Monday, November 3, 2014

Born Today= Nobel Economist Amartya Sen-wikipedia

Amartya Sen

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Amartya Sen
Amartya Sen NIH.jpg
Official Portrait at the Nobel Prize
Native nameঅমর্ত্য সেন
Born 3 November 1933 (age 81)
Santiniketan, Bengal Presidency, British India (present-day West Bengal, India)
FieldWelfare economics, development economics, ethics
School/traditionCapability Approach
Alma materPresidency College of the University of Calcutta (B.A.),
Trinity College, Cambridge (B.A., M.A., Ph.D.)
ContributionsHuman development theory
AwardsNobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences (1998)
Bharat Ratna (1999)
National Humanities Medal (2012)[3]

from the BBC programme Start the Week, 7 January 2013

Information at IDEAS/RePEc
Amartya Kumar Sen (Bengali: অমর্ত্য সেন; born 3 November 1933) is an Indian economist and philosopher who since 1972 has taught and worked in the United Kingdom and the United States. He has made contributions to welfare economics, social choice theory, economic and social justice, economic theories of famines, and indexes of the measure of well-being of citizens of developing countries. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 for his work in welfare economics.
He is currently the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. He serves as the chancellor of Nalanda University. He is also a senior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows, distinguished fellow of All Souls College, Oxford, an honorary fellow of Darwin College, Cambridge and a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, where he previously served as Master from 1998 to 2004.[4] He is also known for being one of the strongest champions of rationalism, secularism, and egalitarianism in India, and he has condemned the ghettoization of Ambedkar as a Dalit leader.

Early life and education

Sen was born in Santiniketan, West Bengal, India, to Ashutosh Sen and Amita Sen. Rabindranath Tagore gave Amartya Sen his name (Bengali অমর্ত্য ômorto, lit. "immortal"). Sen's family was from Wari and Manikganj, Dhaka, both in present-day Bangladesh. His father Ashutosh Sen was a professor of chemistry at Dhaka University who moved with his family to West Bengal in 1945 and worked at various government institutions, including the West Bengal Public Service Commission, (of which he was the chairman), and the Union Public Service Commission. Sen's mother Amita Sen was the daughter of Kshiti Mohan Sen, a well-known scholar of ancient and medieval India and close associate of Rabindranath Tagore. He served as the Vice Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University for some years.
Sen began his high-school education at St Gregory's School in Dhaka in 1940. From the autumn of 1941, Sen studied at Visva-Bharati University school. He later went to Presidency College, Kolkata, where earned a B.A. in Economics, with a minor in Mathematics. In 1953, he moved to Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned a second B.A. degree in Economics in 1955. He was elected President of the Cambridge Majlis. While Sen was officially a Ph.D. student at Cambridge (though he had finished his research in 1955-6), he was offered the position of Professor and Head of the Economics Department of the newly created Jadavpur University in Calcutta. He served in that position, starting the new Economics Department, during 1956 to 1958.
Meanwhile, Sen was elected to a Prize Fellowship at Trinity College, which gave him four years of freedom to do anything he liked. He took the radical decision of studying philosophy. 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."[5] 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 on philosophical themes.
To Sen, Cambridge was like a battlefield. There were major debates between supporters of Keynesian economics 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 somewhat 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. thesis. He submitted his thesis on "The Choice of Techniques" in 1959, though the work had been completed much earlier, (except for some valuable advice from his adjunct supervisor in India, Professor A.K. Dasgupta, given to Sen while teaching and revising his work at Jadavpur) under the supervision of the "brilliant but vigorously intolerant" post-Keynesian, Joan Robinson.[6] Quentin Skinner notes that Sen was a member of the secret society Cambridge Apostles during his time at Cambridge.[7]


Between 1960 and 1961, Sen was a visiting Professor at Massachusetts Institute of Technology.[8] He was also a visiting Professor at UC-Berkeley and Cornell. He taught as Professor of Economics between 1963 and 1971 at the Delhi School of Economics (where he completed his magnum opus Collective Choice and Social Welfare by 1969),.[9] This is a period considered to be a Golden Period in the history of DSE. In 1972, he joined the London School of Economics as a Professor of Economics where he taught until 1977. From 1977 to 1986 he taught at the University of Oxford, where he was first a Professor of Economics and Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford, and then the Drummond Professor of Political Economy and a Fellow of All Souls College, Oxford from 1980. In 1987, he joined Harvard as the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor of Economics. In 1998 he was appointed as Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.[4] In January 2004, Sen returned to Harvard. He also established the Eva Colorni Trust at the former London Guildhall University in the name of his deceased wife.

