Author: Yogita Aggarwal
Author Affiliation: Centre for Political Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University
Abstract: In contrast to the utility and welfare approaches that focus on maximization of pleasure/welfare, Sen and Rawls present their approach as a solution to address the issue of inequality more substantively. In his needs-based approach, Sen argues that exercising capability is an adequate metric of equality whereas Rawls relying on his procedural principles argues that obeying the difference principle will result in the minimization of inequalities. These two approaches are not in opposition to each other rather the capability-approach of Amartya Sen is an extension of the Rawlsian theory of primary goods. This is because the realization of goods by exercising one’s capability requires that an individual first possesses those goods. In order to ensure the basic minimum to all individuals and to prevent them from the hedonistic principle of maximizing utility, Rawls recommends the provision of primary goods. He gives a list of five primary goods. However, Sen argues that it is still not enough to accommodate the culturally diverse needs of people and their disadvantages and inequalities with a simple provision of goods. The paper shall attempt to briefly explain the perspectives of the two thinkers and then take into consideration some of the criticisms levelled against them. Clarifications concerning some unfounded criticisms are also mentioned very briefly.
Keywords: Capability, Inequality, Least-Advantaged, Primary Goods, Functionings, Diversity, Midfare