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The Handbook of Rational and Social Choice$
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Paul Anand, Prasanta Pattanaik, and Clemens Puppe

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199290420

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199290420.001.0001

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The Capabilities Approach

The Capabilities Approach

Chapter:
(p.542) CHAPTER 23 THE CAPABILITIES APPROACH
Source:
The Handbook of Rational and Social Choice
Author(s):

Erik Schokkaert

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199290420.003.0024

Capabilities and functionings are new and attractive concepts for assessing the well‐being and advantage of individuals. Functionings refer to a person's achievements, i.e. what she manages to do or to be. Capabilities refer to her real opportunities and incorporate the idea of freedom. The chapter discusses how recent theoretical and empirical work has improved our insights in some of the key questions of the approach. How should we measure opportunities and how balance freedom and responsibility? How can we formulate a list of capabilities which can be used to analyze changes over time and differences between different societies without being open to manipulation? How can we construct an overall index of well‐being and what should be the relative role of a priori ethical evaluations and the opinions of the individuals themselves? What is the relationship between measures of well‐being and advantage at the individual and at the aggregate level? To make further progress it is crucial, first, to estimate structural models with individual data, analyzing the link between individual achievements, the socioeconomic and environmental background of the persons concerned and the specific features of the individual processes of choice and decision‐making; and, second, to integrate the insights from these models into a coherent ethical framework specifying the role of individual preferences and the limits of personal responsibility.

Keywords:   capabilities, choice, freedom, index of well‐being, opportunities, responsibility

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