Making the Case for Collective Capabilities: What does it really mean?

Ibrahim, Solava (2009). "Making the Case for Collective Capabilities: What does it really mean?" Paper presented at the 6th annual conference of the HDCA, 10-12 September 2009, Lima, Peru.

Collective capabilities, social capabilities, relational capabilities, group capabilities and external capabilities, all these are concepts that have been recently introduced by various scholars to extend the analysis of the capability approach from the individual to the collectivity. These concepts emphasize the importance of collectivities, social structures, communal relations and groups for the expansion of human capabilities. However, are these concepts inherently different or are they describing – more or less- the same ‘type of capabilities’. For example, are these capabilities simply the sum of individual capabilities in a particular group or are they new kinds of capabilities that go beyond the individual ones. In case of the latter, what is then the difference between each of these ‘types’ of capabilities? The aim of this paper is to undertake a ‘conceptual exploration’ of these concepts. The paper first reviews these concepts and examines how each of them describes the relationship between individual capabilities and social/ collective structures. Section two analyzes the strengths and weaknesses of each of these concepts. Section three streamlines these concepts by introducing the ‘criteria’ and ‘conditions’ for the building and expansion of these capabilities at the collective level. Section four demonstrates the importance of these capabilities for the poor’s well-being. The last section concludes by demonstrating the importance of these concepts for enriching the analysis of human capabilities and the capability approach.
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