From 'Achievable' to 'Aspired' Capabilities: Why are Aspirations Important for Human Capabilities?

Ibrahim, Solava (2011). "From 'Achievable' to 'Aspired' Capabilities: Why are Aspirations Important for Human Capabilities?" Paper presented at the 8th annual conference of the HDCA, 6-8 September 2011, the Hague, the Netherlands.

Due to its focus on interpersonal and intercultural variations, human freedoms and human agency, the capability approach precedes other paradigms in its analysis of human well-being and its conceptualization of 'development as freedom'. The capability approach goes beyond achievements to focus on opportunities and capabilities. According to Sen, "the focus of the capability approach is thus not just on what a person actually ends up doing, but also on what she is in fact able to do, whether or not she chooses to make use of that opportunity" (Sen, 2009, 235 [emphasis added]). However, the question is: what about the capabilities that the poor might value and wish to achieve but cannot? What about the 'aspired' capabilities? The current definition of capabilities is restrictive as it focuses only on the reachable and achievable choices and does not account for those capabilities that a person might value and has reason to value but is unable to achieve. Should these capabilities simply be neglected? Definitely not. These capabilities are extremely important given the various economic, social and cultural constraints that prevent the poor from achieving them.
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