Empowerment and International Development

Thumbnail Image
umi-umd-4839.pdf(1.52 MB)
No. of downloads: 5019
Publication or External Link
Keleher, Loretta Wills
Lichtenberg, Judith
Crocker, David A
International development theorists and practitioners agree that human empowerment is a necessary part of good development. This agreement is encouraging because attention and resources are being directed towards the important goal of empowering the oppressed. It is problematic because the agreement is relatively superficial and masks some deep and important disagreements about the goals and means of development theory, policy, and practice. Chapters One and Two compare the dominant economic growth approach to development with the capability approach, a relatively new alternative. I determine that the capability approach offers a more complete and therefore, superior concept of empowerment. Chapter Three considers Thomas Pogge's argument for the conclusion that the praise and attention the capability approach receives cannot be justified. I explain that Pogge's argument is based on a misunderstanding of crucial aspects of the capability approach, including the important role of empowerment. Chapters Four and Five provide detailed consideration of the role of empowerment within both Amartya Sen's and Martha Nussbaum's versions of the capability approach. I conclude that although neither scholar consistently uses the term empowerment, the concept of empowerment - both as agency and as capability-set expansion - plays a robust role on both versions of the approach. Moreover, I make the controversial suggestion that many of the differences between Sen and Nussbaum are more a matter of style than substance. Chapter Six considers the concern that Sen does not do enough to engage the role of institutionalized power in generating inequalities that prevent individuals from being empowered. I conclude that despite valuable contributions, Sen fails to provide a complete account of empowerment issues. However, this is not a fatal flaw. Considering both Sen's contributions, and the fact that the approach is well suited to accommodate a more complete understanding of institutionalized power and of empowerment for development (for example, Naila Kabeer's Social Relations Approach), it is clear that Sen and the capability approach have offered valuable steps towards a complete concept of empowerment.