Journal article Open Access

Using the Capability Approach to Conceptualise Inequality in Archaeology: the Case of the Late Neolithic Bosnian Site Okolište c. 5200–4600 BCE

Arponen, Vesa P.J.; Müller, Johannes; Hofmann, Robert; Furholt, Martin; Ribeiro, Artur; Horn, Christian; Hinz, Martin

The past few decades have witnessed a growing realisation that market-based measures of human well-being—measures that centre on income and consumption distributions—miss some other perhaps even more essential elements of human well-being. This insight has found a prominent expression in the work of the Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen’s so-called capability approach. At the same time, the market-based measure of inequality as a function of the distribution of material remains in graves and other locations remain dominant in archaeology. In this paper, we explore the significance of the capability approach, and the associated concept of human well-being based on the idea of capabilities, to the archaeology of social inequality and social malintegration. We discuss these notions using the case study of the Late Neolithic Bosnian tell site Okolište and argue that there, in c. 5200–4600 BCE , the monopolisation of certain critical goods led to a critical capability inequality, malintegration and to a prolonged period of social unrest and decline.

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