Poverty as lack of capabilities: an analysis of the definition of poverty of Amartya Sen



Poverty, Subsistence, Deprivation, Capability approach, Basic capabilities


This article aims to analyze Amartya Sen’s definition of poverty. To achieve this goal initially we will present the traditional definitions of poverty: a) in absolute terms (focus on the subsistence concept); b) or in relative terms (focus on the deprivation concept). Next, the article addresses the Sen x Townsend debate, that happened in the first half of the 1980 decade. Then, we will discuss the Senian perspective of poverty in terms of the lack of capabilities. We present three reasons why the definition of poverty in terms of capabilities is more appropriate than its predecessors: a) it comprises both an absolute and a relative element; b) it is not only a philosophically grounded definition of poverty, but it has the potential to guide empirical research and social policies directed to fight poverty; c) it considers the interpersonal and intersocial differences among people (conversion factors); d) in this definition it is fundamental to listen to people in order to define their own necessities, there is no previous theoretically-based capabilities list.

Biografia do Autor

Tiago Mendonça dos Santos, Programa de Pós-Graduação em Filosofia da UFSC (PPGFilosofia/UFSC)

Professor do Curso de Direito da Universidade do Vale do Itajaí (UNIVALI). Mestre e Doutorando em Filosofia pela Universidade Federal de Santa Catarina (PPGFilosofia/UFSC). Bacharel em Direito pela UNIVALI; Especialista em Direito Empresarial e dos Negócios pela UNIVALI e em Jurisdição Federal pela UNIVALI em convênio com a Associação dos Juízes Federais do Estado de Santa Catarina (AJUFESC); Acadêmico do Curso de Ciências Econômicas pela UFSC.


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