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Two fundamental attributes of the capability approach are: (1) a broadening of the evaluation space from the instrumental means such as income to the intrinsic ends of beings and doings, or functionings; and (2) the further broadening of evaluation from achievement of ends to opportunity to achieve those ends — from functionings to capabilities. This chapter accepts the first broadening, but presents a critique of the opportunity perspective in capability theory, using as a platform a critique of recent work on inequality of opportunity. The chapter argues that similar critiques of concept and empirical application apply to capability analysis as an analysis and an evaluation of opportunity. Perhaps for this reason, much of the practical implementation of capability theory ends up by in fact focusing on outcomes in functionings space, with only a loose link to opportunity.
Social progress in the future will depend more on bottom-up initiatives and grassroots transformations than on top-down state interventions. Everyone can start the movement toward a better society by taking initiatives in the family, in the community, at work, and in the capacity of a parent, spouse, worker, employer, investor, consumer, voter, volunteer.
The welfare state is a key pillar of social cohesion but is under stress in the globalized economy. It must be reformed in order to focus its attention on making the economic sphere more sustainable and less conducive to inequalities in the first place, thereby reducing the need for redistribution. By granting better economic and social rights to citizens, the state can play a more emancipatory role.
At this time when many have lost hope amidst conflicts, terrorism, environmental destruction, economic inequality and the breakdown of democracy, this beautifully written book outlines how to rethink and reform our key institutions - markets, corporations, welfare policies, democratic processes and transnational governance - to create better societies based on core principles of human dignity, sustainability, and justice. This new vision is based on the findings of over 300 social scientists involved in the collaborative, interdisciplinary International Panel on Social Progress. Relying on state-of-the-art scholarship, these social scientists reviewed the desirability and possibility of all relevant forms of long-term social change, explored current challenges, and synthesized their knowledge on the principles, possibilities, and methods for improving the main institutions of modern societies. Their common finding is that a better society is indeed possible, its contours can be broadly described, and all we need is to gather forces toward realizing this vision.
The looming threats impose the need to simultaneously make progress on the fronts of equity, democracy, and sustainability. Any scenario that fails on one of these fronts ultimately fails on the others.
Globalization and technology are key drivers of the current social trends, but they are actually determined by institutions and policies which can be altered to render them more friendly to the less advantaged social groups.
Markets, corporations, and financial systems are essential to thriving economies but need to be regulated in order to serve the common good. In particular, the currently dominant form of the corporation needs a double reform of its purpose and its governance.
The search for a better society must shed old ideological divisions (such as socialism versus capitalism) and embrace the complexity of economic, political, and social mechanisms, where the distribution of resources, power, and status interfere and determine inequalities.
Long-term trends in cultures and social norms tend to make societies more inclusive and to improve the respect enjoyed by ethnic groups, genders, and people with various sexual orientations, even if there are some setbacks and reversals at some places and times.
Politics has taken a strong polarizing direction and democracy is under attack, or in doubt, almost everywhere. Simple measures can restore the power of the citizenry and make the political process more responsive to the population’s needs and values.