Amartya Sen

Official Portrait at the Nobel Prize

3 November 1933 (age 76) Birth Santiniketan, West Bengal, India



University of Cambridge Harvard University Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cornell University Institution University of Oxford Delhi School of Economics London School of Economics Stanford University


Welfare economics, ethics

Alma mater

St Gregory's School Patha Bhavana

In 2006. which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceived shortages of food. He is the first Asian and the first Indian academic to head an Oxbridge college. Sen was best known for his work on the causes of famine. where he previously served as Master from the years 1998 to 2004. He is also a senior fellow at the Harvard Society of Fellows and a Fellow of Trinity College. Time magazine listed him under "60 years of Asian Heroes´ and in 2010 included him in their "100 most influential persons in the world Early life and education . He is currently the Thomas W. Kolkata University of Cambridge John Rawls Influences Peter Bauer John Stuart Mill Kenneth Arrow Opposed Bernard Williams Mahbub ul Haq Influenced Kaushik Basu Jean Dreze Contributions Human development theory Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Awards Sciences (1998) Bharat Ratna (1999) Amartya Kumar Sen. Cambridge. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. CH (Bengali: g‹ÈŒá s— ‹” ›‘†. Amartya Sen's books have been translated into more than thirty languages. He is a trustee of Economists for Peace and Security. Ômorto Kumar Shen.Presidency College. born 3 November 1933) is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory and for his interest in the problems of society¶s poorest members.

A. Sen began his high-school education at St Gregory's School in Dhaka in 1941. He submitted his thesis on ³the choice of techniques´ in 1959 under the supervision of the brilliant but vigorously intolerant Joan Robinson. Dhaka in modern-day Bangladesh. and the ³neo-classical´ economists skeptical of Keynes. Rabindranath Tagore is said to have given Amartya Sen his name ("Amartya" meaning "immortal"). Calcutta. Sen won a Prize Fellowship at Trinity College. and according to Quentin Skinner. Mahalanobis. A. at the age of 23. who was then teaching in Benares. K. where he earned a First Class First in his B. he arrived in India on a two year leave. he had the good fortune of having economic methodologist. was a renowned scholar of medieval Indian literature. where he also earned a First Class (Starred First) BA (Honours) in 1956. At Cambridge he was elected as the President of the Cambridge Majlis in 1956. which gave him four years of freedom to do anything he liked. then Cambridge was like a battlefield. in modern-day Bangladesh. after completing his B.D. Dasgupta. Triguna Sen immediately appointed him as Professor and the Founder-Head of Department of Economics at Jadavpur University. on the one hand.[9] . he moved to Trinity College. which was his very first appointment. Sen was a member of the secret society "The Apostles". another Indian Nobel Prize winner.D. and also the second Vice Chancellor of Visva-Bharati University. Meanwhile. Ashoke Kumar Sen. thesis. social choice theory makes intense use of mathematical logic and also draws on moral philosophy. After Sen had enrolled for a Ph. Sukumar Sen and his brother. as his supervisor. Cambridge. the university town established by the poet Rabindranath Tagore.[7][8] During his time at Cambridge.Sen was born in Santiniketan. His ancestral home was in Wari. (Honours) in Economics and emerged as the most eminent student of the well known batch of 1953. There were major debates between supporters of Keynesian economics and the diverse contributions of Keynes¶ followers.D. on the other. His father was a Professor of Chemistry at Dhaka University and became Chairman of the West Bengal Public Services Commission. Subsequently. Sen had to choose a quite different subject for his Ph.A. he met Prasanta Chandra Mahalanobis. Dhaka. during which he took the radical decision of studying philosophy. While still an undergraduate student of Trinity College. was an oasis very much removed from the discord. because of a lack of enthusiasm for social choice theory whether in Trinity or Cambridge. However. During his tenure at Jadavpur University. in Economics to be completed at Trinity College. but also because I found philosophical studies very rewarding on their own. after returning to Calcutta. Kolkata. recommended Sen to Triguna Sen. in 1959. Trinity College. a former Law Minister of India. That proved to be of immense help to his later research. Sen hails from a distinguished family: his maternal grandfather Kshitimohan Sen. Sen's father Ashutosh Sen and mother Amita Sen were born at Manikganj.´[6] To Sen. and so does the study of inequality and deprivation). an authority on the philosophy of Hinduism. thanks to its good ³practice´ of democratic and tolerant social choice. Sen related the importance of studying philosophy thus: ³The 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. West Bengal. His maternal grandfather was an uncle of the first Chief Election Commissioner of India. the then Education Minister of West Bengal. Subsequently in the same year. Sen studied in India at the Visva-Bharati University school and Presidency College. Cambridge. His family migrated to India following partition in 1947. Sen was lucky to have close relations with economists on both sides of the divide. Sen¶s own college. Sen returned to Cambridge after two years of full time teaching to complete his Ph. a close associate of Rabindranath Tagore.

