This essay is an attempt to define capability approach and later show how effective is it as a tool for achieving human development in developing countries.
The capability approach began life in the 1980s as an approach to welfare economics. In this approach, Amartya sen brought together a range of ideas that were up till now excluded from traditional approaches to the economics of welfare. Initially sen argued for the importance of real freedoms in the assessment of a person’s advantage, individual differences in the ability to transform resources into valuable activities, the centrality of the distribution of welfare within society, the different types of nature of activities that gives rise to happiness, and finally against excessive greed in the evaluation of human welfare.
Amartya sen argues that the capability to function is what really matters for both the poor and non poor. He stated that economic growth cannot be sensible treated as an end in itself. Development has to be more concentrated with enhancing the lives we lead and the freedoms we enjoy. In effect sen argues that poverty cannot be properly measured by income or even by utility as conventionally understood. What matters are the things a person has and the feelings these provide but what a person is or can be and does or can do. What matters for well-being are not just the characteristics of commodities consumed, as the utility approach, but what use the consumer can and does make of the commodities. For example a book is of little value to an illiterate person or as sen noted, a person with parasitic diseases will be less able to extract nourishment from a given quantity of food than will someone without parasites.
The point is that to make any sense of the concept of human well-being in general, and poverty in particular, we need to think beyond the availability of commodities and consider their use. Freedoms of choice, or control of one’s own life, is itself a central aspect of most...