The aim of this paper is to examine the view of responsibility A.K. Sen and J.E. Roemer support via their theories (Roemer’s Equality of Opportunity principle and Sen’s capability approach). The comparative analysis between these approaches is motivated by Roemer’s atypical opinion about Sen’s capability approach. A brief overview of the modern theories of justice is necessary to understand the issues raised by the treatment of responsibility and to realize properly in which way Roemer’s position is questionable. These statements lead to a thorough comparison between both theories.
There is little substance in discourses of sustainable development, unless they are sustained by a credible notion of responsibility. My paper is motivated by a dire state of affairs, the ubiquitous failure of governance, and, more generally, the proliferation of widespread non sustainable and irresponsible practices. Consequently, my project is to develop a grounded understanding of responsibility, and to seek out the particular conditions necessary for responsible conduct, one liable to underpin socially sustainable development in practice.
To avoid a worsening of the current economic crisis, and to prevent future crises related to ecological constraints and social imbalances, there is a need to change the decision-making processes and related power structures, in order to envisage a new style of development. Indeed, three constituents of such a style are already in place. Firstly, the theoretical approach looks at the capabilities of people, at their freedom to choose what they value, and at their agency. Second, in operational terms, a solidarity-based economy regularly invents relevant solutions for overcoming changing social and ecological issues by means of a defined set of values: responsibility, equity and recognition, and the way people interact and behave. Third, sustainable development provides a global conceptual framework through its human dimension (i.e. the reinforcement of personal capabilities), and its social dimension (intra- and intergenerational equity, poverty and inequality traps, vulnerability and social exclusion). This paper sets out to show how these three constituents interact to generate a new style of development, which could influence the future design of public policies.
Despite its present-day success story in the field of management, corporate social responsibility (CSR) is not a new concept, but one that emerged in the 1950s. One may therefore wonder about such a resurgence for a concept whose interpretations are numerous and sometimes quite opposed to one another. Our hypothesis is that CSR, understood on a very topical functional level, results from a deficiency of substantive law. This gap could also explain the evolution of the historical and conceptual approach of CSR, perceived on a second level: the need to seek a foundation in ethics first, and then in political philosophy. However, such a search for foundations does not necessarily succeed. Nevertheless, far from limiting ourselves to a critical standpoint, we try to propose here a clarification of CSR and all the levels involved, in particular the ethical standpoint, which could be more deeply analyzed.
This article establishes, on the one hand, that the use of the concept of capability as a simple “metric” of human development is a reductionist view of Sen’s intellectual enterprise. On the other hand, it aims to show that it is vain to expect from Sen a theory of justice in terms of rights to certain capabilities. We present two lines of arguments: 1) By taking the standard and original hypothesis of capability as the set of functionings that are feasible for a person to achieve (e.g., Sen 1987), we highlight four theoretical implications of Sen’s approach that the perspective of “formal welfarism” (Fleurbaey 2003; D’Aspremont 2011) does not allow us to understand; 2) We consolidate this reading by examining the hypothesis—under-explored until now—of capability as “effective power” to act in the direction of results that we value (Sen 2008, 2009). In both cases, we show that capability, for Sen, is anything but a “metric” of individual advantage and we confirm the idea that Sen is not a capability theorist like most commentators expect (Baujard and Gilardone 2017). Furthermore, the second hypothesis leads to incorporating from the outset the issue of moral obligation in the concept of capability. As a result, not only is capability not a metric of personal advantage, but it is not a representation of personal advantage at all. This is where we identify the genuine conceptual revolution of Sen which, contrary to what Ricœur (2004) thought, does not lie in the right-capability pair, but in the responsibility-capability pair, forcing us to rethink the standard framework of theories of justice. Finally, it appears that Sen shares the ideas of the proponents of the economics of the person (Ballet et al. 2014), the idea that a theory of justice in terms of rights to certain capabilities would remain trapped by a purely functional view of freedom. Above all, highlighting the responsibility-capability pair opens the way for new perspectives on people’s liberty and rationality, especially in questions of justice and collective choice.