4 October 2011 at 5:26 am 2 comments

| Peter Klein |

An interesting example of scholars in different fields using the same specialized terms to mean entirely different things:

Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach

In this powerful critique, Martha Nussbaum argues that our dominant theories of [economic] development have given us policies that ignore our most basic human needs for dignity and self-respect. For the past twenty-five years, Nussbaum has been working on an alternate model to assess human development: the Capabilities Approach. She and her colleagues begin with the simplest of questions: What is each person actually able to do and to be? What real opportunities are available to them?

Creating Capabilities . . . affords anyone interested in issues of human development a wonderfully lucid account of the structure and practical implications of an alternate model. It demonstrates a path to justice for both humans and nonhumans, weighs its relevance against other philosophical stances, and reveals the value of its universal guidelines even as it acknowledges cultural difference. In our era of unjustifiable inequity, Nussbaum shows how — by attending to the narratives of individuals and grasping the daily impact of policy — we can enable people everywhere to live full and creative lives.

One reviewer suggests the term “capabilitarianism” to describe this approach. Will we soon see management journal special issues on capabilitarianism and dynamic capabilitarianism? Felin and Foss critiques on the lack of microfoundations in capabilitarianism? Calls to join capabilitarianism and transaction costarianism?

Entry filed under: - Klein -, Jargon Watch, Management Theory.

Two Finance Papers of Interest Reader Bleg: Transaction Costs and the Boundaries of the State

2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Dick Langlois  |  4 October 2011 at 12:49 pm

    This approch to development has been around for a long time, and originated with Amartya Sen, not Nussbaum.


    My (no doubt idiosyncratic) take on this is that Sen created the idea to square the circle between classical liberal rights (which appealed to him) and strongly interventionist and redistributive policies (which appealed to Sen a little and appeal to most development types a lot). It has since been taken over by the “economic rights” crowd, who hold that people in desperately poor and corrupt societies have a “right” to Swedish-style welfare-state policies. They would do well to think about capabilities in the Nelson and Winter sense, especially with repsect to the capabilities of governments to alter (for good or ill) the “capabilities” of the poor..

  • 2. Rafe  |  4 October 2011 at 8:28 pm

    People who want to have Scandanavian-style welfare states need to pay attention to the cultural features of the Scandanavian nations that have enabled the system to survive so far. Especially the bourgeoise virtues (and the willingness to enforce them by compulsory education or work on the dole). Take them out of the mix and see how things go!

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