Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-Examined

How do we evaluate ambiguous concepts such as wellbeing, freedom, and social justice? How do we develop policies that offer everyone the best chance to achieve what they want from life? The capability approach, a theoretical framework pioneered by the philosopher and economist Amartya Sen in the 1980s, has become an increasingly influential way to think about these issues.

Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-Examined is both an introduction to the capability approach and a thorough evaluation of the challenges and disputes that have engrossed the scholars who have developed it. Ingrid Robeyns offers her own illuminating and rigorously interdisciplinary interpretation, arguing that by appreciating the distinction between the general capability approach and more specific capability theories or applications we can create a powerful and flexible tool for use in a variety of academic disciplines and fields of policymaking.

This book provides an original and comprehensive account that will appeal to scholars of the capability approach, new readers looking for an interdisciplinary introduction, and those interested in theories of justice, human rights, basic needs, and the human development approach. (from the publisher’s catalogue page for Wellbeing, Freedom and Social Justice: The Capability Approach Re-Examined by Ingrid Robeyns 2017, Cambridge, Open Book Publishers)

This important book is published as Open Access which means that anyone can obtain and re-use a PDF from the Publisher’s catalogue pages (CC BY 4.0), so it may be that there is no great advantage in accessing the work through a Reading Room, which will last for 30 days. But here it is as prototype of a review with accompanying open text:

Expires Fri 31 Jul 2020 08:08:38 UTC.

Or a Bitly link https://bit.ly/RobeynsWellbeing

However the advantages will emerge if we evolve a practice of accompanying reviews or notices of important books, whether they be open or closed/commercial, with Reading Rooms through which users can have limited but free and open access to a text. It will then be important that commercial books and open access books can be reviewed or noticed in parallel fashion. Surely Open Access publishers will prefer to allow their books a maximum term (30 days with the Exact Editions platform) but even for commercially published books a 30 days window may sometimes be preferred.

Robeyns book is an important study of the capability approach to questions of human well being, development and justice. No doubt, or we should at least hope, that fresh impetus will be given to this understanding as we emerge from the COVID-19 crisis, and just as we look for policies that offer everyone the best chance to achieve what they want from life, so also we may in digital culture need to explore new ways in which books and vital texts can develop through alternative and better systems of access and dissemination. A topic which might be the subject of the next review or blog posting. PDFs, ebooks, audio books, printed and bound volumes, are not the only ways in which books should be studied and evaluated.

More on Reading Rooms here, here and here.