Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Amartya Sen'
Start a new discussion about 'Amartya Sen'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
Amartya Sen, CH
Order of the Companions of Honour
The Order of the Companions of Honour is an order of the Commonwealth realms. It was founded by King George V in June 1917, as a reward for outstanding achievements in the arts, literature, music, science, politics, industry or religion....

  is an Indian economist
Economist
An economist is a professional in the social science discipline of economics. The individual may also study, develop, and apply theories and concepts from economics and write about economic policy...

 who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics
Welfare economics
Welfare economics is a branch of economics that uses microeconomic techniques to evaluate economic well-being, especially relative to competitive general equilibrium within an economy as to economic efficiency and the resulting income distribution associated with it...

 and social choice theory
Social choice theory
Social choice theory is a theoretical framework for measuring individual interests, values, or welfares as an aggregate towards collective decision. A non-theoretical example of a collective decision is passing a set of laws under a constitution. Social choice theory dates from Condorcet's...

, and for his interest in the problems of society's poorest members. Sen is best known for his work on the causes of famine, which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceived shortages of food.

He is currently the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. He is also a senior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows
Harvard Society of Fellows
The Harvard Society of Fellows is a group of scholars selected at the beginning of their careers by Harvard University for extraordinary scholarly potential, upon whom distinctive academic and intellectual opportunities are bestowed in order to foster their individual growth and intellectual...

, distinguished fellow of All Souls College, Oxford
All Souls College, Oxford
The Warden and the College of the Souls of all Faithful People deceased in the University of Oxford or All Souls College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England....

 and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

, where he previously served as Master from 1998 to 2004. He is the first Indian and the first Asian academic to head an Oxbridge
Oxbridge
Oxbridge is a portmanteau of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge in England, and the term is now used to refer to them collectively, often with implications of perceived superior social status...

 college.

Amartya Sen's books have been translated into more than thirty languages over a period of forty years. He is a trustee of Economists for Peace and Security
Economists for Peace and Security
Economists for Peace and Security is a United Nations-registered, New York-based NGO which links economists interested in peace and security issues. Inspired by International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War, it was founded in 1989 as Economists Against the Arms Race , before becoming...

. In 2006, Time magazine
Time (magazine)
Time is an American news magazine. A European edition is published from London. Time Europe covers the Middle East, Africa and, since 2003, Latin America. An Asian edition is based in Hong Kong...

listed him under "60 years of Asian Heroes" and in 2010 included him in their "100 most influential persons in the world". New Statesman
New Statesman
New Statesman is a British centre-left political and cultural magazine published weekly in London. Founded in 1913, and connected with leading members of the Fabian Society, the magazine reached a circulation peak in the late 1960s....

 listed him in their 2010 edition of 'World's 50 Most Influential People Who Matter'.

Early life and education


Sen was born to a Bengali Hindu
Bengali Hindu
Bengali Hindus are an ethno-linguistic group, belonging to the Indo-Aryan family and are native to the Bengal region of the Indian Subcontinent. The Bengali Hindus along with other related ethno-linguistic groups constitute the vast majority of Hindus...

 family of Santiniketan
Santiniketan
Santiniketan is a small town near Bolpur in the Birbhum district of West Bengal, India, approximately 180 kilometres north of Kolkata . It was made famous by Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore, whose vision became what is now a university town that attracts thousands of visitors each year...

, West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

. His ancestral home was in Wari, Dhaka
Dhaka
Dhaka is the capital of Bangladesh and the principal city of Dhaka Division. Dhaka is a megacity and one of the major cities of South Asia. Located on the banks of the Buriganga River, Dhaka, along with its metropolitan area, had a population of over 15 million in 2010, making it the largest city...

, then part of India; now Bangladesh
Bangladesh
Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

 which became a new country in 1971 following its separation from Pakistan
Pakistan
Pakistan , officially the Islamic Republic of Pakistan is a sovereign state in South Asia. It has a coastline along the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman in the south and is bordered by Afghanistan and Iran in the west, India in the east and China in the far northeast. In the north, Tajikistan...

 which, in turn, was earlier formed as a result of the partition of British India
British Raj
British Raj was the British rule in the Indian subcontinent between 1858 and 1947; The term can also refer to the period of dominion...

 in 1947. Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore , sobriquet Gurudev, was a Bengali polymath who reshaped his region's literature and music. Author of Gitanjali and its "profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse", he became the first non-European Nobel laureate by earning the 1913 Prize in Literature...

 is said to have given Amartya Sen his name ("Amartya" meaning "immortal"). Sen hails from a distinguished family: his maternal grandfather Acharya Kshiti Mohan Sen, a close associate of Rabindranath Tagore, was a renowned scholar of medieval Indian literature
Indian literature
Indian literature refers to the literature produced on the Indian subcontinent until 1947 and in the Republic of India thereafter. The Republic of India has 22 officially recognized languages....

, an authority on the philosophy of Hinduism
Hindu philosophy
Hindu philosophy is divided into six schools of thought, or , which accept the Vedas as supreme revealed scriptures. Three other schools do not accept the Vedas as authoritative...

, and also the second Vice Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University
Visva-Bharati University
Visva Bharati University is a Central University for research and teaching in India, located in the twin towns of Santiniketan and Sriniketan in the Indian state of West Bengal. It was founded by Rabindranath Tagore who called it Visva Bharati, which means the communion of the world with India...

