Internet Encycopedia of Philosophy:
"The Capability Approach is defined by its choice of focus upon the moral significance of individuals’ capability of achieving the kind of lives they have reason to value. This distinguishes it from more established approaches to ethical evaluation, such as utilitarianism or resourcism, which focus exclusively on subjective well-being or the availability of means to the good life, respectively. A person’s capability to live a good life is defined in terms of the set of valuable ‘beings and doings’ like being in good health or having loving relationships with others to which they have real access.
The Capability Approach was first articulated by the Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen in the 1980s, and remains most closely associated with him. It has been employed extensively in the context of human development, for example, by the United Nations Development Programme, as a broader, deeper alternative to narrowly economic metrics such as growth in GDP per capita. Here ‘poverty’ is understood as deprivation in the capability to live a good life, and ‘development’ is understood as capability expansion.
Within academic philosophy the novel focus of Capability Approach has attracted a number of scholars. It is seen to be relevant for the moral evaluation of social arrangements beyond the development context, for example, for considering gender justice. It is also seen as providing foundations for normative theorising, such as a capability theory of justice that would include an explicit ‘metric’ (that specifies which capabilities are valuable) and ‘rule’ (that specifies how the capabilities are to be distributed). The philosopher Martha Nussbaum has provided the most influential version of such a capability theory of justice, deriving from the requirements of human dignity a list of central capabilities to be incorporated into national constitutions and guaranteed to all up to a certain threshold."
From the Wikipedia: Capability approach:
Initially Sen argued for five components in assessing capability:
- The importance of real freedoms in the assessment of a person's advantage
- Individual differences in the ability to transform resources into valuable activities
- The multi-variate nature of activities giving rise to happiness
- A balance of materialistic and nonmaterialistic factors in evaluating human welfare
- Concern for the distribution of opportunities within society