Date of Award


Degree Name

Master of Arts



First Advisor

Stikkers, Kenneth


My thesis focuses on demonstrating the limits of the human development approaches of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. While both offer excellent criticisms of the problems inherent in economic- or income-centered approaches to development, the framework of freedoms and capabilities from which they argue is too limited in identifying responsibilities and obligations to others. Thus, their approaches cannot sufficiently be used to transform the economic, social, and political structures that have caused and maintain the social justice issues they seek to address. In order to achieve universal recognition of the essential right of every individual to be free and able to live a life of value and human dignity, it is first necessary that people desire such recognition for others, not only themselves. Since the fulfillment of entitlements necessary for living a full and happy life essentially require institutions, governments, and numerous other socially-based public actions to secure them, the recognition of individual responsibilities and obligations is fundamental to being able to realize freedoms, rights, and capabilities. Therefore, I argue that the transformation from economic-centered to freedom- or capability-centered development processes must be grounded in responsibility and concern for others. What is needed is not an approach that is merely more of the same – freedom, liberty, rights – but instead a radical transformation of the moral and ethical values of society, which cannot be brought about without a shift, not just in the focus, but in the language of approaches to human development and social injustice.




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