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Durham University

School of Government & International Affairs

Staff Profile

Publication details for Dr Jessica Begon

Begon, Jessica (2016). Athletic Policy, Passive Well-Being: Defending Freedom in the Capability Approach. Economics and Philosophy 32(01): 51-73.

Author(s) from Durham


G.A. Cohen has criticized the capability approach for focusing on individuals’ freedom – their capability to control their lives – and ignoring benefits achieved passively. He argues that this view of well-being is excessively ‘athletic’. However, if the capability approach is employed to guide egalitarian public policy, capabilities are the appropriate goal of just distributive policies, not just components of individual well-being. When understood as a policy-guide, I argue that the capability approach's focus on ‘athletic’ individual freedom and control is justified: in the public domain, it is important not just that individuals receive benefits, but that they participate in their achievement.