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Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach (The Seeley Lectures) Paperback – June 4, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0521003858 ISBN-10: 0521003857 Edition: 1St Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: The Seeley Lectures (Book 3)
  • Paperback: 334 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1St Edition edition (June 4, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521003857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521003858
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #321,072 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Kirkus Reviews

A major voice for ethical law calls for a global feminism to address the deplorable conditions of women in the Third World. Nussbaum (Law and Ethics/Univ. of Chicago) draws once more on the research behind For Love of Country (1996) and Sex and Social Justice (1998): the first for her condemnation of the legalized rapeby spouses or strangersof Third World women (and child brides), the second for her argument that Americans are morally responsible for alleviating the suffering of the victims of inequality abroad. Enlivening her argument with legal case histories and personal anecdotesfor example, a story about a religious Muslim woman who was pained to lose her purdah (her modestly isolated and veiled lifestyle)Nussbaum considers the challenges of introducing Western moral and legal standards in entrenched patriarchal societies where women's higher mortality rate is as endemic as poverty. In India, the primary country discussed here, feminist reform runs up against powerful religious establishments. The abortion of baby girls has declined and widows are no longer expected to jump on their husbands funeral pyres, but until recently Hindu women who had suffered from domestic abuse and fled could be forced back home if they could not pay a fine. In polygamous Islamic regions and countries, women have fewer legal rights to their own bodies, and the issues of religious autonomy are stickier. But even when Third World women largely defend the discriminatory practices of their culture, Nussbaum shows again and again how resourceful deeply religious women and men can be in adapting the religion's moral understanding to a changing reality. The authors prose is dense but readable, though readers daunted by references to exogamous marriage, and patrilocal residence may want to keep a dictionary handy. Easier to understand is her urgent warning that there must be a global effort to help the millions of women suffering malnutrition, drudgery, bad marriages, illiteracy, and more. -- Copyright ©2000, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Women and Human Development is an important book. It presents a rich, nuanced argument that is both intellectually rigorous and attuned to practical dilemmas." New York Times Book Review

"Women and Human Development is an important book. It presents a rich, nuanced argument that is both intellectually rigorous and attuned to practical dilemmas...eloquent." The New York Times Book Review

"Philosophically ambitious, politically daring and morally insistent, Women and Human Development hopes to shake the complacent reader into realising just how dire the conditions are under which so many women around the world try to live, work and love." London Review of Books

"Theological ethicists who believe that feminist global ethics need not be culturally relativist nor committed to a kind of abstraction that 'turns the mind away from reality' should find in Women and Human Development a stimulating argument that attends to both experience and philosophical grounding yet is open to the significant contributions of religious traditions and their scriptural interpretations. This book should stimulate interest among generalists as well as professional ethicists and scholars in philosophy and religious studies." Religious Studies Review

"This is a must-read book for international development specialists, and will greatly reward others willing to invest some effort and thought in it." Choice

"A powerfully argued proposal for a turn to 'quality of life' as privileged criterion in discerning just distribution and access to social and material goods in civil society. A vital text for studies in development, economic ethics, feminist ethics, theories of justice, human rights, women's studies." Center for Women and Religion

"This book is an important contribution to the increasing dialogue between Western and Third World feminists, and should be read by anyone interested in international development." Susan Okin, Stanford University

"The ringing defences of universalism, liberalism and human rights in the early chapters of Sex and Social Justice [Nussbaum; Oxford University Press] are expanded and revised in Women and Human Development: The Capabilities Approach." The London Review of Books

"I found myself caught up in Nussbaum's arguments, and when I taught Women and Human Development to a seminar filled with antiliberal graduate students, this book gave them a terrific challenge.... Even those who strongly disagree with liberalism and are strong supporters of cultural diversity and relativism will be forced to confront the questions Nussbaum raises and to think critically about these issues. Political philosophers can ask for nothing more." American Political Science Review

"Theological ethicists who believe that feminist global ethics need not be culturally relativist nor committed to a kind of abstraction that 'turns the mind away from reality' should find in Women and Human Development a stimulating argument that attends to both experience and philosophical grounding yet is open to the significant contributions of religious traditions and their scriptural interpretations. This book should stimulate interest among generalists as well as professional ethicists and scholars in philosophy and religious studies." Religious Studies Review

More About the Author

Martha C. Nussbaum is the Ernst Freund Distinguished Service Professor of Law and Ethics at the University of Chicago, appointed in Law, Philosophy, and Divinity.