hoarding. Sen's interest in famine stemmed from personal experience. In 1981. who. while down on the previous year. Cambridge. [12] In January 2004 Sen returned to Harvard. Berkeley. they did not have the functioning of nourishment. Sen's contribution to the literature was to show under what conditions Arrow's impossibility theorem would indeed come to pass as well as to extend and enrich the theory of social choice. but from inequalities built into mechanisms for distributing food. food supplies were not significantly reduced. In 1986 he joined Harvard as the Thomas W. all connected to the war in the region. he witnessed the Bengal famine of 1943. where he was first a Professor of Economics at Nuffield College. He has taught economics also at the University of Calcutta and at the Delhi School of Economics (where he completed his magnum opus Collective Choice and Social Welfare in 1970) [11]. in which three million people perished. must inevitably conflict with some basic democratic norm. was higher than in previous nonfamine years. he was appointed as chairman of Nalanda Mentor Group to steer the execution of Nalanda University Project. In 1972 he joined the London School of Economics as a Professor of Economics where he taught until 1977. which seeks to revive the ancient seat of learning at Nalanda.Between 1960±1961. rural laborers' negative freedom to buy food was not affected. famously proved that all voting rules. 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. In the Bengal famine. which first came to prominence in the work by the American economist Kenneth Arrow. . His capabilities approach focuses on positive freedom. Oxford. Lamont University Professor of Economics. As a nine-year-old boy. Sen later concluded. Sen published Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981). informed by his interests in history of economic thought and philosophy. they still starved because they were not positively free to do anything. and Cornell. for example. [edit] Research Sen's papers in the late 1960s and early 1970s helped develop the theory of social choice. From 1977 to 1986 he taught at the University of Oxford. a book in which he demonstrated that famine occurs not only from a lack of food. Sen points to a number of social and economic factors.[10]. In Bengal. rather than on negative freedom approaches. nor the capability to escape morbidity. However. In May 2007. rising food prices. while working at the RAND Corporation. These issues led to starvation among certain groups in society. Oxford and then the Drummond Professor of Political Economy and a Fellow of All Souls College. Thus. In Poverty and Famines. Bihar. and poor food-distribution systems. and price gouging. he taught at Massachusetts Institute of Technology as a Visiting Professor. a person's actual ability to be or do something. India into an international university. where he was a Professor from 1961 to 1972. Sen revealed that in many cases of famine. He is also a contributor to the Eva Colorni Trust at the former London Guildhall University. food production. be they majority rule or two thirds-majority or status quo. a period which is considered to be a Golden Period in the history of DSE. unemployment. which are common in economics and simply focuses on noninterference. He presents data that there was an adequate food supply in Bengal at the time. He has also been a Visiting Professor at Stanford. This staggering loss of life was unnecessary. panic buying. In 1998 he was appointed as Master of Trinity College. such as declining wages.

