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The Capabilities Approach: a Normative Foundation for Social Investment?


The social investment approach has been criticized for its productivist view of social policy and one-sided emphasis on economic returns. Indeed, it is fair to say that the social dimension of social investment, and the stated social cohesion aims of the European social investment strategy as embodied in the Lisbon strategy for instance, have been paid lip-service both in terms of policy developments and in academic research where a focus on economic indicators has tended to prevail. The focus of the social investment perspective on the productive dimension of social policy has been politically useful in that it has enabled it to appeal to parties across the political spectrum. But it has also had a depoliticising effect, and entailed a lack of discussion about the normative values and social aims that underpin the social investment perspective. In fact, it may be that one of the weaknesses of the social investment approach is its lack of clear normative underpinning or theory of social justice against which to develop a well-founded evaluative framework for assessing the quality of social policies and social arrangements both for society as a whole and from the life perspectives of individuals. The aim of this contribution is to reflect on the normative reorientation that the social investment approach possibly entails and the principles of social justice that may or should underpin it. In particular, this contribution discusses the possible relevance of the Capabilities approach developed by Amartya Sen for the social investment strategy, both in developing a normative framework for social investment, but also in developing indicators for assessing social outcomes and for analysing how different institutional arrangements support or hinder agency and capabilities.
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hal-03838728 , version 1 (03-11-2022)


  • HAL Id : hal-03838728 , version 1


Nathalie Morel, Joakim Palme. The Capabilities Approach: a Normative Foundation for Social Investment?. Oxford University Press. The Uses of Social Investment,, Oxford University Press, 2017, 9780198790495. ⟨hal-03838728⟩
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