Springer Online Journal Archives 1860-2000
Conclusion Sen's book raises a variety of new and important issues concerning human wellbeing and its measurement. However it also leaves plenty of open questions and uncovered ground. Its argument for shifting our attention from commodities to functionings is powerful and I hope this will find increasing favour among welfare economists and other social scientists. Regarding its argument for shifting attention from achievements to capabilities, I am more skeptical. Some of the concepts developed in this book can have important applications to questions beyond that of measurement, questions which Sen does not touch on in this book. For instance, the concept of ‘exploitation’ is difficult to describe in a utility-based framework. This is because people who are chronically exploited learn to adjust to their predicament and may achieve a reasonable level of utility and may not even strive for change. A definition of exploitation based on utility or choice would fail to identify such people. The concept of well-being can be useful in identifying the chronically exploited. This is just one of many possible directions that can be pursued from here.
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