Governments and international organizations handling food crises were influenced by Sen's work." These "functionings" can range from the very broad. To Sen. Sen devised methods of measuring poverty that yielded useful information for improving economic conditions for the poor. In order for citizens to have a capacity to vote." His influential monograph Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970). Other studies. even the policies of the United Nations. Sen's work in the field of development economics has had considerable influence in the formulation of the Human Development Report. 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). and make a slight majority of the population. Sen. there is no question that his work helped to re-prioritize a significant sector of economists and development workers.[13] Sen was seen as a ground-breaker among late twentieth-century economists for his insistence on discussing issues seen as marginal by most economists. analyzing the mortality impact of unequal rights between the genders in the developing world. this concept is fairly empty. For an example of the "capabilities approach" in practice. such as transportation to the polls. as well as sex-specific abortion. His views encouraged policy makers to pay attention not only to alleviating immediate . Sen's revolutionary contribution to development economics and social indicators is the concept of 'capability' developed in his article "Equality of What. such as the availability of education. was called the "conscience of his profession. live longer. such as one by Emily Oster.In addition to his important work on the causes of famines. Sen claimed that this skewed ratio results from the better health treatment and childhood opportunities afforded boys in those countries. see Martha Nussbaum's Women and Human Development. women have lower mortality rates at all ages. While his line of thinking remains peripheral." He argues that governments should be measured against the concrete capabilities of their citizens. For instance. they first must have "functionings. have argued that this is an overestimation. For instance. Welfare economics seeks to evaluate economic policies in terms of their effects on the wellbeing of the community. in the United States citizens have a hypothetical "right" to vote. justice and equity. his theoretical work on inequality provided an explanation for why there are fewer women than men in India and China despite the fact that in the West and in poor but medically unbiased countries. inspired researchers to turn their attention to issues of basic welfare. and the availability of information about individual conditions. majority rule. to the very specific. Only when such barriers are removed can the citizen truly be said to act out of personal choice. though Oster has recanted some of her conclusions. particularly Asia. 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?). which addressed problems related to individual rights (including formulation of the liberal paradox). published by the United Nations Development Programme. It is up to the individual society to make the list of minimum capabilities guaranteed by that society. He mounted one of the few major challenges to the economic model that posited self-interest as the prime motivating factor of human activity. who devoted his career to such issues. 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.

1999: He received the Bharat Ratna 'the highest civilian award in India' by the President of India. Their marriage broke up shortly after they moved to London in 1971. with whom he had two children: Antara. a journalist in New York. awards and honors Amartya has received many honorary degrees (over 80) from universities around the world. Personal life and Beliefs Sen's first wife was Nabaneeta Dev Sen. the underlying mechanisms of poverty. In 1973. who died from stomach cancer quite suddenly in 1985. for example. such as improvements in education and public health. he married his second wife. and Nandana. Sen usually spends his winter holidays at his home in Santiniketan in West Bengal. Academic achievements. . an expert on Adam Smith and Fellow of King's College. Indrani. human development theory. social reforms. A vigorous defender of political freedom. His present wife.suffering but also to finding ways to replace the lost income of the poor. who teaches music at Shady Hill School. They had two children. a journalist and publisher. Asked how he relaxes. Massachusetts. India. as. In order for economic growth to be achieved. Sen believed that famines do not occur in functioning democracies because their leaders must be more responsive to the demands of the citizens." Sen is a self-proclaimed atheist. an Indian writer and scholar. Cambridge. must precede economic reform. gender inequality. and to maintain stable prices for food. a Bollywood actress. where he likes to go on long bike rides. and political liberalism. he replies: "I read a lot and like arguing with people. Emma Georgina Rothschild. he denies the comparison to Mother Teresa by saying that he has never tried to follow a lifestyle of dedicated selfsacrifice[15]. he claims that this can be associated with Hinduism as a political entity. Perceptions: In comparisons Amartya has been called "the Conscience and the Mother Teresa of Economics"[14] for his work on famine. However. Eva Colorni. where he and Emma spend the spring and long vacations. through public-works projects. welfare economics. and Kabir. and maintains a house in Cambridge. is an economic historian. he argued. all including from the following: y y 1998: He received the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences for his work in welfare economics.

1999. Inequality Reexamined. Oxford. 1973. "More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing". Norton. Sen. Sen. Basil Blackwell. Amartya. 2003: He was conferred the Lifetime Achievement Award by the Indian Chamber of Commerce. Oxford University Press. Amartya K. 1986.. Welfare and Measurement. Amartya. 2000: He received Leontief Prize for his outstanding contribution to economic theory from the Global Development and Environment Institute. 2000: He was the 351st Commencement Speaker of Harvard University. 1987. Vol. An Aspect of Indian Agriculture. Reason Before Identity (The Romanes Lecture for 1998). Collective Choice and Social Welfare. and Sen. New York Review of Books. jointly edited with Jean Drèze. 1989 Sen.y y y y y y y y y y 1999: He was offered the honorary citizenship of Bangladesh by Sheikh Hasina in recognition of his achievements in winning the Nobel Prize. Oxford University Press. 1999. Oxford. Hunger and Public Action. Scroll to chapter-preview links. Economic Weekly. Martha. ISBN 0-19-951389-9 Commodities and Capabilities. Amartya. Amartya. Oxford. 1992. Preview. y y y y y y y y . Clarendon Press. 14. [edit] Publications y y y y y y y y y y Choice of Techniques. The Quality of Life. Oxford. On Economic Inequality. Sen. with Jean Drèze. Wider Working Paper 1. UK. Helsinki. Hunger and Public Action. Sen. Foster and A. Jean and Sen. 2002: He received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union. 1995. 1970. Amartya. 1973. 1982a. 1960. Oxford. Basil Blackwell. ([2]) Sen. Sen. Amartya. Amartya. On Economic Inequality. Amartya. Food Economics and Entitlements. New York. 1984. Poverty and Famines : An Essay on Entitlements and Deprivation. 1981a. 1982b. Drèze. He is awarded the Life Time Achievement award by Bangkok-based United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UNESCAP) 2010: He was chosen to deliver the Demos Annual Lecture 2010 2010: He was listed in 'World's 50 Most Influential People Who Matter' 2010 edition of New Statesman. Sen. 1990. Oxford: Clarendon Press. (Expanded edition with a substantial annexe by James E. Elsevier. India: Economic Development and Social Opportunity. Nussbaum. 1997). On Ethics and Economics. Oxford: Clarendon Press. 1993. Amartya. 1989. Holden-Day. Description and scroll to chapter-preview links. Poverty and Famines: an Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation. Sen. Sen. 2000: He was awarded the Eisenhower Medal for Leadership and Service USA. 1962. Amartya. Description. 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. Choice.

