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Human Development &
Capability Association

Agency, Well-Being and Justice

OPEN ACCESS: Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-Examined

by Ingrid Robeyns
Read it for free here.

How do we evaluate ambiguous concepts such as wellbeing, freedom, and social justice? How do we develop policies that offer everyone the best chance to achieve what they want from life? The capability approach, a theoretical framework pioneered by the philosopher and economist Amartya Sen in the 1980s, has become an increasingly influential way to think about these issues.

Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-Examined is both an introduction to the capability approach and a thorough evaluation of the challenges and disputes that have engrossed the scholars who have developed it. Ingrid Robeyns offers her own illuminating and rigorously interdisciplinary interpretation, arguing that by appreciating the distinction between the general capability approach and more specific capability theories or applications we can create a powerful and flexible tool for use in a variety of academic disciplines and fields of policymaking.

This book provides an original and comprehensive account that will appeal to scholars of the capability approach, new readers looking for an interdisciplinary introduction, and those interested in theories of justice, human rights, basic needs, and the human development approach. It is also a valuable study aid and can be used as an Open Access textbook.

This book is a magnificent achievement: it reaches across philosophy and the social sciences, across research, policy and practice in the global North and South, and across many decades of debate and discussion within and outside the capability approach. It does so in a way which is readable and clear, and it manages to avoid on the one hand being too polemical, and on the other hand being too superficial. Ingrid Robeyns is uniquely well-placed to write such a book, being herself a well-established inter-disciplinary scholar whose work has contributed enormously to the development of the capability approach over the years. It has been a frustration for many of us that no comprehensive textbook on the capability approach yet exists, and this will fill that gap admirably.

—Prof Tania Burchardt, Director of the Centre for Analysis of Social Exclusion (CASE) and Associate Professor in the Department of Social Policy at the London School of Economics

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