The Capability Approach and Human Development: Some Reflections

By S. R. Osmani

The human development discourse is conceptually underpinned by the capability approach. As such, a number of doubts and misgivings that have emerged over time regarding the capability approach has also caused a renewed soul-searching over the conceptual foundations of human development. The present note is an attempt to clarify some of the issues that have emerged in the course of this soul- searching. The first part deals with the issue of whether the capability approach concedes too much ground to the demands of individualism to the relative neglect of society. The second part seeks to clarify a number of inter-related issues concerning choice and freedom – the two most fundamental concepts in the capability approach. Finally, it makes some concluding observations and offer some suggestions on how the human development discourse might proceed in the future.