A capability approach for the European Union

  • Franz Eiffe (Redner*in)

Aktivität: VortragWissenschaftlicher Vortrag (Science-to-Science)


The aim of this paper is to develop a new concept for the EU in order to define and measure poverty no
longer on the basis of income1, but on so called capabilities to argue for a capability oriented social
policy. The capability approach (CA) was originally developed by Nobel laureate Amartya Sen2 and
can be interpreted as critique of the utilitarian tradition of standard economics. In Sen’s view,
mainstream economic analysis operates on a very narrow base and does not include central information
about the human condition. The main points of Sen’s critique shall be discussed by way of introduction
in section one. In offering an alternative framework of economic evaluation, Sen is very much inspired
by the work of Adam Smith (1723-1790) and tried to bring him back into the economic and social
discussion. The connections between Smith and Sen and the main elements of the CA will be discussed
in section two.
Within this framework, a further conceptualisation of the EU-approach becomes possible. Poverty will
now be defined in terms of some basic, normatively and empirically justified, capabilities. The
challenge in section four is to find these capabilities and make them explicit. The “tightrope” walk
between both aspects, viz. theoretical claim and practical implementation, is not a simple task.
Nevertheless it must be undertaken in order to guarantee both scientific value and empirical
applicability. The main purpose of the paper, however, is to argue for a change of perspective in both
poverty measurement and more explicitly so in poverty policy at EU level. In the concluding chapter
implications for a capability oriented social inclusion policy in the EU will be discussed in further
1 The poverty line in the EU is set at an income lower than 60% of national median equalised household income.
2 Amartya Sen won the Nobel Price for Economics in 1998 “for his contributions to welfare economics”.
Zeitraum17 Sept. 200819 Sept. 2008
Ereignistitel6th ESPAnet Conference
VeranstaltungstypKeine Angaben