No Democracy without Justice: Political Freedom in Amartya Sen's Capability Approach

Srinivasan, Sharath (2007). "No Democracy without Justice: Political Freedom in Amartya Sen's Capability Approach" Journal of Human Development Routledge 8 3 pp. 457-480

Amartya Sen has critiqued theories of justice in the liberal tradition for not focusing on actual human living and failing to be truly egalitarian. However, in the absence of a theoretical approach of his own that comprehensively links capabilities and social justice, others have criticised him for not telling us exactly which capabilities should be guaranteed for all citizens in a 'just' society. Sen's 'silence' on the substantive content of an account of justice is due in large measure to his stringent emphasis on plurality, agency and choice; he turns to democratic processes that allow for public reasoning and social choice to attend to judgements about justice. Yet this critical role for democracy is undermined in Sen's elaboration in the absence of requirements of justice that would protect democracy's fair and effective functioning in a manner consistent with capability egalitarianism. There is need for a fuller account of justice concerning actual opportunities for political participation than is available so far in Sen's work, one that protects equality of substantive political freedom seen properly in the perspective of capabilities, not merely civil liberties and political rights.
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