The capability book has been written – though not here

by Ingrid Robeyns on September 12, 2017

Once upon a time, and following the inspiring example of JQ who wrote large parts of his Zombie Economics on this blog, I started a project here writing chunks of my capabilities overview book (zero, one, two, three, four—and that was it). As some of you may recall, the aim of this book project is to provide a graduate-level introduction to the capability approach that would do justice to its radically interdisciplinary nature. I have good news and (to me at least) somewhat disappointing news.

So let’s start with the good news first: there is a full (and hopefully penultimate) draft of the book manuscript. I changed the entire structure about a year ago, and then wrote large parts of it in January, and then again in June, July and August. It’s now under review with Open Book Publishers, and if all goes well and the reviewers aren’t too critical, it should be out within a reasonable timespan, and Open Acces, which was pivotal in my choice of publisher. If anyone would like to read this penultimate version, you can fire comments on the manuscript which is posted on as one of it’s ‘sessions’.

The somewhat disappointing observation is that it didn’t work for me to write bits and pieces here on this blog. I am not sure why that didn’t work for me. Clearly it does work for others. I have found that total isolation from ‘business as usual’ (that is: no students, no meetings, no responding to email, no blogging, etc.) works best for me – and then to write in a highly concentrated fashion for a few weeks or months in one go. Some books on how to write say that this ‘binge writing’ doesn’t work, but writing every day from, say, 6-8 AM or 8-10 PM, clearly didn’t work for me. To me it’s a mystery why some writing routines work for some and other writing routines work better for others, but I can only say that I’m extremely relieved to have found a routine that works for me (as some of you know, this book has been on my shoulders for way too long).

This entire process has only strengthened my admiration for those of you who have written multiple books. I genuinely don’t know how you do that, folks.



Chris Armstrong 09.12.17 at 10:09 am

First off, congratulations on the book! On writing, I’m on the other side of the fence completely, but just as baffled by the people on your side :) I’m a little-and-often person. If I write 200 words in a day, that’s great – because I can do that in a very short space of time, however busy I am, and if I do it every day, well, I’ve got a book in a year. These people who sit down and write a book in a month? I don’t see how they can do it.

Editing your text is another issue that really divides people. Many writers say that they just need to get something down, and that the actual work only starts once they can go back and rewrite it. They actually love editing. I hate it – I want to get it right the first time, and then go and do the next thing. It is actually pretty interesting that we all produce ostensibly similar things in such different ways!


Ingrid Robeyns 09.12.17 at 11:07 am

Interesting, Chris, I am also one of those persons who works with layers – hence there’s a lot of editing going on in my versions, and I have generally multiple versions before I think it’s ready (my first drafts are often very rough). Interesting indeed that there are such different paths to producing a scholarly book!


Bartholomew 09.12.17 at 7:15 pm

Different strokes for different folks – Cecil Woodham-Smith wrote some of the most popuar books on the nineteenth century, as scholarly, fully researched and referenced as any academic’s. Her DNB entry describes her writing of the climax of The Reason Why (1953), about the Charge of the Light Brigade:

‘On television she explained how she wrote the charge itself, working at a gallop through thirty-six hours non-stop without food or other break until the last gun was fired, when she poured a stiff drink and slept for two days.’


djw 09.12.17 at 7:27 pm

Congrats. Looking forward to reading it.


Moz of Yarramulla 09.12.17 at 10:27 pm

Congrats on finishing, I’m glad to hear it! I’m one of those people who would rather not hear about a book (or even a series) until it’s complete and I can sit down and read it. Posts from you and John were kind of annoying in that regard… a bit here, a bit there, all “see {yet to be written} for more”.

FWIW my very limited authorship tends to be “write concise outline. Write less concise outline. Expand outline. {repeat} finally have enough material for publication”. Excess concision is a problem I seem only able to address by too-long, too-vague excess in the other direction unless I do it in small steps. But inside my head I’m often happy with what amounts to chapter headings. “Title: privatised electricity grids cannot work. Chapter One: at a technical level the grid is necessarily cooperative. Two: markets allow or require competitive, even hostile actors…” Who needs more than that?


John Quiggin 09.13.17 at 12:55 am

I’m looking forward to reading your book, Ingrid.

My method hasn’t worked nearly so well with Economics in Two Lessons, as it did with Zombie Economics but I hope to post more of it here soon.

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