Poverty and Freedom

Human Affairs 24 (2):258-268 (2014)
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Abstract
The capability approach, which is closely connected to the works of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, is one possible theoretical framework that could be used to answer the question as to why poverty is a problem from a moral point of view. In this paper we will focus on the normative philosophical capability approach rather than the social scientific and descriptive perspective. We will show that the approach characterizes poverty mainly as a limitation of freedom and that it is precisely this aspect, from its point of view, that makes poverty morally significant. This insight shifts the discussion away from questions regarding specific capabilities or lists of them-questions treated extensively in the literature-to the more general level of what constitutes the normative core of the capability approach. But as we will also discuss and argue, the role of freedom alone does not give us a complete picture of poverty but only presents us with one aspect relevant to evaluating it. A further aspect which we consider has not been adequately recognized and taken into account by most capability theorists is the experience of disrespect and humiliation, or to put it differently, a lack of recognition.
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