Amartya Sen's Unequal World Author(s): G. A. Cohen Source: Economic and Political Weekly, Vol. 28, No. 40 (Oct. 2, 1993), pp.

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but the first question.WhatSen calls "capabil(some economists and some philosophers). and adequate functioning can obtain only if it lies within a person's capability set. he rightly complained. complex and sophisticated achievements.'capability'-which AmartyaSen has broughtto the discourse on problems of equalityand its absence in his book InequalityReexamined.that that quesand partinthelife of thecommunity. while the recent one has a comparative advantagewith respect to the interests andneeds of political theoristsandphilosophers. the present"reexamination"is not. to quite But it was in Sen's 1979 Tanner Lecture. and capability is a disjunctionof the combinaresources.Sen's very identification of the capability dimension of assessment was impressive. But capability also matters in tlhreeotlher ways.highly suitable measure of the deprivation counted equal cG unequal:what is the right that poverty imposes. This and othersubjectivevagaries mean thatutility is not the rightquantityto focus on: it is unfair to a poor person to resource him less because he has developed modest tastes and tlerefore needs less wherewithalto achieve a given level of welfare. although it is briefly ad.2 tion was first put in an expressly general listed form.Finally(in Section111).sense) with respect to the interests (as opposed to the needs) of economists.to look not at their generators but at those possibilities themselves. Freedom to 2156 Economic and Political Weekly October 2. and in their biological constitutions. as the titles of the two books might suggest. and there is necadvantage (whatever may be the right re.that wlhatSen really cares about is basic ity (1973). avoiding escapable morbidtute the right metric for distributivejustice. The first.only in fleeting cameo) the current state of Amartya Sens's decadeslong engagement with problemsof equality andits absence.essarily a limit to how muchyou can. was a form of advantage neglected in the literature. precisely and centrally of the topic of On Economic I Inequality.in Sen's choice of capabilityas the premier cerns the respecz(in economists' language. between incomp or primarygoods or resources on the one hand andutility or welfare on the other. In thefinal section he defends Sen against some scepticism about the practical relevance of his workexpressedin thisjolurnalafew monthsago. perforce. The book provides not only an exhilarating tour d'horizon of ideas developed at greater ease elsewhere. although Sen's official topic is inequality. since functionings matter. Sen argued. which arestatesof activity by in A Theoryof Justice (1971). keep on rising in the dimensionsof nourishThe second andindependent questionwith ment and health. causally. considered apartfrom the utility he gets out of it. These functioningsvary.despite being themost fundamental one of all. and since there is (at least) money I inequalitybetweenmillionairesandbillionTwo questions arise with regard to the aires.regarding theconnection or lackof it betweenfreedom and control.the effect of goods that causes utility: functioning. but also fresh nuances that are designed to accommodate and deflect some of the extensive criticism and comment which Sen's magnetic work has attracted.3 the prerequisite of adequate dressed in the work underdiscussion.etc. ity" is determinedby the differentforms of income (other economists and no philoso. Accordingly. answers to this first question are: utility Let me explain. and capability. but you cannot how well a person's life is going. In Section I of this article. andit also means disemphasising the (often vagariouslyinduced) utility associatedwith his doing it.I thentake up one of the book's sub-themes. space of advantage:capability provides a the space) in w'ch people should be ac.nity. primary goods (John Rawls).which. and. at the downwardend of the spectrumof advantage. such as being in life. And the troublewith a metric of utility is that it is blind to the fact that people adjust their expectations downwardlywhen in poverty and upwardly when in wealth. or can spect in which to reckon advantage. That second ques.con.then. which do not vary uniformly with what generatesthem. I describethe leading idea-'"capability" -which Sen has broughtto this field of discourse. (This point.life thatarepossible for a person:a person's phers). but what they enable a person to do. his motivatinginterestis poverty. Now.which want. capaciously conceived (Ronald tions available to her of what Sen calls Dworkin). dominates Inequality Reexamined. He then takes up one of the book's sub-themes. Sen thatnot utility or welfare butprimarygoods says. ity and premature mortality. topographical.The issue was broaclhed Rawls "functionings".the connection or lack of it betweenfreedom and control. whateverthose goals may be) constiwell-nourished. The trouble with a metric of goods or resources or income is that the point of goods (and so forth) is to generate possibilities of choice for the individual: much better. Ricardian. has a comparativeadvantage(in the strict.His specialinterestin povertyis shown measurement of inequality. to take partin the life of the commuwas the first question). and it was there thatSen venturedhis Now.4 A person's functionings matter because they are his life. that poverty is the key theme of the book. And something similar is regard to the measurementof inequality is true of the more ''sophisticated' how to compute the degree of inequality functionings:you cannotkeep on addingto that obtains. Focus on capabilitymeans emphasising not goods as such. not it functioning.when it does. which appears. What mattersis the causal intermediary.) Whether or not capability deserves its assignedrole as a metric of advantage. Theserecurrently cited examplesshow tiondominatedSen's OnEconomnic Inequial. 