Membership and associations

He has served as president of the Econometric Society (1984), the International Economic Association (1986–1989), the Indian Economic Association (1989) and the American Economic Association (1994). He has also served as President of the Development Studies Association and the Human Development and Capabilities Association.
He serves, among his other commitments, as the Chair of the International Advisory Board of the Center for Human and Economic Development Studies at Peking University in China,[10]


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, who, while working at the RAND Corporation, had most famously shown that all voting rules, be they majority rule or two thirds-majority or status quo, must inevitably conflict with some basic democratic norm. Sen's contribution to the literature was to show under what conditions Arrow's impossibility theorem[11] 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 and philosophy.
In 1981, Sen published Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), a book in which he argued that famine occurs not only from a lack of food, but from inequalities built into mechanisms for distributing food. Sen also argued 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.[12]
Sen's interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. As a nine-year-old boy, he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943, 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, 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,[13] published by the United Nations Development Programme.[14] 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' developed in his article "Equality of What".[15] He argues that governments should be measured against the concrete capabilities of their citizens. This is because top-down development will always trump human rights 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 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, to the very specific, such as transportation to the polls. 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's Women and Human Development.[16]
He wrote a controversial article in The New York Review of Books entitled "More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing" (see Missing women of Asia), analyzing the mortality impact of unequal rights between the genders in the developing world, particularly Asia. Other studies, such as one by Emily Oster, had argued that this is an overestimation, though Oster has since then recanted her conclusions.[17]
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), 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[18] and China despite the fact that in the West and in poor but medically unbiased countries, women have lower mortality rates 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.
In 2009, a new book by Sen was published, The Idea of Justice.[1] Based on his previous work in welfare economics and social choice theory, but also on his philosophical thoughts, he presented his own theory of justice that he meant to be an alternative to the influential modern theories of justice of John Rawls or John Harsanyi. In opposition to Rawls but also earlier justice theoreticians Immanuel Kant, Jean-Jacques Rousseau or David Hume, and inspired by the philosophical works of Adam Smith and Mary Wollstonecraft, Sen developed a theory that is both comparative and realizations-oriented (instead of being transcendental and institutional). However, he still regards institutions and processes as being important. As an alternative to Rawls's veil of ignorance, Sen chose the thought experiment of an impartial spectator as the basis of his theory of justice. He also stressed the importance of public discussion (understanding democracy in the sense of John Stuart Mill) and a focus on people's capabilities (an approach that he had co-developed), including the notion of universal human rights, in evaluating various states with regard to justice.

Perceptions: in comparisons

Sen has been called "the Conscience of the profession" and "the Mother Teresa of Economics"[19][20] for his work on famine, human development theory, welfare economics, the underlying mechanisms of poverty, gender inequality, and political liberalism. However, he denies the comparison to Mother Teresa by saying that he has never tried to follow a lifestyle of dedicated self-sacrifice.[21]
Amartya Sen also added his voice to the campaign against the anti-gay Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code.[22]

India: university mentor for growth and revival

Nalanda International University Project

In May 2007, he was appointed as chairman[23] 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 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 to 1197.
On 19 July 2012, Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was named the first chancellor of the proposed Nalanda University (NU).[24] Teaching began there in August 2014.

Media and culture

A 57-minute documentary named Amartya Sen: A Life Re-examined, directed by Suman Ghosh, details his life and work.[25][26]
A 2001 portrait of Sen by Annabel Cullen is in Trinity College's collection.[27] A 2003 portrait of Sen hangs in the National Portrait Gallery in London.[28]

Personal life and beliefs

Sen has been married three times. His first wife was Nabaneeta Dev Sen, an Indian writer and scholar, by whom he had two daughters: Antara, a journalist and publisher, and Nandana, a Bollywood actress. Their marriage broke up shortly after they moved to London in 1971.[19] Later on, Sen married his second wife, Eva Colorni, who died from stomach cancer in 1985.[19] He has two children by Eva, a daughter Indrani, who is a journalist in New York, and a son Kabir, a hip hop artist, MC, and music teacher at Shady Hill School. In 1991, Sen married Emma Georgina Rothschild, who is now Jeremy and Jane Knowles Professor of History at Harvard University.
The Sens have a house in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is the base from which they teach during the academic year. They also have a home in Cambridge, England, where Sen is a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge, and Rothschild is a Fellow of Magdalene Collge. He usually spends his winter holidays at his home in Santiniketan in West Bengal, India, where he used to go on long bike rides until recently. Asked how he relaxes, he replies: "I read a lot and like arguing with people."[19]
Sen is an atheist and holds that this can be associated with Hinduism of the atheist schools, like Lokayata.[29][30][31] In an interview for the magazine California, which is published by the University of California, Berkeley, he noted:[32]

Academic achievements, awards and honours

Sen has received over 90 honorary degrees from universities around the world.[33]



