External capabilities and the limits to social policy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter discusses the nature of external capabilities and how they bear upon social policy. Alternative definitions of external capabilities are compared and a simplified version suggested. It is argued that the issues surrounding external capabilities can be resolved only if the capability approach loses its individualistic slant by according higher status to social context. A layered, non-reductionist social theory would be helpful here, and a layered scheme for the capability approach is suggested. Such a scheme can show up the narrowness of traditional social policy and its muted impact on external capabilities. Despite endeavouring to fight poverty, social policy cannot guarantee the benign external conditions under which a person’s lifetime opportunities will flourish.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical Social Policy and the Capability Approach
EditorsH.-U. Otto, H. Ziegler
Place of PublicationOpladen
PublisherBarbara Budrich
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-8474-0294-7
ISBN (Print)978-3-8474-0611-2
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2014

Bibliographical note

© 2014, Barbara Budrich Publishers. This is an author-produced version of the published paper. Uploaded in accordance with the publisher’s self-archiving policy. Further copying may not be permitted; contact the publisher for details.


  • capabilities
  • capability approach
  • welfare
  • social policy

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