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Arguments for a Better World: Essays in Honor of Amartya SenVolume I: Ethics, Welfare, and Measurement$
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Kaushik Basu and Ravi Kanbur

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199239115

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239115.001.0001

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Justice as Fairness and the Capability Approach *

Justice as Fairness and the Capability Approach *

Chapter:
(p.397) Chapter 21 Justice as Fairness and the Capability Approach*
Source:
Arguments for a Better World: Essays in Honor of Amartya Sen
Author(s):

Ingrid Robeyns

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199239115.003.0022

This chapter reconsiders the differences between Amartya Sen's capability approach and John Rawls's justice as fairness approach. Sen's most important critique on Rawlsian justice concerns the inflexibility of social primary goods as the metric of justice. Rawls has argued that this critique implies that the capability approach endorses a comprehensive moral doctrine. In addition, Rawls has criticized the capability approach for failing to provide a workable and public conception of political justice. It is argued that the different kinds of theory that Rawls and Sen are pursuing explain much of their disagreement. Moreover, for a full comparison each theory needs to be further developed: the capability approach requires further theoretical elaboration as a theory of justice, while justice as fairness has to be developed for non-ideal circumstances. This reinterpretation of the Rawls–Sen debate allows for an understanding of the capability approach and justice as fairness as complementary and potentially converging theories.

Keywords:   Amartya Sen, John Rawls, capabilities, capability approach, justice, justice as fairness, social primary goods

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