What is empowering in a society?

24 May

The reconstruction of Adam Smith’s argument in his “The theory of Moral Sentiments”,Capacitar which applied economics, made Amartya Sen (1988) develop some critical aspects of what would be the enduring principles of conventional economic theory to create a theory that could- It would be called a sustainable economic theory, which at the same time guarantees freedom does not allow some citizens to remain outside the process.

This view made Amartya Sen developing what is called the “capacity-building approach” (1880 with later developments  in 1985, 1992 and 1999) and with related works like that of Martha Nussbaum (1986, 2000), placing it at the center of the question of the distribution of income and also the valuation of people without any deprivation of liberty.

The principle that moves self-interest is that described by Sen (1988a, p. 11): “The enhancement of living conditions must be clearly an essential – if not the essential – object of the entire economic exercise and that enhancement is an integral Part of the concept of development “(SEN, 1988a, p.11). “In this perspective, the search for social welfare is a privileged goal, the only one capable of giving full meaning to the social choices involved in development strategies”, so the so-called capabilities approach, placing development as having a set

Of expanding people’s capacities to do what they value without eliminating the freedoms that allow their choices and opportunities to engage in activities as empowered economic agents?
The idea is that each agent has “doings” and “existences” (“beings”), generically called “functions” (functions), each of which is important for assessing the nature of development and freedom of choice (SEN, 1988a).
The idea of ​​empowerment, presented in the work of Sen (1982 [1980]), is precisely a reflection of the freedom to perform functions that have value, and in this sense are characteristics where each individual in the real situation has “to be” “do”.


NUSSBAUM, M. C. The fragility of goodness: Luck and ethics in Greek tragedy and philosophy. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1986.

SEN, A. K. Equality of What ? In: SEN, A. K. Choice, Welfare and Measurement. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1982. ch. 16. 25, 1980.

____. The Concept of Development. In: Handbook of Development Economics, vol. 1. Amsterdam: North Holland, 1988 (1988a). p. 10-26.

____. On Ethics and Economics. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1988 (1988b).


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