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A Dynamic Operationalization of Sen’s Capability Approach

By Marco Grasso


The limits of the utilitarian approach have led to a search for different notions of welfare. The income approach to well-being, in fact, doesn’t account for the diversity in human beings and for the heterogeneities of contingent circumstances. Amartya Sen, looking for broader notions of well-being, has developed an approach focused on the freedom of individuals to pursue their own project of life: the capability approach. The main purpose of the paper is to explore the possibility of using system dynamics to operationalize Sen’s framework. First of all we address the methodological issues that have to be considered in order to operationalize the capability approach in a dynamic framework. Then we investigate the architecture of the three-functionings model we devised to represent human well-being, as intended in the capability approach. Furthermore, we analyze in depth the structure of a particular functioning, and consider some simulations for the selected functioning and for the whole model over time. Finally, the concluding remarks suggest some indications about the use of system dynamics in order to operationalize the capability approach, and consider the main findings derived from the simulations carried out.

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