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Durham University

School of Government & International Affairs

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Jessica Begon

Begon, Jessica (2017). Capabilities for All? From Capabilities to Function, to Capabilities to Control. Social Theory and Practice 43(1): 154-179.

Author(s) from Durham


The capability approach aims to ensure that all individuals are able to form and pursue their own conception of the good, whilst the state remains neutral between them, and has done much to include oppressed and marginalized groups. Liberal neutrality and social inclusivity are worthy goals, yet I argue that Martha Nussbaum’s influential formulation of the capability approach, at least, cannot meet them. Conceptualizing capabilities as opportunities to perform specific, valuable functionings fails to accommodate those who do not value, or cannot perform, these functionings. I therefore propose that the capability approach be modified, such that capabilities are conceptualized instead as opportunities to exercise control in certain central domains of our life.