Axelsen, David (2017). 'CAPABILITIES AND SUFFICIENCY' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Cape Town 2017.


When discussing and applying the capability approach, we are often confronted with questions about which capabilities we should seek to enhance, how much we should do so, how we should trade off different capabilities against each other and why it is important that everyone has a certain set and level of capabilities. Theories of justice helps us assess such questions by setting out what everyone is owed - which obstacles or capability-deficiencies are unjust - and why. Both Martha Nussbaum (2000, 2006) and Amartya Sen (1999, 2005) have made important developments in these areas but the distributive consequences of their accounts remain underspecified. Generally, however, it has often been assumed that capabilitarian theories of justice are sufficientarian – that is, they hold that justice is fulfilled when everyone has enough or a sufficient level of capabilities (Anderson 1999, Nielsen & Axelsen 2016, Wolff & de-Shalit 2007). It has not been shown, however, that sufficiency is the best distributive partner for the capability approach, and, thus, this should not merely be assumed. This panel engages with questions of sufficiency and the critiques levelled against it (e.g. by Casal 2007) and is particularly interested in how such an account connects with the framework of the capability approach, how thresholds that are crucial to a sufficientarian account based on a capability account can be constructed and defended, the appropriate virtues and norms that states should seek to instill to underpin and bolster sufficientarian distributive justice, and, more broadly, how such an ideal may influence policy and processes of social change on local, global and/or intergenerational levels.
(This panel is under the heading of foundational issues)

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