A Capabilities Approach to Successful Societies

Hall, Peter A.

What creates a successful society? There is no simple answer to this question because
decisions about the criteria by which success should be measured inevitably depend
on normative judgments that are contestable, and real-world conditions often entail concessions
on some dimensions of success to secure improvements in others. For these reasons, even the
most sophisticated e"orts to address this problem, such as Amartya Sen’s impressive theory of
development as freedom, can be frustratingly indeterminate. As Michèle Lamont and I argue
in Successful Societies: How Institutions and Culture A!ect Health (Cambridge University Press
2009), however, this question is too important to ignore. Even when the answers are necessarily
incomplete, social scientists should be asking such questions. Although there is a natural preference
for more tractable subjects, the watchword of social science should not be ‘convenience’. We need
to advance our understanding not only of how societies work but of how they can work better.

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Perspectives On Europe

More About This Work

Academic Units
Council for European Studies
Published Here
November 3, 2016