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The Harvard Review of Philosophy

Volume 20, Spring 2014

Thom Brooks
Pages 100-106

A New Problem with the Capabilities Approach

Martha Nussbaum’s “influential capabilities approach” offers us a powerful, universal standard of justice. The approach builds off of pioneering work by Amartya Sen in economic development. Much of the contemporary interest in the capabilities approach has focused upon how we might spell out a list of precisely which capabilities must be made universally available and protected, a list that Sen has not provided himself. Nussbaum’s list of capabilities is arguably the most successful attempt at defining these capabilities. In this paper, I will argue for a new problem with the approach that raises new questions about the capabilities approach more generally.

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