Capabilities Approach

Essay 1: Human Rights in Development
How might the ‘capabilities approach’ affect one’s view of ‘economic development’?

Economic development is a broad term that generally refers to the sustained, concerted effort of policymakers and community to promote the standard of living and economic health in a specific area . Many approaches of economic development ignore the reality that how people live their lives and the ‘kinds of services and institutions that they have access to, are potentially just as important as, and tied in to, their annual income’ (Pyles, 2008). Poor and low-income individuals are ‘at risk and have low func¬tioning not just because they have no money, but because they may lack certain freedoms or capabilities’ (Sen, 1999). This idea is the basis of the capabilities approach. In this essay the capabilities approach will be critically analysed, using the example of international women’s rights as a vessel to prove how ones view of economic
development can be affected by this approach.

While many theories of welfare argue that positive outcomes, such as individuals ‘working in the formal wage-labour sector’ or ‘achieving an income above the poverty’ are central to well-being,   the capabilities approach emphasizes that equality of opportunity is what matters most for human welfare (Pressman and Summerfield, 2000). The capabilities also argues that while providing primary goods to a society is an important and basic need, the use an individual can make on these primary goods ‘depends crucially on a number of contingent circumstances, both personal and social’ (Rawls, 1971). These two key aspects of the capabilities approach demonstrate that this view examines an individuals level of opportunity, freedom and ‘ability to choose’ as a central measure of welfare. To Nussbaum (2000), this measure of welfare is based on 10 central human capabilities, namely:   life; bodily health; bodily integrity; senses, imagination, and thought; emotions;...