. His maternal grandfather was an uncle of Sukumar Sen, ICS the First-Chief Election Commissioner of India
Chief Election Commissioner of India
The Chief Election Commissioner heads the Election Commission of India, a body constitutionally empowered to conduct free and fair elections to the national and state legislatures...

 and his equally distinguished brothers, Amiya Sen
Amiya Sen
Amiya Sen was an Indian cricketer. He was a right-handed batsman and a right-arm medium-pace bowler who played for Bengal. He was born and died in Calcutta....

, a very well known doctor, and Barrister
Barrister
A barrister is a member of one of the two classes of lawyer found in many common law jurisdictions with split legal professions. Barristers specialise in courtroom advocacy, drafting legal pleadings and giving expert legal opinions...

 Ashoke Kumar Sen
Ashoke Kumar Sen
Ashoke Kumar Sen was an Indian barrister, a former Cabinet minister of India, and an Indian parliamentarian....

, M.P.
Member of Parliament
A Member of Parliament is a representative of the voters to a :parliament. In many countries with bicameral parliaments, the term applies specifically to members of the lower house, as upper houses often have a different title, such as senate, and thus also have different titles for its members,...

 and a former Union Cabinet Minister for Law and Justice of India
Ministry of Law and Justice (India)
The Ministry of Law and Justice is a prominent Ministry of Government of India. Under the , the Ministry is vested with the responsibility of administration of legal affairs, justice, and legislative affairs in India....

. Sen's father Professor Ashutosh Sen and mother Amita Sen were both born in Manikganj
Manikganj District
The district of Manikganj consists 3575 mosques, 160 temples, 10 churches, five Buddhist temples and a pagoda.-Literacy and education:Literacy and educational institutions Average literacy 26.9%; male 33.7%, female 20.1%...

, Dhaka. His father was a Professor of Chemistry at Dhaka University and later served for several years in Delhi, becoming the Chairman of the West Bengal Public Service Commission.

Sen began his high-school education at St Gregory's School
St Gregory's School (Dhaka)
St. Gregory's High School is a Catholic High School founded in Dhaka, British India, in 1882 by Father Gregory de Groote, a Belgian Benedictine priest & ex-student of Dhaka Collegiate School. The school, located on Subhas Bose Avenue of Luxmibazar neighborhood of old Dhaka, was named after Pope...

 in Dhaka in 1941, in modern-day Bangladesh. His family came to India following the partition of the country in 1947. In India Sen studied at the Visva-Bharati University school
Patha Bhavana
Patha Bhavana is an institution of primary and secondary education in Santiniketan, West Bengal, India. Founded by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore in 1901, starting with only five students, the school is characterized by its philosophy of learning with the heart in closeness to nature without...

 and then at Presidency College, Kolkata
Presidency College, Kolkata
Presidency University, Kolkata, formerly Hindu College and Presidency College, is a unitary, state aided university, located in Kolkata, West Bengal. and one of the premier institutes of learning of liberal arts and sciences in India. In 2002 it was ranked number one by the weekly news magazine...

, where he earned a First Class First in his B.A. (Honours) in Economics and emerged as the most eminent student of the well known batch of 1953. Subsequently, in the same year, he moved to Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College, Cambridge
Trinity College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge. Trinity has more members than any other college in Cambridge or Oxford, with around 700 undergraduates, 430 graduates, and over 170 Fellows...

. There he earned a First Class (Starred First) BA
Bachelor of Arts
A Bachelor of Arts , from the Latin artium baccalaureus, is a bachelor's degree awarded for an undergraduate course or program in either the liberal arts, the sciences, or both...

 (Honours) in 1956. He was elected as the President of the Cambridge Majlis in the same year. While still an undergraduate student of Trinity, he met Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis
Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis
Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis FRS was an Indian scientist and applied statistician. He is best remembered for the Mahalanobis distance, a statistical measure. He made pioneering studies in anthropometry in India...

. Mahalanobis, who was much impressed with Sen, returned to Calcutta and immediately recommended the brilliant Cambridge undergraduate to Triguna Sen, the then Education Minister
Education minister
An education minister is a position in the governments of some countries responsible for dealing with educational matters.-Country-related articles and lists:Minister of Education may refer to:...

 of West Bengal, who had been instrumental in turning the National Council into the new Jadavpur University.

After Sen had completed his Tripos examination and had enrolled for a Ph.D. in Economics to be completed at Trinity College, Cambridge, he returned to India on a two year leave. Triguna Sen immediately appointed him as Professor
Professor
A professor is a scholarly teacher; the precise meaning of the term varies by country. Literally, professor derives from Latin as a "person who professes" being usually an expert in arts or sciences; a teacher of high rank...

 and the Founder-Head
Head
In anatomy, the head of an animal is the rostral part that usually comprises the brain, eyes, ears, nose and mouth . Some very simple animals may not have a head, but many bilaterally symmetric forms do....

 of Department of Economics at Jadavpur University
Jadavpur University
Jadavpur University , is a premier educational and research institution in India.It is located in Kolkata, West Bengal and comprises two campuses - the main campus at Jadavpur and the new campus at Salt Lake...

, Calcutta, which was his very first appointment, at the age of 23. This still remains the youngest age at which anybody has been appointed to a professorship or a head of departmentship in India. During his tenure at Jadavpur University, Sen had the good fortune of having economic methodologist, A. K. Dasgupta, who was then teaching at the renowned Benares Hindu University, as his supervisor. After two full years of full time teaching in Jadavpur, Sen returned to Cambridge to complete his Ph.D. in 1959, which was immediately acclaimed as a pathbreaking work.

