Journal of Human Development and Capabilities (forthcoming)
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This paper offers a critique of Martha Nussbaum’s description of the capability approach, and offers an alternative. I will argue that Nussbaum’s characterization of the capability approach is flawed, in two ways. First, she unduly limits the capability to two strands of work, thereby ignoring important other capabilitarian scholarship. Second, she argues that there are five essential elements that all capability theories meet; yet upon closer analysis three of them are not really essential to the capability approach. I also offer an alternative description of the capability approach, which is called the cartwheel view of the capability approach. This view is at the same time radically multidisciplinary yet also contains a foundationally robust core among its various usages, and is therefore much better able to make the case that the capability approach can be developed in a very wide range of more specific normative theories. Finally, the cartwheel view is used to argue against Nussbaum's claim that all capabilitarian political theory needs to be politically liberal.

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Ingrid Robeyns
Utrecht University


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