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Wellbeing, Freedom, and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Reexamined. By Ingrid Robeyns. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2017.

Wellbeing, Freedom, and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Reexamined. By Ingrid Robeyns.... 308 Book Reviews Wellbeing, Freedom, and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re- examined. By Ingrid Robeyns. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2017. The capability approach is influential among both scholars and practition- ers of international development. It is therefore striking that so much dis- agreement persists regarding what the capability approach is and that so lit- tle academic work has been done to carefully distinguish capabilities from other approaches to human development and theories of justice. First devel- oped by Amartya Sen in 1979, the capabilities approach initially offered an alternative to economic measures of progress that were strictly monetary and philosophical theories of justice that focused on utility or resources rather than opportunities. In this new book, Ingrid Robeyns does scholars a con- siderable service by offering a rigorous, precise, and in many ways novel account of the capabilities approach. Among the new contributions, Robeyns develops a modular view of capabilities that distinguishes between what is a necessary component of a capabilities theory and what is optional. She also defends capabilities against some common critiques in the literature, often offering novel defense but accepting other trenchant criticisms. I still have some unresolved questions regarding the capabilities approach, including what the normative and evaluative relation is supposed to be between capabilities (genuine opportunities to do and be) and function- ings (the actual doing and being) (pp. 107−113). They are meant to be the core of theory but represent very different things, and public policy focused on protecting or promoting capabilities (the opportunity to be educated) would be very different from public policy devoted to functioning (actually ensuring individuals are educated). But Robeyns’s framework offers the ana- lytical clarity needed to ground further theoretical advances. She also has a comprehensive mastery of the extant literature, so eager readers can find additional directions for research once they have completed this book. The book is freely available online, so it will be of interest to teachers (particularly those working with students from low-income backgrounds), and one anticipates that it will be widely discussed by scholars. Those working from the capabilities perspective or in nearby fields of human development, quality of life assessment, welfare economics, and the meas- urement of social progress will greatly benefit from this work. If I were to recommend one book to introduce a reader to the topic, this would be it. Reviewed by Scott Wisor http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International Organizations Brill

Wellbeing, Freedom, and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Reexamined. By Ingrid Robeyns. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2017.

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
Copyright © Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
ISSN
1075-2846
eISSN
1942-6720
DOI
10.1163/19426720-02402010
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

308 Book Reviews Wellbeing, Freedom, and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re- examined. By Ingrid Robeyns. Cambridge, UK: Open Book Publishers, 2017. The capability approach is influential among both scholars and practition- ers of international development. It is therefore striking that so much dis- agreement persists regarding what the capability approach is and that so lit- tle academic work has been done to carefully distinguish capabilities from other approaches to human development and theories of justice. First devel- oped by Amartya Sen in 1979, the capabilities approach initially offered an alternative to economic measures of progress that were strictly monetary and philosophical theories of justice that focused on utility or resources rather than opportunities. In this new book, Ingrid Robeyns does scholars a con- siderable service by offering a rigorous, precise, and in many ways novel account of the capabilities approach. Among the new contributions, Robeyns develops a modular view of capabilities that distinguishes between what is a necessary component of a capabilities theory and what is optional. She also defends capabilities against some common critiques in the literature, often offering novel defense but accepting other trenchant criticisms. I still have some unresolved questions regarding the capabilities approach, including what the normative and evaluative relation is supposed to be between capabilities (genuine opportunities to do and be) and function- ings (the actual doing and being) (pp. 107−113). They are meant to be the core of theory but represent very different things, and public policy focused on protecting or promoting capabilities (the opportunity to be educated) would be very different from public policy devoted to functioning (actually ensuring individuals are educated). But Robeyns’s framework offers the ana- lytical clarity needed to ground further theoretical advances. She also has a comprehensive mastery of the extant literature, so eager readers can find additional directions for research once they have completed this book. The book is freely available online, so it will be of interest to teachers (particularly those working with students from low-income backgrounds), and one anticipates that it will be widely discussed by scholars. Those working from the capabilities perspective or in nearby fields of human development, quality of life assessment, welfare economics, and the meas- urement of social progress will greatly benefit from this work. If I were to recommend one book to introduce a reader to the topic, this would be it. Reviewed by Scott Wisor

Journal

Global Governance: A Review of Multilateralism and International OrganizationsBrill

Published: Aug 19, 2018

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