Subsequently, Sen won a Prize Fellowship at Trinity College, which gave him four years of freedom to do anything he liked, during which period he took the radical decision of studying philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

. That proved to be of immense help to his later research. Sen related the importance of studying philosophy thus: "The broadening of my studies into philosophy was important for me not just because some of my main areas of interest in economics relate quite closely to philosophical disciplines (for example, social choice theory makes intense use of mathematical logic and also draws on moral philosophy, and so does the study of inequality and deprivation), but also because I found philosophical studies very rewarding on their own." However, his deep interest in philosophy can be dated back to his college days in Presidency, when he both read books on philosophy and debated philosophical themes.

To Sen, then Cambridge was like a battlefield. There were major debates between supporters of Keynesian economics
Keynesian economics
Keynesian economics is a school of macroeconomic thought based on the ideas of 20th-century English economist John Maynard Keynes.Keynesian economics argues that private sector decisions sometimes lead to inefficient macroeconomic outcomes and, therefore, advocates active policy responses by the...

 and the diverse contributions of Keynes' followers, on the one hand, and the "neo-classical" economists skeptical of Keynes, on the other. Sen was lucky to have close relations with economists on both sides of the divide. Meanwhile, thanks to its good "practice" of democratic and tolerant social choice, Sen's own college, Trinity College, was an oasis very much removed from the discord. However, because of a lack of enthusiasm for social choice theory whether in Trinity or Cambridge, Sen had to choose a quite different subject for his Ph.D.
Doctor of Philosophy
Doctor of Philosophy, abbreviated as Ph.D., PhD, D.Phil., or DPhil , in English-speaking countries, is a postgraduate academic degree awarded by universities...

 thesis, after completing his B.A. He submitted his thesis on "the choice of techniques" in 1959 under the supervision of the brilliant but vigorously intolerant Joan Robinson
Joan Robinson
Joan Violet Robinson FBA was a post-Keynesian economist who was well known for her knowledge of monetary economics and wide-ranging contributions to economic theory...

. According to Quentin Skinner
Quentin Skinner
Quentin Robert Duthie Skinner is the Barber Beaumont Professor of the Humanities at Queen Mary, University of London.-Biography:...

, Sen was a member of the secret society Cambridge Apostles
Cambridge Apostles
The Cambridge Apostles, also known as the Cambridge Conversazione Society, is an intellectual secret society at the University of Cambridge founded in 1820 by George Tomlinson, a Cambridge student who went on to become the first Bishop of Gibraltar....

 during his time at Cambridge.

Between 1960–1961, Amartya was a visiting Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology is a private research university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts. MIT has five schools and one college, containing a total of 32 academic departments, with a strong emphasis on scientific and technological education and research.Founded in 1861 in...

. He was also a visiting Professor at UC-Berkeley, Stanford, and Cornell.

He has taught economics
Economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 also at the University of Calcutta
University of Calcutta
The University of Calcutta is a public university located in the city of Kolkata , India, founded on 24 January 1857...

 and at the Delhi School of Economics
Delhi School of Economics
Delhi School of Economics , commonly referred to as DSE or D School, is a centre of post graduate learning of the University of Delhi. The centre is situated in the university's North Campus in Maurice Nagar, and is surrounded by a host of other prestigious academic institutions of the country...

 (where he completed his magnum opus Collective Choice and Social Welfare in 1970), where he was a Professor from 1961 to 1972, a period which is considered to be a Golden Period in the history of DSE. In 1972 he joined the London School of Economics
London School of Economics
The London School of Economics and Political Science is a public research university specialised in the social sciences located in London, United Kingdom, and a constituent college of the federal University of London...

 as a Professor of Economics where he taught until 1977. From 1977 to 1986 he taught at the University of Oxford
University of Oxford
The University of Oxford is a university located in Oxford, United Kingdom. It is the second-oldest surviving university in the world and the oldest in the English-speaking world. Although its exact date of foundation is unclear, there is evidence of teaching as far back as 1096...

, where he was first a Professor of Economics at Nuffield College, Oxford
Nuffield College, Oxford
Nuffield College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England. It is an all-graduate college and primarily a research establishment, specialising in the social sciences, particularly economics, politics and sociology. It is a research centre in the social sciences...

 and then the Drummond Professor of Political Economy and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford
All Souls College, Oxford
The Warden and the College of the Souls of all Faithful People deceased in the University of Oxford or All Souls College is one of the constituent colleges of the University of Oxford in England....

. In 1986 he joined Harvard
Harvard University
Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

 as the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor of Economics. In 1998 he was appointed as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In January 2004 Sen returned to Harvard. He is also a contributor to the Eva Colorni Trust at the former London Guildhall University
London Guildhall University
London Guildhall University was a university in the United Kingdom from 1992 to 2002. On 1 August 2002, it merged with the University of North London to form London Metropolitan University...

.

Membership and Associations


He has served as Presidents of the Econometric Society
Econometric Society
The Econometric Society is an international society for the advancement of economic theory in its relation with statistics and mathematics. It was founded on December 29, 1930 at the Stalton Hotel in Cleveland, Ohio....

 (1984), the International Economic Association (1986–1989), the Indian Economic Association (1989) and the American Economic Association
American Economic Association
The American Economic Association, or AEA, is a learned society in the field of economics, headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee. It publishes one of the most prestigious academic journals in economics: the American Economic Review...

 (1994). He has also served as President of the Development Studies Association
Development Studies Association
The Development Studies Association is a scholarly society which works to "connect and promote the development research community in UK and Ireland"...

