Constructing new policy narratives: the capability approach as normative language

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Abstract

This paper interprets the capability approach as a new normative language for policy. It argues that it is characterised by some fundamental words – wellbeing, functionings, capabilities, agency, freedom– but speakers/ social actors are left free to combine these words in multiple ways, interpret them according to different policy settings, and construct context-dependent policy narratives. The paper highlights two areas of interpretative differences: namely the purpose of the normative language and its conception of the person. It illustrates how the capability approach language is interpreted differently according to various policy settings and used to construct different normative policy narratives. The paper argues that this plurality of interpretations is one of the capability approach’s greatest strengths, and the main reason for which it is, to date, the most encompassing and compelling normative language with which to frame social action for improving people’s lives. This openness to interpretative differences may however sometimes be a liability.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTowards Human Development
Subtitle of host publicationNew Approaches to Macroeconomics and Inequality
EditorsG. A. Cornia, F. Stewart
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Print)9780198706083
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2014

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Deneulin, S. (2014). Constructing new policy narratives: the capability approach as normative language. In G. A. Cornia, & F. Stewart (Eds.), Towards Human Development: New Approaches to Macroeconomics and Inequality Oxford University Press.