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Communication and Social Policy, Vol. 4 - 1997, No. 4

Amartya Sen's 'Capabilities' Approach To The Evaluation Of Welfare And Its Application To Communications

, pages: 25-34

To concern ourselves with the welfare state is to concern ourselves with entitlements. This raises the question, entitlements to what? This essay examines the relevance of the thought of welfare theorist Amartya Sen for the subject of communication theory and policy. Sen.s perspective originates from a normative egalitarianism derived from a Kantian emphasis on the position of the other, which he poses in contrast to utilitarian views on welfare. Sen observes that it is possible to make the same set of resources or utilities available to different persons or groups and realise that some are capable of making more effective use of them than others. Applying this capabilities approach to communication policy leads to the conclusion that it is not access in a crude sense that is crucial, but the distribution of social resources which make access usable. The point of framing the analysis in this way is that the focus shifts from a mechanistic and crude preoccupation with utilities to enhancing the satisfaction of media users. needs in the realm of communication.

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