 (1980–1982) and is a Honorary Vice-President of the Royal Economic Society
Royal Economic Society
The Royal Economic Society is incorporated by a Royal Charter dated 2 December 1902. It is one of the oldest economic associations in the world. Currently it has over 3,300 individual members, of whom 60% live outside the United Kingdom...

, which he has been since 1988.

He presently serves as Honorary Director of Center for Human and Economic Development Studies at Peking University
Peking University
Peking University , colloquially known in Chinese as Beida , is a major research university located in Beijing, China, and a member of the C9 League. It is the first established modern national university of China. It was founded as Imperial University of Peking in 1898 as a replacement of the...

 in China
People's Republic of China
China , officially the People's Republic of China , is the most populous country in the world, with over 1.3 billion citizens. Located in East Asia, the country covers approximately 9.6 million square kilometres...

 and is also a board council member of the Prime Minister of India's Global Advisory Council of Overseas Indians.

Research


Sen's papers in the late 1960s and early 1970s helped develop the theory of social choice, which first came to prominence in the work by the American economist Kenneth Arrow
Kenneth Arrow
Kenneth Joseph Arrow is an American economist and joint winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics with John Hicks in 1972. To date, he is the youngest person to have received this award, at 51....

, who, while working at the RAND Corporation
RAND
RAND Corporation is a nonprofit global policy think tank first formed to offer research and analysis to the United States armed forces by Douglas Aircraft Company. It is currently financed by the U.S. government and private endowment, corporations including the healthcare industry, universities...

, had most famously showed that all voting rules, be they majority rule or two thirds-majority
Supermajority
A supermajority or a qualified majority is a requirement for a proposal to gain a specified level or type of support which exceeds a simple majority . In some jurisdictions, for example, parliamentary procedure requires that any action that may alter the rights of the minority has a supermajority...

 or status quo
Status quo
Statu quo, a commonly used form of the original Latin "statu quo" – literally "the state in which" – is a Latin term meaning the current or existing state of affairs. To maintain the status quo is to keep the things the way they presently are...

, must inevitably conflict with some basic democratic norm. Sen's contribution to the literature was to show under what conditions Arrow's impossibility theorem
Arrow's impossibility theorem
In social choice theory, Arrow’s impossibility theorem, the General Possibility Theorem, or Arrow’s paradox, states that, when voters have three or more distinct alternatives , no voting system can convert the ranked preferences of individuals into a community-wide ranking while also meeting a...

 would indeed come to pass as well as to extend and enrich the theory of social choice, informed by his interests in history of economic thought
History of economic thought
The history of economic thought deals with different thinkers and theories in the subject that became political economy and economics from the ancient world to the present day...

 and philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

.

In 1981, Sen published Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), a book in which he demonstrated that famine occurs not only from a lack of food
Food
Food is any substance consumed to provide nutritional support for the body. It is usually of plant or animal origin, and contains essential nutrients, such as carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, or minerals...

, but from inequalities built into mechanisms for distributing food. Sen also demonstrated that the Bengal famine was caused by an urban economic boom that raised food prices, thereby causing millions of rural workers to starve to death when their wages did not keep up. Sen's interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943
Bengal famine of 1943
The Bengal famine of 1943 struck the Bengal. Province of pre-partition India. Estimates are that between 1.5 and 4 million people died of starvation, malnutrition and disease, out of Bengal’s 60.3 million population, half of them dying from disease after food became available in December 1943 As...

, in which three million people perished. This staggering loss of life was unnecessary, Sen later concluded. He presents data that there was an adequate food supply in Bengal at the time, but particular groups of people including rural landless labourers and urban service providers like haircutters did not have the monetary means to acquire food as its price rose rapidly due to factors that include British military acquisition, panic buying, hoarding, and price gouging
Price gouging
Price gouging is a pejorative term referring to a situation in which a seller prices goods or commodities much higher than is considered reasonable or fair. In precise, legal usage, it is the name of a crime that applies in some of the United States during civil emergencies...

, all connected to the war in the region. In Poverty and Famines, Sen revealed that in many cases of famine, food supplies were not significantly reduced. In Bengal, for example, food production, while down on the previous year, was higher than in previous non-famine years. Thus, Sen points to a number of social and economic factors, such as declining wages, unemployment, rising food prices, and poor food-distribution systems. These issues led to starvation among certain groups in society. His capabilities approach focuses on positive freedom, a person's actual ability to be or do something, rather than on negative freedom approaches, which are common in economics and simply focuses on non-interference. In the Bengal famine, rural laborers' negative freedom to buy food was not affected. However, they still starved because they were not positively free to do anything, they did not have the functioning of nourishment, nor the capability to escape morbidity.

In addition to his important work on the causes of famines, Sen's work in the field of development economics has had considerable influence in the formulation of the Human Development Report
Human Development Report
The Human Development Report is an annual milestone publication by the Human Development Report Office of the United Nations Development Programme .-History:...

, published by the United Nations Development Programme
United Nations Development Programme
The United Nations Development Programme is the United Nations' global development network. It advocates for change and connects countries to knowledge, experience and resources to help people build a better life. UNDP operates in 177 countries, working with nations on their own solutions to...

. This annual publication that ranks countries on a variety of economic and social indicators owes much to the contributions by Sen among other social choice theorists in the area of economic measurement of poverty and inequality.

Sen's revolutionary contribution to development economics and social indicators is the concept of 'capability
Capability approach
The capability approach was initially conceived in the 1980s as an approach to welfare economics....

