Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts


Political Science


Dr. Charles Jones


This paper intends to identity and explore the relationship between the capability approach, as developed by Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum, and Karl Marx’s theory of alienation. As it turns out, Marx’s ‘theory of alienation’ bears a close resemblance to the foundations and ambitions of the capability approach. This paper closely compares Marx’s theory of alienation with the capability approach so as to highlight their overlap and identify the potential areas of development for both theories. I first discuss Marx’s theory of alienation through the philosophical contributions of G.W.F. Hegel and the Young Hegelians. In the process we find that alienation, for Marx, represents the frustration of our freedoms and natural development which we could only truly overcome by first overcoming capitalism. I then focus on Sen and Nussbaum’s capability approach which, in comparison to utilitarian and resourcist approaches, values people’s development and freedoms through what they are capable of being and doing. Finally, in comparing the two traditions on a number of common themes and concepts, I find that the capability approach shares and addresses Marx’s concerns for human development and freedom pragmatically within present arrangements.



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