Struggle for recognition as expansion of freedom

Pereira, Gustavo (2009). "Struggle for recognition as expansion of freedom" Paper presented at the 6th annual conference of the HDCA, 10-12 September 2009, Lima, Peru.

Amartya Sen’s capability approach has introduced a normative framework to evaluate well-being, constituted by the concepts of capability and functionings. Capability must be understood as alternative combinations of functionings (beings and doings) that are feasible for someone to achieve. As Sen says, “Capability is thus a kind of freedom: the substantive freedom to achieve alternative functioning combinations” (Sen 1999 a, 75). Functionings are constituent elements of a person’s condition, and the evaluation of a person’s well-being depends on how these elements are assessed. The notion of capability represents the various combinations of functionings that a person can develop. A person’s capability reflects her freedom to lead one kind of life or another. This means that capability can be achieved through a set of functionings, but it is up to the individual whether her capabilities are or are not realized; a person’s freedom, in this sense, lies at the level of that potentiality (see Sen 1992, 39-40; 1999 a, 75). The questions I want to present are: a) how is it possible to reach the expansion of freedom? b) how are people and social groups motivated to be protagonists of that expansion?, and c) what are the social dynamics of this process? I believe the appropriate answers to these questions are beyond the capability approach, so it will be necessary to connect it with a complementary perspective that enables to explain the social dynamics at stake. I will propose Honneth’s model of struggle for recognition as the best approach to realize my intention, and the articulation point with the capability approach will be the intersubjectivist or relational assumption of the subject that it shares with the capability approach.
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