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Title: Is there a Starting Gate to Responsible Adulthood?
Subtitle: Childhood, Equality of Opportunity and the Capability Approach
Author(s): LEßMANN, Ortrud
Journal: Ethical Perspectives
Volume: 23    Issue: 4   Date: 2016   
Pages: 709-728
DOI: 10.2143/EP.23.4.3188788

Abstract :
For conceiving justice towards children in the Capability Approach (henceforth CA), I suggest a detour via ‘equality of opportunity’ approaches. These approaches refer to childhood – if only in an instrumental way – as the period that serves to establish a moment of equality of opportunity. This moment has been called a ‘starting gate’. While there is no mention of such a starting gate in the CA, several authors regard it as an equality of opportunity approach. I argue in this article that the CA does not – and, in fact, cannot – envision such a moment of equality that separates childhood from adulthood. The detour thus helps to clarify that the CA adheres rather to a different conception of time, namely one that demands adjusting opportunities continuously. The detour also hints at the close link between the conception of time and that of responsibility. While a starting gate allows shifting responsibility completely from society to individuals (when they are adults), responsibility in the CA is connected to agency and never falls completely on individuals. This means in turn that agency has to be learned in childhood and youth. Children thus need space for agency and need the opportunity of taking on responsibility for their agency. Nevertheless, the present article is only a first tentative contribution to this subject, identifying some topics for further research.

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