function of mobility could not be enabled

à Socio-enviromental factors are imporant

à Knowing the goods a person owns er can use is not sufficient to knwo which fundtionings he/she can achieve.

Focus on the social norms and traditions that form women’s preferences, and that influence their aspirations and their effective choices.

Achieved functionings versus capabilities

Capability is synonymous with a capability sett, which consists of a combination of potential functioning.

Functioning could either be achieved or potential.

Basic capabilities refer to the real opportunity to avoid poverty, but CA is not resticted to poverty and deprivation analysis.

There are cases where it makes more sense to investigate peoples achieved functionings directly instead of their capabilities (Example: bodily integrity / domestic violence)

In real life our ideas of the good life are profoundly influenced by our family, tribal and religious or cultural ties.

Distinguishing well-being from agency

The standart of living is “personal well-being related to one’s own life”. If we add the outcomes resulting from sympathies (i.e from helping another person and thereby feeling oneself better off), we measure well-being. If well-being is supplemented with commitments (i.e. an action that is not beneficial to the agent herself), then we are focusing on overall agency.

Example: Anna, Becca and the G8 protest.

The central claim of CA is that whatever concept of advantage one wants to consider, the informational base of this judgement must relate to the space of functionings and/or capabilities.

Some differences between Sen and Nussbaum

They have different goals:
Aim is to develp a partical theory of justice, by arguing for the political principles that should underlie each constitution

à perspective of moral-legal-political philosophy
à general list of “central human capabilities” which should be incorporated in all constitution.
à universalistic
Focus on peoples’S skills and personality traits.

If Sen’s CA wants to habe an bite with respect to jusitce he too will habe to endorse such a list.

Focus on rights of demands to the goverment
No agency-well-being distinction which Sen advocates.
Starting point was “Equality of what” – Focus on capabilities instead of Rawlsian resources.

CA is closer to economic reasoning.

Focus on real or effective opportunity.

Refused to endorse a specific list of capabilities
à The selection of capabilities is the taks of the democratic process.

Not focus on claim to the goverment due to its wider scope.


à Interdisciplinary character with a focus on the multidimensional aspects of well-being.
à The CA highlights the difference between means and ends and between subsantive freedoms (capabilities) and outcomes (achieved fundtionings)