Talk:Capability approach

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Name of the Article[edit]

Why is this article called the "Capability approach"? Shouldn't it be called the "Capabilities Approach", i.e. with a plural on the first word and a capital 'A' on the second? ChristopherHoney (talk) 04:51, 14 February 2008 (UTC)

Oh, OK, I've had a bit more of a look around and it seems as if both terms are used. I think (although I'm not sure) that Nussbaum uses 'capabilities' and Sen uses 'capability' ... so I guess we could just leave it as is. ChristopherHoney (talk) 18:02, 14 February 2008 (UTC)


I think this article should be redirected to Capability Approach, wich has a better definition. Or they are different concepts? --Nitro31 06:02, 26 March 2006 (UTC)

The concept is the same, but naming conventions dictate that the other page be merged into this one. Jlittlet 23:31, 13 September 2006 (UTC)

Practical Application[edit]

As both Nussbaum and Sen are vigorous proponents of theory as connected to practical utility, this article should include how, if at all, the capabilities approach has been instantiated to improve living conditions in developing countries. Does the UN, World Bank, or IMF adopt the capabilities approach as a system of measurement? --Tom Joudrey 19:20, 14 September 2007 (UTC)

Article format[edit]

Is it just me, or does anyone else feel like this article is not written like an encyclopedic article? ie the titles of the sections... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:29, 12 May 2008 (UTC)

It's not just you. "What capabilities matter?" is an appalling title, better suited to a textbook written by the proponents of this approach. JATreloar (talk) 13:41, 7 September 2011 (UTC)

Capabilities approach as a theory of justice?[edit]

Is it right to call the capabilities approach a theory of justice? Or is it not expansive enough to get that label? Dlb012 (talk) 19:23, 2 October 2010 (UTC)

Expansion of the Article[edit]

After spending time studying the Capability approach, it came to my attention that this Wikipedia article could use a more comprehensive explanation. I believe some key elements it’s lacking are: a detailed explanation of the approach’s main terms, in order to better understand the concepts behind it, and a comparison of this approach to other more common approaches to welfare economics, to understand what sets this approach apart. Consequently, I have included sections defining the following terms: functionings, capabilities, and agency. Additionally, I discuss the Capability approach in comparison to utility and resource based approaches. Comments are appreciated. Krisinaz (talk) 20:55, 3 December 2010 (UTC)

In addition to contrasting the Capability approach to utility and resources, I think it would be useful to contrast it with other forms of people-centered development ideas, such human rights, human needs, and basic security. One source for contrasting these ideas is Chapter 3 of An Introduction to the Human Development and Capability Approach. On the surface, many of these ideas seem very similar to one another, but important distinctions between them must be made. Understanding these distinctions would prove very useful for one trying to understand the Capability approach. KiaraDouds (talk) 18:13, 19 September 2011 (UTC)

Addition of a New Section[edit]

In studying the capability approach I feel it would be very useful to also discuss a little bit of the postcolonialist critiques. This would provide the readers of a more comprehensive view of the academic discourse surrounding the capability approach and welfare economics in general. Also, there seems to be a lot of substantial communication between Nussbaum and her postcolonialist colleagues in the articles I've read so far, and I would like to make that conversation more accessible to the public. In the articles I have read, this discussion has mainly pertained to debates over universal ethics vs. moral relativism, although I will search for more. I feel like this new addition would give a lot of credibility to the encyclopedic entry of the capability approach, and give more depth to the article in general. If you have any thoughts or suggestions feel free to let me know. Jkcory (talk) 22:21, 31 March 2011 (UTC) —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk)

Suggestions on Revising the Page[edit]

There are some parts of this Capability Approach page that are not properly cited. For example. the section on "What capabilities matter" is mostly not cited. Although the article is referenced within the text, it does not have proper Wikipedia citing. Also on the section called "contrast with other approaches" I think that there should be an addition of a subsection about GDP and neoliberal approaches, which are significantly discussed often in articles about the capability approach and how these two approaches and capability approach differ. Also, I would suggest the subsection titles to be "Utilitarian Approach" and "Basic Needs Approach" instead of the " Contrast with _____". The subsection titles seem redundant with the "contrast" in them. If you have any questions as to what I've said, please let me know. --Yk12 (talk) 00:00, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

Sen v. Nussbaum[edit]

I think there needs to be a distinction between the work of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, namely the identification of Sen's work as freedoms-oriented and Nussbaum's work as more concerned with spelling out specific capabilities. I think both need to have their own separate headings with clear explanation of how their work differs from as well as contributes to the others. The steps in how Sen and Nussbaum worked together to develop this approach need to be made clear as well. Lillyyu (talk) 00:13, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