' developed in his article "Equality of What." He argues that government
Government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

s should be measured against the concrete capabilities of their citizens. This is because top-down development will always trump human rights
Human rights
Human rights are "commonly understood as inalienable fundamental rights to which a person is inherently entitled simply because she or he is a human being." Human rights are thus conceived as universal and egalitarian . These rights may exist as natural rights or as legal rights, in both national...

 as long as the definition of terms remains in doubt (is a 'right' something that must be provided or something that simply cannot be taken away?). For instance, in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 citizens have a hypothetical "right" to vote. To Sen, this concept is fairly empty. In order for citizens to have a capacity to vote, they first must have "functionings." These "functionings" can range from the very broad, such as the availability of education
Education
Education in its broadest, general sense is the means through which the aims and habits of a group of people lives on from one generation to the next. Generally, it occurs through any experience that has a formative effect on the way one thinks, feels, or acts...

, to the very specific, such as transportation to the poll
Polling station
A polling place or polling station is where voters cast their ballots in elections.Since elections generally take place over a one- or two-day span on a periodic basis, often annual or longer, polling places are often located in facilities used for other purposes, such as schools, churches, sports...

s. Only when such barriers are removed can the citizen truly be said to act out of personal choice. It is up to the individual society to make the list of minimum capabilities guaranteed by that society. For an example of the "capabilities approach" in practice, see Martha Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum , is an American philosopher with a particular interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, political philosophy and ethics....

's Women and Human Development.

He wrote a controversial article in The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books
The New York Review of Books is a fortnightly magazine with articles on literature, culture and current affairs. Published in New York City, it takes as its point of departure that the discussion of important books is itself an indispensable literary activity...

entitled "More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing" (see Missing women of Asia
Missing women of Asia
The phenomenon of the missing women of Asia is a shortfall in the number of women in Asia relative to the number that would be expected if there was no sex-selective abortion or female infanticide or if the newborn of both sexes received similar levels of health care and nutrition.The phenomenon...

), analyzing the mortality impact of unequal rights between the genders in the developing world, particularly Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

. Other studies, such as one by Emily Oster
Emily Oster
Emily Fair Oster is an American economist. After receiving an B.A. and Ph.D. from Harvard in 2002 and 2006 respectively, Oster moved to the University of Chicago where she is now a Becker Fellow, which is a two year position at the Becker Center on Chicago Price Theory...

, have argued that this is an overestimation, though Oster has recanted some of her conclusions.

Sen was seen as a ground-breaker among late twentieth-century economists for his insistence on discussing issues seen as marginal by most economists. He mounted one of the few major challenges to the economic model that posited self-interest as the prime motivating factor of human activity. While his line of thinking remains peripheral, there is no question that his work helped to re-prioritize a significant sector of economists and development workers, even the policies of the United Nations
United Nations
The United Nations is an international organization whose stated aims are facilitating cooperation in international law, international security, economic development, social progress, human rights, and achievement of world peace...

.

Welfare economics seeks to evaluate economic policies in terms of their effects on the well-being of the community. Sen, who devoted his career to such issues, was called the "conscience of his profession." His influential monograph Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970), which addressed problems related to individual rights (including formulation of the liberal paradox
Liberal paradox
The liberal paradox is a logical paradox advanced by Amartya Sen, building on the work of Kenneth Arrow and his impossibility theorem, which showed that within a system of menu-independent social choice, it is impossible to have both a commitment to "Minimal Liberty", which was defined as the...

), justice and equity, majority rule, and the availability of information about individual conditions, inspired researchers to turn their attention to issues of basic welfare. Sen devised methods of measuring poverty that yielded useful information for improving economic conditions for the poor. For instance, his theoretical work on inequality provided an explanation for why there are fewer women than men in India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

 and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 despite the fact that in the West and in poor but medically unbiased countries, women have lower mortality rate
Mortality rate
Mortality rate is a measure of the number of deaths in a population, scaled to the size of that population, per unit time...

s at all ages, live longer, and make a slight majority of the population. Sen claimed that this skewed ratio results from the better health treatment and childhood opportunities afforded boys in those countries, as well as sex-specific abortion.

Governments and international organizations handling food crises were influenced by Sen's work. His views encouraged policy makers to pay attention not only to alleviating immediate suffering but also to finding ways to replace the lost income of the poor, as, for example, through public-works projects, and to maintain stable prices for food. A vigorous defender of political freedom, Sen believed that famines do not occur in functioning democracies because their leaders must be more responsive to the demands of the citizens. In order for economic growth to be achieved, he argued, social reforms, such as improvements in education and public health, must precede economic reform.

Perceptions: In comparisons


Amartya has been called "the Conscience and the Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa , born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu , was a Roman Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, in 1950...

 of Economics" for his work on famine
Famine
A famine is a widespread scarcity of food, caused by several factors including crop failure, overpopulation, or government policies. This phenomenon is usually accompanied or followed by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality. Every continent in the world has...

, human development theory
Human development theory
Human development theory is a theory that merges older ideas from ecological economics, sustainable development, welfare economics, and feminist economics. It seeks to avoid the overt normative politics of most so-called "green economics" by justifying its theses strictly in ecology, economics and...

, welfare economics, the underlying mechanisms of poverty
Poverty
Poverty is the lack of a certain amount of material possessions or money. Absolute poverty or destitution is inability to afford basic human needs, which commonly includes clean and fresh water, nutrition, health care, education, clothing and shelter. About 1.7 billion people are estimated to live...

, gender inequality
Gender inequality
Gender inequality refers to disparity between individuals due to gender. Gender is constructed both socially through social interactions as well as biologically through chromosomes, brain structure, and hormonal differences. Gender systems are often dichotomous and hierarchical; binary gender...

