Journal of Happiness Studies

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1383–1399 | Cite as

Capability and Happiness: A Suggested Integration From a Dynamic Perspective

  • Maurizio Pugno
Research Paper


In the study of human welfare and progress, two prominent approaches stand out, but they appear to have opposite perspectives and even opposite weaknesses. The capability approach (CA), founded by A. Sen, focuses on the objective factors that contribute to human welfare. The happiness approach (HA), initiated by R. Easterlin, focuses on subjective well-being as the outcome of living conditions. The main weaknesses regard ‘aggregation’ for the CA but not for the HA, and ‘adaptation’ for the CA but not for the HA. The paper suggests to integrate the two approaches by adopting the perspective of endogenous dynamics which was put forward by Scitovsky (who was a forerunner of the HA) but which remained undeveloped. This perspective helps to avoid the just mentioned and other weaknesses; it widens the research field to include both poor and rich countries and communities; and it contributes to link the objective with the subjective evaluations of individual welfare. Empirical evidence drawn from the recent interdisciplinary literature provides some support for the analyses.


Capability approach Happiness approach Amartya Sen Tibor Scitovsky Well-being Endogenous dynamics 

JEL Classification

D63 I30 J24 O15 



This paper is an elaboration of my presentation at the Conference on “Public Happiness” (June 4–5 2013, Rome, Italy), where I benefited from comments from, and discussions with, several participants, in particular Neil De Marchi, Mozaffar Qizilbash, Luigino Bruni, Carol Ryff and Chad Baum. I wish to thank also the two anonymous referees for comments and suggestions. The financial support for this research provided by MIUR is gratefully acknowledged.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Economics and Law and CreaMUniversity of CassinoCassinoItaly

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