Does Martha Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach Provide a Better Framework for Tackling Social Inequality for Women in Brazil than Utility-Based Welfare Economics?
Author : Babhravi Krishnan
The Perse School, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Traditional indicators of economic development such as GDP are inadequate as they do not truly make a difference to the quality of people’s lives. By considering economic growth alone instead of measuring development in terms of social and economic well being, the approach allows for huge levels of inequality in a nation. As development should entail that the quality of people’s lives is improving, such traditional approaches that solely focus on economic growth must be replaced. One alternative is the utility-based approach to welfare economics, which measures development in terms of the level of utility, or satisfaction, that individuals can gain from the resources and opportunities available to them. Another alternative is the capabilities approach, which promotes equality by focusing on providing individuals with the freedom to choose to live a life worthy of human dignity by promoting the development of capabilities. Despite its growing economy, many forms of inequality exist in Brazil, including extremely high levels of gender inequality. I believe that using the capabilities approach as a theoretical framework to measure development, rather than the utility-based approach, would promote the development of a fairer society in Brazil and reduce gender inequality.