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On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice, and Other Essays in Political Philosophy$
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G. A. Cohen and Michael Otsuka

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691148700

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691148700.001.0001

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Equality of What? On Welfare, Goods, and Capabilities

Equality of What? On Welfare, Goods, and Capabilities

Chapter:
(p.44) Chapter Two Equality of What? On Welfare, Goods, and Capabilities
Source:
On the Currency of Egalitarian Justice, and Other Essays in Political Philosophy
Author(s):

G. A. Cohen

, Michael Otsuka
Publisher:
Princeton University Press
DOI:10.23943/princeton/9780691148700.003.0002

In A Theory of Justice in (1971), John Rawls laid out his objections to utilitarianism and advanced a powerful critique of the welfare metric, replacing it by attention to primary goods. Sen later advanced arguments against the welfare metric and called for attention to something like opportunity (under the title “capability”). This chapter argues that Sen moved away from Rawlsian and other views in two directions which were orthogonal to each other. If Rawls and welfarists fixed on what a person gets in welfare or goods, Sen fixed on what he gets in a space between welfare and goods (nutrition is delivered by goods supply and it generates welfare), but he also emphasized what a person can get, as opposed to (just) what he does. The chapter exposes the ambiguity in Sen's use of “capability” (and cognate terms), and proposes an answer to the question, “Equality of What?” which departs from his own in a modest way.

Keywords:   John Rawls, welfare, equality, utilitarianism, Amartya Sen, political philosophy, G. A. Cohen

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