Volume 21, Issue 2, 2021
Are Capabilities Compatible with Political Liberalism? A Third Way
This article explores the relationship between capabilities and political liberalism. There are two views about how they might be compatible: Sen claims capabilities should be seen as a revision of primary goods while Nussbaum argues capabilities should form part of an overlapping consensus. It is argued they are both right—and incorrect. Whereas Sen identifies where compatibility might best be found, it is Nussbaum’s conception of capabilities that is able to overcome Rawls’s objections to Sen’s proposal. This provides a new third way of conceiving how capabilities and political liberalism might address these concerns that is more compelling for how Sen and Nussbaum claim. The two rivals can come together, but not in the way that either of its most well known champions have argued.