13.trin. 6. html. Vol. The Three R's of Reform. Britain. ^ COMMENTARY: THE MOTHER TERESA OF ECONOMICS BusinessWeek: October 26. Oxford. Equality of Capacity by Amartya Sen The Idea of Justice Harvard University Press & London: Allen Lane. ^ The Master of Trinity ^ http://papers. Harvard Belknap Time.php?pageid=321 ^ http://www. Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (Issues of Our Time). 19. Description and scroll to chapter-preview ^ http://www.y y y y y y y y y y y y y y y Sen. 1999. 29 April 2010.beijingforum. Development as Freedom. 1999. W. and Social Choice: The Arrow Lectures and Other essays. London: Allen Lane.html.html ^ [1] ^ Other Publications on Google Scholar [edit] References 1. 1971±1974. Amartya. The Argumentative Indian. 2004.cgi?aid=00005503&channel=gulberg ^ World Bank http://info.1. Inequality Reexamined. 7.time. (Review by the Guardian. and the wrong lessons.asp?ArticleID=452 ^ http://nobelprize. ^ http://moia. Rationality and Freedom. 16. Harvard. Reason Before Rationality and Freedom. 2. Norton. 18. (Review by the Asia Times) Development as The Argumentative Indian. Economic and Political Weekly. 2000.html. By Amartya Sen. 12.htm . Freedom. Amartya. Imperial Illusions: India. Amartya. http://www. ^ http://www. ^ ^ Self-proclaimed http://www. 2005. Sen. http://www. Rationality. Time. An audience with Amartya Sen at the 2010 Edinburgh International Book Festival ^ Reported lecture http://www. 40(19): 2005. ^ http://nobelprize. Sen. 3. ^ "The 2010 Time 100". Response by Niall Ferguson.php?pageid=172 ^ "60 Years of Asian Heroes: Amartya Sen". New York. 13 November 11. Review by the Washington Post) Sen. 1998 ^ http://www. 2002. 9. Oxford University ^ Press meeting http://www. 8. Amartya.

Retrieved 201012-07.newstatesman. ^ Harvard Universit .pdf. 21.20. [edi External links Wi imedia Commons has media related to: Amartya Sen Wi i uote has a collection of quotations related to: Amartya Sen Comprehensive list of articles by Sen Nobel Pri e Biography Amartya Sen: The Possibility of Social Choice (Nobel lecture) Profile in The Guardian y y y y Audio y y y y y Sen interviewed about his book The Idea of Justi e He discusses how prevailing theories of justice have led us astray. on Open Source (radio show) Amartya Sen in conversation on the BBC World Service discussion showThe Forum §   £ ¡ ¡¢ ¡ ¨   ¥¥¥ ¤ § ¦ . Amartya Sen discusses his book " dentity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny" on Thoughtcast Interview on IT Conversations Immigration and Development with Amartya lobal-issues/2010/09/conscience-teacher-amart a-sen. Retrieved 28 September 2010.June2008. http://www.50 People Who Matter 2010".economics. htt :// .edu/facult /sen/cv/CV-Final. "C rri l Vitae of Professor Sen". April 2010.harvard. ^ " mart a Sen . New Statesman.

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