Introduction: Justice and Disadvantages during Childhood: What Does the Capability Approach Have to Offer?

Ethical Perspectives 23 (1):73 - 99 (2016)
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Justice for children and during childhood and the particular political, social and moral status of children has long been a neglected issue in ethics, and in social and political philosophy. The application of general, adult-oriented theories of justice to children can be regarded as particularly problematic. Philosophers have only recently begun to explore what it means to consider children as equals, what goods are especially valuable to them, and what are the obligations of justice different agents have toward children. In addition, while philosophers have extensively written about global poverty and inequality, the issue of disadvantages during childhood, especially child poverty, has only been superficially addressed. This also applies to the Capability Approach (CA) as a normative theory. Although the socio-scientific and economic literature on how to conceptualize capabilities and functionings of children and how to measure them in the context of poverty and wellbeing is steadily growing, the normative aspects of these issues are still under-theorized. The CA offers a unique framework to engage with both the topic of justice for children and questions concerning what justice implies and demands with regard to children living and growing up in disadvantaged circumstances. Furthermore, justice and disadvantage during childhood is a compellingly interdisciplinary topic that invites the combination of ethical and philosophical reasoning together with socio-scientific theories and empirical knowledge. In this special issue of Ethical Perspectives we bring together theoretical and empirically informed discussions that explore the CA in relation to children and the many disadvantages they can face in their lives.

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Gottfried Schweiger
University of Salzburg


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