School of Law

The Capabilities Approach & Law

09 July 2014 | 10:00 | Workshop
Moot Court Room, Liberty Building


The Capabilities Approach proposed by Amartya Sen and others, notably Martha Nussbaum, is recognised as the most comprehensive normative language that we have for developing social interventions aimed at improving people’s lives. It has as its central characteristic a focus on what people are effectively able to be and do. It is argued that well-being and justice are best conceptualised in terms of the effective opportunities people have to undertake the activities that they want to engage in, and be whom they want to be. The approach has been highly influential in low income countries as a means of measuring and promoting development. In the last decade scholars have begun to explore its relevance to issues facing high income countries. However, whilst prominent in development studies, economics, philosophy, and health sciences, amongst other disciplines, legal scholars have been tentative in exploring the utility of this theoretical framework, notwithstanding the significance of law’s potential role in social change agendas. Challenging law’s reticence, this workshop brings together an interdisciplinary group of scholars with the aim of assessing and exploring the utility of the approach across different areas of law and policy.


10.00 – 10.30                Registration & Refreshments

10.30 – 10.40                Welcome – Michael Thomson (University of Leeds)

10.40 - 11-40                 The Capabilities Approach & Public Policy: Prospects & Problems

                                       Jo Wolff, Professor of Philosophy, UCL

11.40 – 12.00                 Break

12.00 – 1.00                   Embodying Capabilities

                                       Health Capability as a Legal Entitlement

                                       Sridhar Venkatapuram, Lecturer in Global Health & Philosophy, KCL

                                       Capability and Disability: Including Everyone?

                                       Alex Pearl, School of Law, Leeds

1.00 – 2.00                     Lunch

2.00 – 3.30                     Operationalising Capabilities

                                       The Capabilities Approach & Criminal Justice

                                       Thom Brook, Reader in Law, Durham

                                       Capabilities and the Defining Structure of Contractual Relations

                                       Lyn Tjon Soei Len, Postdoctoral Fellow, Law, University of Amsterdam

                                       A Brief Comparison of the Capabilities Approach and Welfare Economics Applied to Policy Interventions

                                       John Nellthorp, Senior Research Fellow, Transport Studies, Leeds.

3.30 – 4.00                     Break               

4.00 – 5.00                     Capabilities and Education

                                       Education in the West: Ideas from the East on Capabilities

                                       Amrita Mukherjee, Lecturer in Law, Leeds

                                       Legal Capabilities: Developments in the Theory and Practice of Public Legal Education

                                       Lisa Wintersteiger, Director of Policy

                                       Law for Life: Foundation for Public Legal Education

5.00 – 5.30                     Round-up


This event is generously supported by the School of Law’s Strategic Development Fund. It is free to attend but places are limited. Please reserve your place by emailing Michael Thomson.

Location Details

Moot Court Room, The Liberty Building
The School of Law
University of Leeds

The Liberty Building is number 16 on the campus map3, and is situated on the corner of Moorland Road and Belle Vue Road on the Western Campus of the University of Leeds. It is situated behind the Maurice Keyworth Building (Business School).

  • From Leeds train station, it is a 30 minute walk or you can take a taxi for around £5.00.
  • Alternatively, the number 56 bus runs from Albion Street via Woodhouse Lane (A660) and stops on Moorland Road. These run every 10 minutes.
  • If travelling by car, there is a visitors' car park at the south end of the University campus or there is limited four-hour street parking on Belle Vue Road immediately behind the Liberty Building.

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