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The Concept of Human Development: A Comparative Study of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum
Linköping University, Department of Culture and Communication, Centre for Applied Ethics.
2008 (English)Independent thesis Advanced level (degree of Magister), 20 points / 30 hpStudent thesis
Abstract [en]

This thesis is an examination of the concept of human development and does a comparative study of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. Sen rectifies the emphasis on income by welfare economics, and argues for the ‘equality of capability’; a goal that he says can be achieved by means of the intrinsic and instrumental role of democracy. However, the author notes that Sen’s development paradigm is inadequate as an account for what constitutes the kind of well-being that is fully human and asserts that Sen’s framework should be concretized politically. In view of this, the author argues that Nussbaum’s articulation of a ‘threshold of capabilities’, anchored on her reading Aristotle’s concept of human flourishing and Marx’s insight on human dignity, is a politically realistic human development framework. Nussbaum thinks that the essential human capabilities are entitlements that must be constitutionally guaranteed to ensure a decent and dignified human life for all. As a response to the reality of pluralism, Nussbaum says that the universality of these entitlements can be secured by means of an overlapping consensus. Furthermore, the extreme poverty in many nations which exposes women and children to much vulnerability has provoked the author to inquire about the applicability of Nussbaum’s framework to the global arena. As such, the thesis argues for the radical expansion of the Human Development Index used by the United Nations Development Program in measuring the quality of human life, notably the inclusion of political liberties and gender equality. In addition to this, the study puts forward the argument that global human development is best achieved through democracy, and asserts that global institutions have a moral duty to protect and promote the central human capabilities.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Centrum för tillämpad etik , 2008. , 83 p.
Keyword [en]
Capability Approach, Amartya Sen, Martha Nussbaum, Human Development, HDI
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:liu:diva-11974ISRN: LIU-CTE-AE-EX--08/03--SEOAI: diva2:18358
2008-05-29, 3260, KEY, Campus Valla, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden, 14:00
Available from: 2008-06-03 Created: 2008-06-03

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