Gutwald, Rebecca Sarah; Robeyns, Ingrid; Khader, Serene; Ibrahim, Solava; Alkire, Sabina; Richardson, Henry (2017). 'Author meets Critics on Ingrid Robeyns’s The Capability Approach. An interdisciplinary introduction.' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


Author meets Critics on Ingrid Robeyns’s The Capability Approach. An interdisciplinary introduction.

The aim of Ingrid Robeyns’s new book is to provide an advanced-level introduction to the capability approach which tries to be as inclusive of all the work done in the field as possible, yet at the same time drawing some firm conceptual and theoretical boundaries to prevent the worry that any multidimensional approach will be considered a capability theory. The book is divided in two parts.

The first part gives a concise account of the capability approach in general, including an overview and explanation of its concepts and normative commitments. This part of the book does not start from a particular discipline or field of application. It provides explanations that can help to better understand certain developments in the literature, and reviews and develops suggestions on how the conceptual apparatus of the capability approach can be refined. Also, it engages in discussions of contested topics in the capability literature, such as its alleged individualistic nature, the alleged primacy it would give to capabilities rather than functionings, or the question how to understand collective capabilities.

The second part of the book discusses the capability approach from disciplines or fields, such as human rights, welfare economics, and theories of justice. It also reviews questions of specification, such as the selection and weighing of dimensions, the measurement of capabilities. Finally, it presents an overview of the many ways in which the capability approach has been applied.

Robeyns’s book will be inspiringg for scholars of the capability approach, students and lay audience alike. It will give an accessible introduction into the capability approach while also developing a conceptual toolkit that helps us in identifying what Robeyns calls “capbabilitarian” theories. Robeyns’s work thus constitutes a significant contribution to the research on the capability approach and its conceptual clarification. The book will be published at the end of 2017 and will thus be just out shortly after the conference.

In this author meet critics sessions, four prominent capability scholars will provide their comments on this book manuscript and critically engage with Robeyns in what is expected to be a stimulating and lively discussion. Hence, the participants of the panel will be:

Ingrid Robeyns (Professor of Ethics of Institutions, chair of the Chamber Ethics/Practical Philosophy of the Dutch Research School of Philosophy (OZSW), Utrecht University) - presenting her book.


Sabina Alkire (Director of the Oxford Poverty & Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford),

Solava Ibrahim (Affiliated Lecturer, Centre for Development Studies, University of Cambridge. Lecturer in International Development, Institute for Development Policy and Management (IDPM), The University of Manchester)

Serene Khader (Associate Professor and Jay Newman Chair in the Philosophy of Culture Philosophy,  Brooklyn College; Associate Professor of Women's Studies at the CUNY Graduate Center)

Henry S. Richardson (Professor, Senior Researcher Scholar, Kennedy Institute of Ethics, Department of Philosophy, Georgetown University, past president of the HDCA)

This panel has been organized by the TG Foundational Issues in the Capability Approach (FICA).

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