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Journal Article

Capabilities and Social Justice

Martha Nussbaum
International Studies Review
Vol. 4, No. 2, International Relations and the New Inequality (Summer, 2002), pp. 123-135
Published by: Wiley on behalf of The International Studies Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3186357
Page Count: 13
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Capabilities and Social Justice
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Abstract

Women in much of the world lack support for fundamental functions of a human life. Unequal social and political circumstances give women unequal human capabilities. This paper critiques other approaches to these inequalities and offers a version of the capabilities approach. The central question asked by the capabilities approach is not, "How satisfied is this woman?" "How much in the way of resources is she able to command?" It is, instead, "What is she actually able to do and to be?" The core idea seems to be that of the human being as a dignified free being who shapes his or her own life, rather than being passively shaped or pushed around by the world in the manner of a flock or herd animal. The basic intuition from which the capabilities approach begins, in the political arena, is that human abilities exert a moral claim that they should be developed. Capability, not functioning, is the appropriate political goal.

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