  • Sen, Amartya (1960). Choice of techniques: an aspect of the theory of planned economic development. Oxford: Basil Blackford.
  • Sen, Amartya (1997). On economic inequality (expanded ed.). Oxford New York: Clarendon Press Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198281931. First published in 1976.
  • Sen, Amartya (1982). Poverty and famines: an essay on entitlement and deprivation. Oxford New York: Clarendon Press Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198284635.
  • Sen, Amartya (1983). Choice, welfare, and measurement. Oxford: Basil Blackwell. ISBN 9780631137962.
Reprinted as: Sen, Amartya (1999). Choice, welfare, and measurement. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674127784.
Reviewed in the Social Scientist: Sanyal, Amal (October 1983). ""Choice, welfare and measurement" by Amartya Sen". Social Scientist (Social Scientist - JSTOR) 11 (10): 49–56. doi:10.2307/3517043.
  • Sen, Amartya (1970). Collective choice and social welfare (1st ed.). San Francisco, California: Holden-Day. ISBN 9780816277650.
Reprinted as: Sen, Amartya (1984). Collective choice and social welfare (2nd ed.). Amsterdam New York New York: North-Holland Sole distributors for the U.S.A. and Canada, Elsevier Science Publishing Co. ISBN 9780444851277.
  • Sen, Amartya (1997). Resources, values, and development. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674765269.
  • Sen, Amartya (1985). Commodities and capabilities (1st ed.). Amsterdam New York New York, N.Y., U.S.A: North-Holland Sole distributors for the U.S.A. and Canada, Elsevier Science Publishing Co. ISBN 9780444877307.
Reprinted as: Sen, Amartya (1999). Commodities and capabilities (2nd ed.). Delhi New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780195650389. Reviewed in The Economic Journal.[38]
  • Sen, Amartya (1987). On ethics and economics. Oxford, UK New York, NY, USA: Basil Blackwell. ISBN 9780631164012.
  • Sen, Amartya; Drèze, Jean (1989). Hunger and public action. Oxford England New York: Clarendon Press Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198286349.
  • Sen, Amartya (1992). Inequality reexamined. New York Oxford New York: Russell Sage Foundation Clarendon Press Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198289289.
Also printed as: Sen, Amartya (November 2003). "Inequality reexamined". Oxford Scholarship Online (Oxford University Press). doi:10.1093/0198289286.001.0001.
Extract 1. (Via Ian Stoner, lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University of Minnesota, readings.)
Extract 2.
  • Sen, Amartya; Nussbaum, Martha (1993). The quality of life. Oxford England New York: Clarendon Press Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198287971.
  • Sen, Amartya; Drèze, Jean (1998). India, economic development and social opportunity. Oxford England New York: Clarendon Press Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198295280.
  • Sen, Amartya; Suzumura, Kōtarō; Arrow, Kenneth J. (1996). Social choice re-examined: proceedings of the IEA conference held at Schloss Hernstein, Berndorf, near Vienna, Austria 2 (1st ed.). New York, N.Y: St. Martin's Press. ISBN 9780312127398.
  • Sen, Amartya (1999). Development as freedom. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198297581.
Review in Asia Times.[39]
  • Sen, Amartya (2000). Freedom, rationality, and social choice: the Arrow lectures and other essays. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 9780198296997.
  • Sen, Amartya (2002). Rationality and freedom. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Belknap Press. ISBN 9780674013513.
Chapter-preview links - 1.
Chapter-preview links - 2.
  • Sen, Amartya (2005). The argumentative Indian: writings on Indian history, culture, and identity. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux. ISBN 9780312426026.
Review The Guardian.[40]
Review The Washington Post.[41]
  • Sen, Amartya (2006). Identity and violence: the illusion of destiny. Issues of our time. New York: W.W. Norton & Co. ISBN 9780393329292.
  • Sen, Amartya (31 December 2007). Imperial illusions. Washington D.C. / Online: The New Republic.
Extract: "Imperial illusions: India, Britain, and the wrong lessons."

Chapters in books

  • Sen, Amartya (1980), "Equality of what? (lecture delivered at Stanford University, 22 May 1979)", in MacMurrin, Sterling M., The Tanner lectures on human values 1 (1st ed.), Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 9780874801781.
Reprinted as: Sen, Amartya (2010), "Equality of what?", in MacMurrin, Sterling M., The Tanner lectures on human values 4 (2nd ed.), Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 195–220, ISBN 9780521176415.
Pdf version.
  • Sen, Amartya (1988), "The concept of development", in Srinivasan, T.N.; Chenery, Hollis, Handbook of development economics 1, Amsterdam New York New York, N.Y., U.S.A: North-Holland Sole distributors for the U.S.A. and Canada, Elsevier Science Publishing Co., pp. 2–23, ISBN 9780444703378.
  • Sen, Amartya (2004), "Capability and well-being", in Nussbaum, Martha; Sen, Amartya, The quality of life, New York: Routledge, pp. 30–53, ISBN 9780415934411.
  • Sen, Amartya (2004), "Development as capability expansion", in Kumar, A. K. Shiva; Fukuda-Parr, Sakiko, Readings in human development: concepts, measures and policies for a development paradigm, New Delhi New York: Oxford University Press, ISBN 9780195670523.
Reprinted in Sen, Amartya (2012), "Development as capability expansion", in Saegert, Susan; DeFilippis, James, The community development reader, New York: Routledge, ISBN 9780415507769.

Journal articles

Lecture transcripts

News coverage of the 1998 Romanes Lecture in the Oxford University Gazette.[42]



See also

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