Creating Capabilities

Harvard University Press
2
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This is a primer on the Capabilities Approach, Martha Nussbaum’s innovative model for assessing human progress. She argues that much humanitarian policy today violates basic human values; instead, she offers a unique means of redirecting government and development policy toward helping each of us lead a full and creative life.
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About the author

Martha C. Nussbaum is Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago.

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Additional Information

Publisher
Harvard University Press
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Published on
Jul 31, 2011
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Pages
252
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ISBN
9780674061200
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Best For
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Language
English
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Genres
Philosophy / Ethics & Moral Philosophy
Philosophy / Political
Political Science / Constitutions
Political Science / Human Rights
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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SÉVERINE DENEULIN, MATHIAS NEBEL AND NICHOLAS SAGOVSKY TRANSFORMING UNJUST STRUCTURES The Capability Approach THE CAPABILITY APPROACH Structural injustice has traditionally been the concern of two major academic disciplines: economics and philosophy. The dominant model of economics has long been that of neo-classical economics. For neo-classical economists, human we- being is to be assessed by the availability of disposable income or according to goods consumed; it is measured by the levels of utility achieved in the consumption of commodities. Social order is fashioned by the ways consumers maximise their 1 well-being and enterprises maximise their profits. A core assumption is that all 2 commodities are commensurable: they can all be measured according to a single 3 numerical covering value, which is their price. Within this neo-classical paradigm, justice is achieved when the utility level of someone cannot be increased without 4 another person seeing his or her utility level decrease. The dominant paradigm of neo-classical economics was strongly challenged when development and welfare economist Amartya Sen received the Nobel Prize for Economics in 1998. His work offered an alternative to the neo-classical evaluation of human well-being in the utility/commodity space. The underlining philosophical intuition behind Sen’s work is that the standard of living lies in the living and not in the consumption of commodities. In searching for an alternative measure of human well-being, Sen devised his capability approach.
This book explores the philosophical, and in particular ethical, issues concerning the conceptualization, design and implementation of poverty alleviation measures from the local to the global level. It connects these topics with the ongoing debates on social and global justice, and asks what an ethical or normative philosophical perspective can add to the economic, political, and other social science approaches that dominate the main debates on poverty alleviation. Divided into four sections, the volume examines four areas of concern: the relation between human rights and poverty alleviation, the connection between development and poverty alleviation, poverty within affluent countries, and obligations of individuals in regard to global poverty.An impressive collection of essays by an international group of scholars on one of the most fundamental issues of our age. The authors consider crucial aspects of poverty alleviation: the role of human rights; the connection between development aid and the alleviation of poverty; how to think about poverty within affluent countries (particularly in Europe); and individual versus collective obligations to act to reduce poverty.

Judith Lichtenberg
Department of Philosophy
Georgetown University

This collection of essays is most welcome addition to the burgeoning treatments of poverty and inequality. What is most novel about this volume is its sustained and informed attention to the explicitly ethical aspects of poverty and poverty alleviation. What are the ethical merits and demerits of income poverty, multidimensional-capability poverty, and poverty as nonrecognition? How important is poverty alleviation in comparison to environmental protection and cultural preservation? Who or what should be agents responsible for reducing poverty? The editors concede that their volume is not the last word on these matters. But, these essays, eschewing value neutrality and a retreat into technical mastery, challenge us to find fresh and reasonable answers to these urgent questions.

David A. Crocker
School of Public Policy
University of Maryland

The Racial Contract puts classic Western social contract theory, deadpan, to extraordinary radical use. With a sweeping look at the European expansionism and racism of the last five hundred years, Charles W. Mills demonstrates how this peculiar and unacknowledged "contract" has shaped a system of global European domination: how it brings into existence "whites" and "non-whites," full persons and sub-persons, how it influences white moral theory and moral psychology; and how this system is imposed on non-whites through ideological conditioning and violence. The Racial Contract argues that the society we live in is a continuing white supremacist state.Holding up a mirror to mainstream philosophy, this provocative book explains the evolving outline of the racial contract from the time of the New World conquest and subsequent colonialism to the written slavery contract, to the "separate but equal" system of segregation in the twentieth-century United States. According to Mills, the contract has provided the theoretical architecture justifying an entire history of European atrocity against non-whites, from David Hume's and Immanuel Kant's claims that blacks had inferior cognitive power, to the Holocaust, to the kind of imperialism in Asia that was demonstrated by the Vietnam War.Mills suggests that the ghettoization of philosophical work on race is no accident. This work challenges the assumption that mainstream theory is itself raceless. Just as feminist theory has revealed orthodox political philosophy's invisible white male bias, Mills's explication of the racial contract exposes its racial underpinnings.
In the heated debates over identity politics, few theorists have looked carefully at the conceptualizations of identity assumed by all sides. Visible Identities fills this gap. Drawing on both philosophical sources as well as theories and empirical studies in the social sciences, Martín Alcoff makes a strong case that identities are not like special interests, nor are they doomed to oppositional politics, nor do they inevitably lead to conformism, essentialism, or reductive approaches to judging others. Identities are historical formations and their political implications are open to interpretation. But identities such as race and gender also have a powerful visual and material aspect that eliminativists and social constructionists often underestimate. Visible Identities offers a careful analysis of the political and philosophical worries about identity and argues that these worries are neither supported by the empirical data nor grounded in realistic understandings of what identities are. Martín Alcoff develops a more realistic characterization of identity in general through combining phenomenological approaches to embodiment with hermeneutic concepts of the interpretive horizon. Besides addressing the general contours of social identity, Martín Alcoff develops an account of the material infrastructure of gendered identity, compares and contrasts gender identities with racialized ones, and explores the experiential aspects of racial subjectivity for both whites and non-whites. In several chapters she looks specifically at Latino identity as well, including its relationship to concepts of race, the specific forms of anti-Latino racism, and the politics of mestizo or hybrid identity.
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