, and political liberalism
Contributions to liberal theory
Individual contributors to classical liberalism and political liberalism are associated with philosophers of the Enlightenment. Liberalism as a specifically named ideology begins in the late 18th century as a movement towards self-government and away from aristocracy...

. However, he denies the comparison to Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa
Mother Teresa , born Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu , was a Roman Catholic nun of Albanian ethnicity and Indian citizenship, who founded the Missionaries of Charity in Calcutta, India, in 1950...

 by saying that he has never tried to follow a lifestyle of dedicated self-sacrifice.

Nalanda International University Project


In May 2007, he was appointed by the Government of India
Government of India
The Government of India, officially known as the Union Government, and also known as the Central Government, was established by the Constitution of India, and is the governing authority of the union of 28 states and seven union territories, collectively called the Republic of India...

 as chairman of Nalanda Mentor Group to examine the framework of international cooperation, and proposed structure of partnership, which would govern the establishment of Nalanda International University
Nalanda International University
Nalanda International University is the name of a proposed university in Nalanda, Bihar which is expected to be functional from 2013 with seven schools or more and will expand in later years...

 Project as an international centre of education seeking to revive the ancient center of higher learning which was present in India from the 5th century CE to 1197 CE.

Presidency College, Kolkata


In June 2011, he was appointed as the Chief Mentor of Presidency College
Presidency College, Kolkata
Presidency University, Kolkata, formerly Hindu College and Presidency College, is a unitary, state aided university, located in Kolkata, West Bengal. and one of the premier institutes of learning of liberal arts and sciences in India. In 2002 it was ranked number one by the weekly news magazine...

 by West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

 Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee
Mamata Banerjee is the 11th and current chief minister of the Indian state of West Bengal. She is the first woman to hold the office. Banerjee founded All India Trinamool Congress in 1997 and became chairperson, after separating from the Indian National Congress...

.

Personal life and beliefs


Sen's first wife was Nabaneeta Dev Sen
Nabaneeta Dev Sen
Nabaneeta Dev Sen is an award-winning Indian poet, novelist and academic.- Personal life :Dev Sen was born in Kolkata, to the poet-couple Narendra Dev and Radharani Devi. In addition to Bengali and English, she reads Hindi, Oriya, Assamese, French, German, Sanskrit, and Hebrew.In the very next...

, an Indian writer and scholar, with whom he had two children: Antara
Antara Dev Sen
-Biography:Antara Dev Sen was born on September 21, 1963 in Cambridge, England, the first daughter of Nobel Prize winning economist Amartya Sen and novelist Nabaneeta Dev Sen. Antara did her schooling in Calcutta and higher education in Delhi, India. Sen also studied at Smith College in ...

, a journalist and publisher, and Nandana
Nandana Sen
-Early life:Sen was born in Kolkata, West Bengal to a Bengali Hindu family. She is the daughter of Nobel Laureate and Bharat Ratna economist Amartya Sen and Padma Shri winner Nabanita Dev Sen, one of the most prominent authors in the contemporary Bengali literature....

, a Bollywood
Bollywood
Bollywood is the informal term popularly used for the Hindi-language film industry based in Mumbai , Maharashtra, India. The term is often incorrectly used to refer to the whole of Indian cinema; it is only a part of the total Indian film industry, which includes other production centers producing...

 actress. Their marriage broke up shortly after they moved to London in 1971.
In 1973, he married his second wife, Eva Colorni, who was Jewish, who died from stomach cancer
Stomach cancer
Gastric cancer, commonly referred to as stomach cancer, can develop in any part of the stomach and may spread throughout the stomach and to other organs; particularly the esophagus, lungs, lymph nodes, and the liver...

 in 1985. They had two children, Indrani, a journalist in New York, and Kabir, who teaches music at Shady Hill School
Shady Hill School
Shady Hill School is an independent, co-educational day school in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Founded in 1915, Shady Hill serves students in pre-kindergarten through 8th grade. The school has an enrollment of approximately 500 students.Current Shady Hill Head of School Mark Stanek became the...

.

His present wife, Emma Georgina Rothschild
Emma Georgina Rothschild
Emma Georgina Rothschild, CMG is a member of the prominent Rothschild banking family of England. She is presently British economic historian and professor at Harvard University.- Early life to the present :...

, is an economic historian, an expert on Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

 and a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge
King's College, Cambridge
King's College is a constituent college of the University of Cambridge, England. The college's full name is "The King's College of our Lady and Saint Nicholas in Cambridge", but it is usually referred to simply as "King's" within the University....

. Sen usually spends his winter holidays at his home in Santiniketan in West Bengal
West Bengal
West Bengal is a state in the eastern region of India and is the nation's fourth-most populous. It is also the seventh-most populous sub-national entity in the world, with over 91 million inhabitants. A major agricultural producer, West Bengal is the sixth-largest contributor to India's GDP...

, India
India
India , officially the Republic of India , is a country in South Asia. It is the seventh-largest country by geographical area, the second-most populous country with over 1.2 billion people, and the most populous democracy in the world...

, where he likes to go on long bike rides, and maintains a house in Cambridge
Cambridge
The city of Cambridge is a university town and the administrative centre of the county of Cambridgeshire, England. It lies in East Anglia about north of London. Cambridge is at the heart of the high-technology centre known as Silicon Fen – a play on Silicon Valley and the fens surrounding the...

, Massachusetts
Massachusetts
The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is a state in the New England region of the northeastern United States of America. It is bordered by Rhode Island and Connecticut to the south, New York to the west, and Vermont and New Hampshire to the north; at its east lies the Atlantic Ocean. As of the 2010...

