Beyond the Biopolitics of Capability and Choice in Human Development: Being, Decision and World

Suvi Annika Alt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


International development is one of the primary biopolitical problematics of the 21st century.
Yet, biopolitical critiques of ‘human development’ tend to leave the framework’s ontological
underpinnings largely unexplored. This article seeks to remedy this gap by problematising the
notions of ‘capability’ and ‘choice’ in human development through an engagement with Martin
Heidegger’s critique of the metaphysics of modernity. The article argues that underlying human
development is an ontology that enframes human beings as a contingent, orderable, and calculable
reserve of capabilities. The enframing of choice in turn conceals the limitedness of the conditions
within which choice can happen. As opposed to such liberal choice, the article puts forward
an ontological notion of ‘decision’, which entails understanding the world as an openness that
resists any final determination of being. A politics that draws its involvement in the world from
the openness of being entails the ability to question critically even benevolent and supposedly
emancipatory projects when they lack recognition of their own ontological commitments and
of the limitations that those commitments impose on people’s lives. A re-politicisation of human
development thus requires exposing the paradigm’s ontological limits, but it also demands
practical political engagement in the factical situations that beings inhabit.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)69-88
JournalMillenium : Journal of International Studies
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015
MoEC publication typeA1 Journal article-refereed


  • enframing
  • human development
  • ontology

Field of science

  • International political science


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