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Jonathan Wolff and Avner de-Shalit

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199278268

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199278268.001.0001

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The Pluralism of Disadvantage

The Pluralism of Disadvantage

(p.21) Chapter 1 The Pluralism of Disadvantage

Jonathan Wolff (Contributor Webpage)

Avner De-Shalit

Oxford University Press

This chapter discusses the nature of disadvantage. It opens with an analysis of the pluralism of disadvantage, and rejects the ‘monist’ view. If instead of building a theory of equality on imaginary examples, theorists start by examining real life cases, it will become clear that not all disadvantages are reducible to each other, and therefore disadvantage is plural in its nature. But this pluralism implies that there will be a problem of indexing: deciding which disadvantages are more important or urgent. The capability approach, developed by Amartya Sen and others, serves as the starting point for the theory advanced here. According to this theory, in order to understand how well or badly someone's life is going, we need to attend to what they can ‘do and be’; their ‘capability to function’.

Keywords:   capability approach, compensation, equality, monism, Amartya Sen

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