I agree; there are pretty big differences in Nussbaum's and Sen's thinking. I think the whole article would be a little clearer and sound less like original research if this distinction was made more apparent. Jkcory (talk) 14:15, 01 October 2011 (UTC)

I also agree. There also needs to be some referencing. Of the 3 references, 2 are in fact for Sen, and the third 'only' being Nussbaum's argument for why her approach of detailing a list of central human capabilities is advantageous. The second sentence of the section also drifts from describing her position, into 'cheerleading' for her position and its impact. At a minimum, there needs to be citations noting the influence on the HDI, and the claim that her position is highly influential in development policy. It's her position in regards to justice that has been influential. Maxxx12345 (talk) 13:50, 6 January 2015 (UTC)

Measuring of Capabilities[edit]

I think the part of this article that discusses measuring of capabilities can be expanded. One of the main points that the capabilities approach aims to make is that GDP and GNP are both inadequate measures of development and well-being in a given country. To that end, some new modes of measurement have evolved such as the HDI (Human Development Index), the GDI (Gender Development Index) , and the GEM (Gender Empowerment Index). I think that this article could use an explanation of each of these measuring mechanisms and a description of their strengths and weaknesses. FaithSara (talk) 16:19, 20 September 2011 (UTC)

Plans for Expansion[edit]

I would like to expand this section to discuss the shortcomings of the GNP and GDP, and give a brief overview of some other alternative indices such as the GEM, the HDI and the GDI. Furthermore i would like to include links to the main pages for these various measurement indices as a way to connect this page to other relevant pages on these measurements which will allow the reader to expand their knowledge on these topics beyond the brief over-views provided here.FaithSara (talk) 17:36, 12 October 2011 (UTC)

Proposal for Further Expansion[edit]

I would also like to add to the Measuring Capabilities section of the article, I understand that there has been a proposal to expand on this so I would like to somehow collaborate so that we do not overlap each other or if additions and changes have already been made, I would like to further contribute. As indicated above, the current section needs further explanation for the critique offered by Capabilities Approach of economics-based measures that are used as measures of well-being. These indices, in fact, only offer an indication of possible economic well being that do not account for inequalities such as income distribution. There is quite a bit to be added about the need for such measures and the history behind such measures, which would include the misuse of Gross Domestic Product and Gross National Product. Further expansion is also necessary on the move towards alternative measure of wellbeing that better capture the essence of Capabilities. In addition, more information needs to be added because the critique of economics-based measures is an important component of Capabilities Approach. Furthermore, the explanations of the Human Development Index, Gender Empowerment Measure, and the Gender-related Development Index are brief and there is potential to make the definitions of these measures as well as the use of the measures and the relationship with Capabilities Approach more clear. I would appreciate any feedback and look forward to contributing. LupeAguilera (talk) 02:34, 20 March 2012 (UTC)

Work in Progress[edit]

I have made a few additions/changes to the section on the measurement of capabilities and am working towards more changes and additions on the critiques of GDP and the critiques of alternative measures of well-being. Please let me know of any suggestions at this stage of my additions. Thank you. LupeAguilera (talk) 00:29, 12 April 2012 (UTC)

Peer Review[edit]

It looks as though many of the things we talked about in class haven't been corrected or changed yet. So my suggestions are still the same. First, the sections should be more clearly defined and the introduction broken up more. Also, the measurements should be more directly related to capabilities. If you find anything on GII and its relationship to capabilities I would appreciate it forwarded to me. Thanks and I think in generally it is well written. Teashias (talk) 04:56, 23 April 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for the Feedback[edit]

I have made some of the suggested changes and am still working on a few. I need to revise the section on the economics-based measures, add more content to the actual indices and how they relate to Capabilities Approach and revise the section on critiques of alternative measures of well-being.

LupeAguilera (talk) —Preceding undated comment added 23:00, 24 April 2012 (UTC).

I figured you were still working on it, Made my job easier. :) thanks Teashias (talk) 03:36, 25 April 2012 (UTC)


Just edited lightly the two "contrast with alternative approaches" sections. BerikG (talk) 05:11, 24 April 2012 (UTC)BerikG

U of U Peer Review[edit]

All in all, I think this is a very well-written article. I do not know much about this subject, the subsections on Gender-related Development Index, Gender Empowerment Measure, and Gender Inequality Index seemed a little short to me, and I was wondering if there is any additional information you could add to strengthen them a little? Again, I'm not sure what information on them is out there, but adding a few more sentences to them, if you can, would help. Chelseygruber (talk) 23:27, 24 April 2012 (UTC)

Thanks for the feedback[edit]

I have added more detail since your comment and am working on adding more and in general revising my final version.

