Sociology Publications and Other Works

Title

The Seductive Quality of Central Human Capabilities: Sociological Insights into Nussbaum and Sen's Disagreement

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

8-2006

Abstract

In an era when relativism and questions of modernity have unsettled the premises and goals of the development project, there is a seductive quality to the universalism of Nussbaum's capabilities approach. We query Nussbaum's philosophically based contribution and raise epistemological concerns about her commitment to a list of central human capabilities. We argue that attention to state forms and practices, as well as unequal power relations, must be incorporated into analyses of capability and development. This leads us to support Sen's advocacy of deliberative democracy as a productive space for collectivities and individuals to strive for social justice and equity. Such a focus is necessarily attentive to multiple forms of inequality and domination and is best understood by engaging historically specific analyses of state formations.

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