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Beyond GDPMeasuring Welfare and Assessing Sustainability$
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Marc Fleurbaey and Didier Blanchet

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780199767199

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199767199.001.0001

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Empowering Capabilities

Empowering Capabilities

(p.204) Chapter 6 Empowering Capabilities
Beyond GDP

Marc Fleurbaey

Didier Blanchet

Oxford University Press

This chapter focuses on the “capability approach” (CA) introduced by Sen and Nussbaum in the 1980s. In a nutshell, this approach advocates focusing on a comprehensive list of functionings (activities, states) that people are able to achieve, rather than on specific achievements like income or happiness. The question that underlies this chapter is whether the CA is an alternative to the approaches discussed in the previous chapters or whether it can rely on these approaches for its applications. The chapter is organized as follows. Section 6.1 recalls the background concepts of functionings and capabilities, explaining how they compare to classical notions. Section 6.2 argues that, insofar as the CA insists on capabilities viewed as opportunity sets, as opposed to achievements, it could find interesting material in the literature on equality of opportunity that has developed recently, but it would also meet some challenges there. Beyond the opportunity-achievement distinction, the CA has to address the basic index problem like any other theory of well-being, and Section 6.3 questions key ideas that Sen defended in this respect. If one accepts the objections made in that section, the equivalent-income approach appears a more promising application of the CA than the typical methodologies found in the empirical CA literature. The last section addresses the question: Is the CA a separate approach, or can it rely on other approaches for applications?

Keywords:   capability approach, functionings, well-being, equivalent income approach

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