Author photo by Robin Holland

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

33 of 39 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Those who have read Nussbaum's other books and essays on women, development and political theory will find here a carefully argued, contextually sensitive and principled approach to questions of global justice and human flourishing. Drawing on the work of Nobel laureate Amartya Sen (source of "the capabilities approach") and her own Aristotelian social philosophy, Nussbaum takes a hard look at key debates about development, rejecting both free market fundamentalism and underexamined cultural relativism. Her universalist stance is controversial but courageous, a sincere effort to think through a political ethic in the wake of globalization. Not everyone will agree with Nussbaum, but she asks the right questions and lays out positions to be argued with.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By E. Nilsson on December 12, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Nussbaum's book is excellent reading for those with little background in philosophy or economics. She explains her important ideas about the goals of development very clearly. The point of development is to permit people to achieve a fully human functioning. What she writes might strike many readers as, well, just common sense.
But this is far from the case. Nussbaum's claim that the point of development is to help people achieve a fully human functioning is actually very foreign to most standard theories of economics and economic development.
Readers with a good background in economics and/or philosophy will find her book quite impressive. In fact the more you know about the relevant subjects the more you can see how good, original, and important her ideas are. She adroitly deals with many of the flaws of standard economics to present a thoughtful alternative vision of what it means to be developed.
She also addresses long-standing debates involving those for--and against--postmodernist thought. She sneaks this in so that it is easy for many readers to miss that she is doing this. Although she accepts many of the charges made by postmodernists against modernist thinking, she explicitly rejects the pure egoistic subjectivity offered by postmodernism. Stated crudely, what Nussbaum offers is a dignified vision of what humans should be without invoking God or "objective reality."
Really good stuff. I've used this book for college undergraduates and many have praised this book highly and many had said they had their eyes opened to important issues they didn't think about before.
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By Phil on November 14, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I recommend everyone read this book! Nussbaum, indebted to Aristotle, provides a solution to the problems of globalization that allows an individual to flourish, but do so in her own way--that is, she walks a very fine line between universalism (human flourishing) and relativism (respecting one's autonomy to pursue a particular way of life). Her theory has even been adopted by the United Nations Development Programme.
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56 of 108 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 20, 2000
Format: Hardcover
For anyone who has read Nussbaum's books on political issues, her latest is more of the same: the West has a moral obligation to rectify various wrongs suffered by women due to cultural/religious belief systems. All of this would be fascinating if Nussbaum would bother to first provide an argument stating why her thick conception of the Good must take precedence over those she dismisses out of hand. The irony here is that many of the things she points to as evil are the same things the British thought necessary to abolish when India was treated as a colony. Why, then, was imperialism bad then but perfectly okay now that self-styled leftists like comrade Nussbaum have decided its time their global vision of world socialism be forced on these other cultures? The problem for Nussbaum is that whatever hybrid version of political liberalism she wants to ascribe to has to be argued for -- it cannot simply be assumed. For instance, for Nussbaum the treatment of a woman in an islamic society might seem at odds with a Kantian notion of moral autonomy and the dignity of treating persons as ends in themselves. Consequently,if one adopts such a view of the moral life (and this ought to be argued for first), then such societies may seem morally undeveloped and thus harmful to their members. However, to a muslim observing the amount of autonomy people have in the West, the fact that our children are allowed certain kinds of entertainments, that women are displayed in advertisments in various stages of undress may indicate to them an equally appalling level of harm we allow our children and women to endure.Read more ›
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