SO478 - week 7

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These are my notes from November 07 for SO478 at the London School of Economics for the 2017-2018 school year. I took this module as part of the one-year Inequalities and Social Science MSc program.

The usual disclaimer: all notes are my personal impressions and do not necessarily reflect the view of the lecturer.

Capabilities, poverty and inequality


The Capability Approach by David A. Clark

On Amartya Sen’s Capability Approach. Wealth as a means of achieving something else & noting differing conversion rates for income/commodities into achievements, based on personal situation + cultural factors. Neither is utility (perceived happiness) a suficient consideration. Formulates a mapping from a “functioning” vector -> set of capability vectors. He refuses to establish an “objective” set of capabilities (could differ between contexts, like poverty vs well-being). Benefit of this approach: treats people as ends in themselves and not just means to an economic end—the goal of development should be expansion of capabilities rather than economic growth (which should be a means, at most). Weaknesses: doesn’t really address the subjectivity factor (people will disagree about what capabilities should be valued); there isn’t always data to assess. Also mentions Martha Nussbaum’s attempts to build on the CA: draws on Aristotle to develop a list of “central human capabilities”, whereas Sen argues for a more democratic approach to building this list.

The idea of “adequate income” which allocates income acc to an individual’s conversion rate, which is ofc difficult to objectively quantify (people are incentivised to lie about it), so you end up giving some people more than they need (which is unfair) + end up spending more overall (though this really only matters in relation to the total quantity of money & how it affects individual capability assessments). This is, incidentally, probably my biggest problem with basic income proposals: you’re trying to extend the reach of quantification (i.e., commodification) when you should really be DECOMMODIFYING by introducing more public services that don’t rely on income. (Longer post on that forthcoming.)

Collective Capabilities, Culture, and Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom by Peter Evans

No notes for this yet.

Assessing global poverty and inequality by Ingrid Robeyns

No notes for this yet.


This lecture was given by Naila Kabeer, Professor of Gender and Development in the Gender Studies & International Development departments at LSE.