LupeAguilera (talk) 19:40, 25 April 2012 (UTC)

Comments on Measurement of Capabilities[edit]

The sentence "Critiques typically regard feminist perspectives, environmental perspectives and issues with the interpretations, calculations and technicalities of the measures." is not clear. BerikG (talk) 04:34, 29 April 2012 (UTC)BerikG

Made small edits throughout.

Changed: "economics based approaches" to "output-based approaches" (the alternative is "resource-based," which could also be adopted instead of "output-based" or both terms can be introduced and one used consistently throughout). "female" to "women's" (human rights.) (Female is a biological concept) "debit" to "credit"

Many of the concepts (such as the GDP, GNP, HDI, GDI, GEM) are (now) introduced in the General Overview section, so it seems necessary to move up the links to these to this section.

Specify which measure (GDP, GNP or the system of national accounts) in: "Simon Kuznets, the developer of the measure,..." Also, the Simon Kuznets remark seems to belong to the Critique section (or under "Technical..." subsection?). Another example of repetition is the idea that GDP does not have a debit side is repeated in two subsections. In general, the ideas in the second and third section (and the entire section on Measurement) need to be revised and reorganized to remove repetition. Ideas can be repeated across sections, but different sections then have to delve into a deeper, more elaborate discussion of them.

Specify whose conclusion in: "In sum, the conclusion is that..." (you could say: In sum, critics of the use of output-based measures conclude that....") Again, this remark belongs in the Critique section.

Breastfeeding as an example for unpaid work (where you refer to Waring) may be problematic since only women can do this work. Whereas a whole range of unpaid activities that women disproportionately undertake can be shared by men and women. I suggest substituting "caring for children" or some other activity here.

Add a link to unpaid work (fmveblen's article) in the "Feminist Critiques" subsection.

Explain why "Although the capabilities approach is difficult to apply empirically,..." and what you mean by "development" in: "it has been highly influential thus far in development,..." Do you mean development policy? How? Elaborate.

Better to cite Pressmann (2000) directly than to cite a source that cites him (and rather not quote this rather plain observation).

"Other measures" section should include a brief discussion of the new poverty measure (introduced in 2010) in the HDR. Add that both the old HPI and the new measure conceptualize poverty as a capability deprivation (not income deprivation). Sakiko Fukuda-Parr's FE article (1999?) on human poverty index might be a useful addition to discuss in terms of the measurement effort (albeit it refers to the HPI only).BerikG (talk) 18:21, 29 April 2012 (UTC)BerikG

Why no critique?[edit]

I'm impressed by the capability approach, but it's jumped quickly into being operationalized, which much of this wiki focuses on. Because it touches on serious fairness and political issues, this is understandable. But is Sen's innovative category intended as an instrument to inform policy, or is the capability approach a research program with testable instances? Utility theory supports much of the modern neoclassical economic edifice, which dominates more people's lives than environmentalism or feminism. While utility has, and should be, logically and empirically critiqued, economists remain wedded to it for practical reasons. It's a measuring device that produces smooth functions and equilibriums. Until an alternative tool demonstrates it solves economists' problems sufficiently well, they won't abandon utility. Capability seems to have been created as such an alternative, given the way Sen's framed it. For example, it retains utility theory's individual subjectivity component.

Taken on that level, capability is still flawed. It doesn't apply to commodities directly. Capability doesn't assign food a set of values, perhaps different ones like health quality, quantity, taste, and status. Instead its in the eye of the beholder, or eater. Then how can the eater's food values be estimated? Surveys are flawed, because people say what will get them what they want, whether it's respect, resources, imaginary gains, etc. Sen's utility critique fails to emphasize its reason for being: it allows economics to use prices as a value measure. Prices are what economists manipulate in equations, which makes them feel superior to other social scientists. That's a bit snarky, because prices are convenient, readily available, and in a consumer society, an apparently sensible choice.

For capability to displace utility in economics, it has to serve a measuring function that retains much of the ease, availability, and mathematical convenience of utility. One can object this isn't its purpose, but that should be made clear. I'm not sure Sen would agree. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:39, 12 September 2013 (UTC)


I'm no expert on this topic at all, but from a casual read there seems to be a huge proportion of the article devoted to Nussbaum and related feminist issues. Are she & they really absolutely central to the topic? It certainly reads that way. (talk) 14:38, 26 March 2015 (UTC)

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Nussbaum and Utility[edit]

It may be useful to add some of Nussbaums critique of utility as well namely her critique that the satisfaction that is central to utility is attached to thought rather than action. It is the critique that a person can feel satisfied or happy without actually being satisfied or happy as pointed out in Nussbaum, Martha. 2011. “The Central Capabilities” and “A Necessary Counter-Theory” in Creating Capabilities: The Human Development Approach. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Chapter 3 — Preceding unsigned comment added by Alexbolden15 (talkcontribs) 19:38, 20 April 2017 (UTC)