1993 . since everyone might be equally poor.Amartya Sen's Unequal World G A Cohen In Section I of this article the authordescribes the leading idea.one could say.capability. Theearlierwork. for given sets of scores of your stock of self-respect. Capability lies. the "elementary" functionings now quite well known thesis thatcapability here have ceilings of accomplishment:you is the right thing to look at when judging can get richer and richer. etc) and social circumstances. (things everyone needs to pursuetheirgoals from most elementary ones. suchashavingself-respect beingableto take called 'Equality of Wlhat?'. inequality or anything else of urgent concern from the point of view of justice. as such. INEQUAL17-Y REEXAMiNED exhibits (often. but it is not so evitype of advantageto examine whenequality dently serviceable when the object is to and its absence are at issue? Representative identify degrees of inequality as such. because of variations in people's physical (climatic. which argued and/orbeing. aboutthe appropriate type of advantage to focus on. Capacities beyond the basic (can I run a mile? can I impress Ukrainians with my impersonationof Russians? can I sew more quickly than you?) seem quite irrelevant to measurement of deprivation. And capability matters at least instrumentally.and which is a phenomenon distinct from inequality. so on. in the light of its previouscomplete neglect. will prove to be consequential whenI come to comment in Section III on some criticisms of Sen made by Andre Beteille. defend I Sen against some scepticism abbutthe practical relevance of his work that was expressed in these pages a few months ago.

consequently." then at most the weakercondition holds. For satisfaction of the first condition. that Sen also uses the stated weaker condition for freedom without control is that. or some state body.9 Now it is true.-chooseis good in itself. women often require.whether or nothe "knowswhatmy instructions would have been if sought" (p 64). to generate a given amountof capability. but not freedom without control. it may sometimesbe too difficultand/ortooinvasive fora stateauthorityto identify eachperson's and capabilityrequirements. This. made it so." appearswithin it: capability is good not only. pari passu. I believe that this phenomenon. and factorssuch as age. and capability also contributes directly to well-being. 1993 . once again. forexample. II I turn to my selected sub-theme: the relationshipbetween freedom and control. But. no freedom. correspondingto two conditions. apartfrom his actual formulations and examples. remains unillustrated. power: but Sen's claim. location. An indication. Sen does not mean. one strong and one weak. andepidemiological atmosphere also strongly affect a person's power to convert money into the elements of a worthwhile life (p 113). Thus. the freedom. in particular. that freedom can obtain without control over what happens. (If the proof-reader is imposed on me willy-nilly. andcalls his theme "effeetive freedom". specifically. Consider the malaria clearance case. In illustrationof this point. but also. tailorhis orher income support to them. even then. in this example. but the restriction need not commensurately detractfrom her well-being freedom. But Sen often uses a weakercondition for "effective freedom" or (supposed)freedom without control. The weaker condition indeed involves no control. social and cultural reasons. Sen instances the relationship between me and a proof-readerof my book. no matter for what reason. control what happens to them. (When I tell my obedient chauffeur where and how to drive I do not exercise the levers which controlthe but car10 I neverthelesscontrolwhatit does. though my 'freedom as control' may be limited or absent'"(pp 64-65). that "the levers of control" are not "directly operated" by me (p 64). So. benign) administration.8 means He the (supposed)freedomthata personenjoys just in thather environmenthas no malaria in it. as illustrated in the proof-reader case. The strongcondition indeed identifies a form of freedom. who correctsthe text as he does because he knows I would want it to be correctedthat way. If the policy of malaria elimination is adopteddemocratically. each of which he takes to be sufficient for "effective freedom". It diminishes a persons's agency freedom that she cannot pursue a cause to which she is committed. but that it is not freedom. Sen argues.andispro tanlo com2157 Economic and Political Weekly October 2. Sen vacillates between two different answersto that question. then. apartfromthegoods it provides access to. dropsthe word "power". at least in this respect. but it remains true that what eventuates conforms to what peoplewouldchoose.my 'effective freedom' is uncompromised.is indeeda partof the person's freedom.and. The failure of Sen's argumentbecomes whenwe askwhy a personbenefitapparent ing from an environment rid of malaria qualifies in that respect as free. the malaria clearance is achieved by an undemocratic(but. for. then people. but also because free choosing. then what Sen calls a person's "wellbeingfreedom" is displayed.5 Thebenefitsof theshifttocapabilityshowthat "conceptsmatter"6 inpractice. by an international agency underdistantdirection. A supposed case in point is