Gendered Dimensions and Capabilities: Opportunities, Dilemmas and Challenges

Looking through the lens of gender, this article engages with the opportunities, dilemmas and challenges posed by Sen’s framework to sociological research. Sen’s capability approach offers sociological research a dynamic framework through its concept of agency and its multidimensional approach. It also poses dilemmas, revealed in the tensions within agency and choice and the challenges in operationalizing Sen’s framework: adapting it to sociological models and applying it to empirically grounded research.

Through conversion factors and processes, a central component in the capabilities approach, I reveal the potential of Sen’s approach for developing more dynamic frameworks in sociological research, with respect to (1) changes in gendered norms (how new norms are seeded); (2) how entitlements are converted into a sense of entitlement to make claims; and (3) how the capabilities approach can lead toward a more dynamic institutional analysis of welfare states. My contribution to Sen’s framework involves elaborating two mechanisms in the conversion of capabilities to agency freedoms and achievements: the sense of entitlement to make claims and the perceived scope of alternatives in exercising rights.