, where he and Emma spend the spring and long vacations. Asked how he relaxes, he replies: "I read a lot and like arguing with people."

Sen is a self-proclaimed agnostic and holds that this can be associated with Hinduism as a political entity
Atheism in Hinduism
Atheism or disbelief in God or gods has been a historically propounded viewpoint in many of the orthodox and heterodox streams of Hindu philosophies...

. In an interview for the magazine California, which is published by the University of California, Berkeley
University of California, Berkeley
The University of California, Berkeley , is a teaching and research university established in 1868 and located in Berkeley, California, USA...

, he noted:

Academic achievements, awards and honors


Sen has received many honorary degree
Honorary degree
An honorary degree or a degree honoris causa is an academic degree for which a university has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, study, and the passing of examinations...

s (over 90) from universities around the world, including from the following:

  • 1981; He was elected a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    American Academy of Arts and Sciences
    The American Academy of Arts and Sciences is an independent policy research center that conducts multidisciplinary studies of complex and emerging problems. The Academy’s elected members are leaders in the academic disciplines, the arts, business, and public affairs.James Bowdoin, John Adams, and...

    .
  • 1982: He was awarded honorary fellowship by the Institute of Social Studies
    Institute of Social Studies
    The International Institute of Social Studies of Erasmus University Rotterdam in The Hague is a unique, independent and international graduate school in the social sciences...

    .
  • 1998: He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
    Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences
    The Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences, commonly referred to as the Nobel Prize in Economics, but officially the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel , is an award for outstanding contributions to the field of economics, generally regarded as one of the...

     for his work in welfare economics
    Welfare economics
    Welfare economics is a branch of economics that uses microeconomic techniques to evaluate economic well-being, especially relative to competitive general equilibrium within an economy as to economic efficiency and the resulting income distribution associated with it...

    .
  • 1999: He received the Bharat Ratna
    Bharat Ratna
    Bharat Ratna is the Republic of India's highest civilian award, awarded for the highest degrees of national service. This service includes artistic, literary, and scientific achievements, as well as "recognition of public service of the highest order." Unlike knights, holders of the Bharat Ratna...

     'the highest civilian award in India' by the President of India
    President of India
    The President of India is the head of state and first citizen of India, as well as the Supreme Commander of the Indian Armed Forces. President of India is also the formal head of all the three branches of Indian Democracy - Legislature, Executive and Judiciary...

    .
  • 1999: He was offered the honorary citizenship of Bangladesh
    Bangladesh
    Bangladesh , officially the People's Republic of Bangladesh is a sovereign state located in South Asia. It is bordered by India on all sides except for a small border with Burma to the far southeast and by the Bay of Bengal to the south...

     by Sheikh Hasina
    Sheikh Hasina
    Sheikh Hasina is a Bangladeshi politician and current Prime Minister of Bangladesh. She has been the President of the Awami League, a major political party, since 1981. She is the eldest of five children of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding father of Bangladesh and widow of a reputed nuclear...

     in recognition of his achievements in winning the Nobel Prize, and given that his ancestral origins were in what has become the modern state of Bangladesh
  • 2000: He was awarded the order of Companion of Honour, UK.
  • 2000: He received Leontief Prize for his outstanding contribution to economic theory from the Global Development and Environment Institute
    Global Development and Environment Institute
    The Global Development And Environment Institute is a research center at Tufts University founded in 1993. GDAE works to promote a better understanding of how societies can pursue their economic and community goals in an environmentally and socially sustainable manner...

    .
  • 2000: He was awarded the Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service USA;
  • 2000: He was the 351st Commencement Speaker of Harvard University
    Harvard University
    Harvard University is a private Ivy League university located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States, established in 1636 by the Massachusetts legislature. Harvard is the oldest institution of higher learning in the United States and the first corporation chartered in the country...

    .
  • 2002: He received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union
    International Humanist and Ethical Union
    The International Humanist and Ethical Union is an umbrella organisation embracing humanist, atheist, rationalist, secular, skeptic, freethought and Ethical Culture organisations worldwide. Founded in Amsterdam in 1952, the IHEU is a democratic union of more than 100 member organizations in 40...

    .
  • 2003: He was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.
  • He is awarded the Life Time Achievement award by Bangkok-based United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
    United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific
    The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific , located in Bangkok, Thailand, is the regional arm of the United Nations Secretariat for the Asian and Pacific region. It was established in 1947 to encourage economic cooperation among its member states...

     (UNESCAP)
  • 2010: He was chosen to deliver the Demos Annual Lecture 2010

Publications

  • Choice of Techniques, 1960.
  • Sen, Amartya, An Aspect of Indian Agriculture, Economic Weekly, Vol. 14, 1962.
  • Collective Choice and Social Welfare, 1970, Holden-Day, 1984, Elsevier. Description.
  • Sen, Amartya, On Economic Inequality, New York, Norton, 1973. (Expanded edition with a substantial annexe by James E. Foster and A. Sen, 1997).
  • On Economic Inequality, 1973.
  • Poverty and Famines: an Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, 1981a.
  • Sen, Amartya, Poverty and Famines : An Essay on Entitlements and Deprivation, Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1982a.
  • Sen, Amartya K., Choice, Welfare and Measurement, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1982b. Description and scroll to chapter-preview links.
  • Sen, Amartya, Food Economics and Entitlements, Helsinki, Wider Working Paper 1, 1986.
  • Sen, Amartya, On Ethics and Economics, Oxford, Basil Blackwell, 1987. Scroll to chapter-preview links.

