Prize Recipient 2009: Martha Nussbaum

The American philosopher Martha C. Nussbaum is professor of law and ethics at University of Chicago since 1995. Her academic career began at Harvard and Brown Universities. Since the 1980s she has further developed the capabilities approach designed by Nobel Prize winner Amartya Sen. Welfare cannot be measured by income alone, but rather in the degree in which peoples’ capabilities are given consideration within the social order. That includes the capability to be economically involved and politically active, but also the capability to develop emotional and creative potential. Thus, poor is considered those who do not have access to or who are denied that exercise.

By now, the capabilities approach is widely recognized and forms the basis of the Human Development Index used by the United Nations to base their global development reports. Furthermore, Nussbaum has produced a number of publications on gender issues, patriotism, and handling ethnic and religious diversity. On January 17, 2009, in the presence of Federal President Horst Köhler, the WZB honored Martha Nussbaum’s research on the conditions of human coexistence and social justice with the A.SK Social Science Award.