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Valuing Freedom: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction. By Sabina Alkire. Oxford University Press, 2002, vii + 340 pages, ISBN 0199245797.
The three main characteristics of Amartya Sen's capability approach (CA) are pluralism, a deliberative underspecification, and an emphasis on public reasoning. I believe that these features are intrinsically linked with Sen's thinking about practical reason and ethical rationality, which underlie his understanding of development as a process of expanding the person's capabilities (or freedoms) to do or to be. However, Sen's approach has been criticized because of its limited possibilities for being operationalized, though a number of researchers and scholars have applied the capability approach in a variety of philosophical, theoretical, and practical ways.
Sabina Alkire's Valuing Freedom is among these attempts to operationalize Sen's approach. Alkire's focal problem is the need for a methodology by which the Oxfam field staff in Pakistan could identify which "valuable" capabilities a development activity had expanded or contracted. She emphasizes that Sen's lack of specification of the possible range of procedures, by which valuational issues are to be resolved or by which information on valuation is to be obtained, points to the need for a framework for "valuing freedom" in order to put the CA into practice. Valuing Freedom is structured in two parts. Part I presents Sen's work, in order to suggest one possible way in which the value issues may be addressed. Part II discusses one narrow set of methodologies, and suggests a method for …