Development as Capabilities Expansion

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"In his Grundlegung zur Metaphysik de Sitten, ImmanueI Kant argues for the necessity of seeing human beings as ends in themselves, rather than as means to other ends: “So act as to treat humanity, whether in thine own person or in that of any other, in every case as an end withal, never as means only.” This principle has importance in many contexts–even in analysing poverty, progress and planning. Human beings are the agents, beneficiaries and adjudicators of progress, but they also happen to be– directly or indirectly–the primary means of all production. This dual role of human beings provides a rich ground for confusion of ends and means in planning and policy-making. Indeed, it can–and frequently does–take the form of focusing on production and prosperity as the essence of progress, treating people as the means through which that productive progress is brought about (rather than seeing the lives of people as the ultimate concern and treating production and prosperity merely as means to those lives). Indeed, the widely prevalent concentration on the expansion of real income and on economic growth as the characteristics of successful development can be precisely an aspect of the mistake against which Kant had warned. This problem is particularly pivotal in the assessment and planning of economic development. The problem does not, of course, lie in the fact that the pursuit of economic prosperity is typically taken to be a major goal of planning and policy-making. This need not be, in itself, unreasonable. The problem relates to the level at which this aim should be taken as a goal. Is it just an intermediate goal, the importance of which is contingent on what it ultimately contributes to human lives? Or is it the object of the entire exercise? It is in the acceptance–usually implicitly–of the latter view that the ends–means confusion becomes significant–indeed blatant." 

In this article (see attachment below) Sen argues for "development as capabilities expansion" - the notion that the freedon to achieve well-being is of primary moral importance, and the freedom to achieve well-being is to be understood in terms of people's capabilities (their real opportunities to do and be what they have reason to value). 

 

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