  • Drèze, Jean
    Jean Drèze
    Jean Drèze is a development economist who has been influential in Indian economic policymaking. He is a naturalized Indian of Belgian origin. His work in India include issues like hunger, famine, gender inequality, child health and education, and the NREGA...

     and Sen, Amartya, Hunger and Public Action. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1989.
  • Hunger and Public Action, jointly edited with Jean Drèze, 1989
  • Sen, Amartya, "More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing". New York Review of Books, 1990. (http://www.nybooks.com/articles/3408)
  • Sen, Amartya, Inequality Reexamined, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1992.
  • Nussbaum, Martha
    Martha Nussbaum
    Martha Nussbaum , is an American philosopher with a particular interest in ancient Greek and Roman philosophy, political philosophy and ethics....

    , and Sen, Amartya. The Quality of Life. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1993. Preview.
  • India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity, with Jean Drèze, 1995.
  • Sen, Amartya, Reason Before Identity (The Romanes Lecture
    Romanes Lecture
    The Romanes Lecture is a prestigious free public lecture given annually at the Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford, England.The lecture series was founded by, and named after, the biologist George Romanes, and has been running since 1892. Over the years, many notable figures from the Arts and Sciences have...

     for 1998), Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999. ISBN 0-19-951389-9
  • Commodities and Capabilities, 1999.
  • Sen, Amartya, Development as Freedom, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 1999. (Review by the Asia Times)
  • Development as Freedom
    Development as Freedom
    Development as Freedom is a book focused on international development written by economist Amartya Sen.-Background:Amartya Sen posits that all individuals are endowed with a certain set of capabilities while it is simply a matter of realising these capabilities that will allow a person to escape...

    , 1999.
  • Reason Before Identity, 1999.
  • Freedom, Rationality, and Social Choice: The Arrow Lectures and Other essays, 2000.
  • Sen, Amartya, Rationality and Freedom, Harvard, Harvard Belknap Press, 2002.
  • Rationality and Freedom, 2004.
  • Inequality Reexamined
    Inequality Reexamined
    Inequality Reexamined is a book by Amartya Sen .In it Sen evaluates the different perspectives of the general notion of inequality, focusing mainly on his well known capability approach. The author argues that inequality is a central notion to every social theory that has stood on time...

    , 2004.
  • The Argumentative Indian
    The Argumentative Indian
    The Argumentative Indian is a book written by Nobel Prize winning Indian economist Amartya Sen. It is a collection of essays that discuss India's history and identity, focusing on the traditions of public debate and intellectual pluralism...

    , 2005.
  • Sen, Amartya, The Argumentative Indian
    The Argumentative Indian
    The Argumentative Indian is a book written by Nobel Prize winning Indian economist Amartya Sen. It is a collection of essays that discuss India's history and identity, focusing on the traditions of public debate and intellectual pluralism...

    , London: Allen Lane, 2005. (Review by the Guardian, Review by the Washington Post)
  • Sen, Amartya, The Three R's of Reform, Economic and Political Weekly
    Economic and Political Weekly
    The Economic and Political Weekly is a left-leaning Indian magazine published from Mumbai by the Sameeksha Trust, a charitable trust. The magazine was first published in 1949 as the Economic Weekly and since 1966 was re-christened the Economic and Political Weekly. It was edited by Krishna Raj...

    , Vol. 40(19): pp. 1971–1974, 2005.
  • Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time), New York, W. W. Norton, 2006.
  • Imperial Illusions: India, Britain, and the wrong lessons. By Amartya Sen. Response by Niall Ferguson.
  • Equality of Capacity by Amartya Sen
  • The Idea of Justice
    The Idea of Justice
    The Idea of Justice is a 2009 book by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen. The book has been described by The Economist as "commanding summation of Mr Sen’s own work on economic reasoning and on the elements and measurement of human well-being"...

    Harvard University Press & London: Allen Lane,2009. Description and scroll to chapter-preview links.
  • 2010, Mismeasuring Our Lives: Why GDP Doesn't Add Up [Paperback] Joseph E. Stiglitz
    Joseph E. Stiglitz
    Joseph Eugene Stiglitz, ForMemRS, FBA, is an American economist and a professor at Columbia University. He is a recipient of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and the John Bates Clark Medal . He is also the former Senior Vice President and Chief Economist of the World Bank...

     (Author), Amartya Sen (Author), Jean-Paul Fitoussi
    Jean-Paul Fitoussi
    Jean-Paul Fitoussi is a French economist of Sephardi Jewish descent. He currently is a Professor of Economics at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris, where he has taught since 1982...

     (Author) ISBN 978-1595585196, The New Press
    The New Press
    The New Press is a not-for-profit, United States-based publishing house that operates in the public interest. It was established in 1990 as an alternative to large commercial publishers, and is supported financially by various foundations, groups and corporations including the Ford Foundation, the...

    .
  • (ed.) Peace and Democratic Society. Cambridge: Open Book Publishers, 2011.
  • Other Publications on Google Scholar

See also

  • List of economists
  • The Equality of autonomy
    Equality of autonomy
    Equality of autonomy is a concept from political philosophy advocated by Amartya Sen which suggests that societies should strive to help individuals have an equal chance at autonomy or empowerment...

    , a concept of equality posed by Sen.
  • The Kerala model
    Kerala model
    The Kerala model based on the development experience of the southern Indian state of Kerala, refers to the state's achievement of significant improvements in material conditions of living, reflected in indicators of social development that are comparable to that of many developed countries, even...

    , an expression or concept invented and introduced by Sen.

External links




Audio

Video