the freedom enjoyed by someone who lives in an environmentwithout malaria. Criticsprotested thatthe situationof a person benefiting from a salubriousenvironmentno more manifestsherpowerthanit does hercontrol. that there exists freedom without control. in which the controlling agent is the state. and could not have. For the second element in the strongercondition for "effective freedom" ("for that exact reason") is a matter of process.attentionto capability desiderata suggestsmodesof intervention and whichsecuresubstantial enablement improvements for comparativelylittle expenditure. in that consequent free- domcontrolis manifestlypresent.) Satisfaction of the strong condition indeed yields freedom. andfreedom of choice disappears. corresponding to the two phrases italicised by Sen in his statementof it: "As long as the levers of control are systematically exercised in line with what I would choose andforthat exact reason. Senclaims7thatthereis a significant forn of personalfreedomenjoyment of which does not involve (as freedom usually does. 51-52).But well-being freedom is not freedom as such. the freedomof power. The capability focus makes a difference tothe analysisof poverty. Sen has here. higher income than men do to secure the same capability. I show that Sen's argumentfor the existence of such a freedom is unsuccessful. control over what happensby the relevant free agent. which meansthat I do control what happens. as Sen at one point suggests (p 65). The weaker condition is that whoever controls what happensdoes whatI would choose if I were in control. in different conditions. as I reported. it may conform to my will thatmy environment has been rid of malaria. becauseaperson's life is "richer" when the "opportunityof reflective choice. where control is missing. identified an undoubtedlyimportantand neglected phenomenon. When the value of that freedom is measured in terms of the forms of well-beingthose sets of functioningsconstitute. but the fact that Sen emphasises "directly" betraysthatthey are indirectlyoperatedby me. on the otherhand. and. a process thatrequiressuch a space. for good measure. for biological. in which things conform to my will althoughI do not exercise it. to choose a set of functionings. then there is neither control nor freedom. It must be from"agencyfreedom". by that freedom. not outcome. or. The strongercondition conjoins two elements. Capabilityis a form of freedom. And apartfrom the sheerly quantitativequestion of what income is needed. including goals otherthanher own well-being. for example. In this section.If. control is present. freedom to choose with adequatefunctioning within the scope of thatchoice is a person's right.) Anotherindication that Sen also relies on the weakerconditionis his description of the relevant form of (supposed)freedomas "outcome-based"(p 135). is itself a good (pp 40-42. differences whichjustify unequalper capita funds dispersal across regions and groups. andis generally thought always lo do)excrciseof Throughfailing to distinguish the two conditions Sen produces his fallacious result.Sen used to call this (supposed) freedom. is of great philosophical interest. and therefore exercise freedom and. which is yielded by preserving the first italicised element butdeleting the second one in his statement of the strong condition which I gave two paragraphs ago. Sen now accedes to this criticism. together. to anti-poverty policy. Accordingly. and I then indicate what I think is the true shape of the importantphenomenonthat he has discerned. however (literally) remote. even thoughI did not. the plea for attentionin poverty analysis not to low income as such but to income inadequateto sustain basic capability in given circumstances has considerable practical significance. does entail power: I do not let the proof-reader operateunless I am satisfied that he will act as I want hiim to.which distinguished is a person's freedom to achieve whatever goals she has. but it is not freedom without control.even thoughshe does not (and cannot) control whetherthere will be malariain herenvironment. contrary to what Sen requires. as a space of choice. he acceptedthe criticism thatfreedom without controlcould not be said to qualify as power. but one in which. and even though those who did make it so were relevantly unmindful of my wishes in the matter. To be sure. it may be possible to identify aggregatedifferences between sub-populations which affect the convertibility of income into capability. I can be free withoutexercising the levers of controlprecisely because I can control without exercising the levers of control. the freedom to do things that can only be done when malaria is absent.

s been verysubstantiallys has motivated" by its ' directbearingonmatters of practical concern" (p 152. is that the world may conform to a person's will other than as a result of his control (or. (Special cases areones in which it mattersto me that I be the person who secures what I will: I want it to be me. So.'3 It is also false. One is that the world conforms to my will and the other is that it is I who achieve that result. the necessary effect of a successful exercise of freedom. whetheror not it would be good for him if they go that way.it is not thereforeright to call the personwhose will is satisfied free. standardly. andthe malaria example is a case in point. not someone else. "Freedom".) And the malariacase is not a relevantlyspecial one: I shall not feel thatI have missed an opportunity to eliminate noxious mosquitoes if thlegovernmentdoes it for me (or even if it does it not strictly for me). the second value does not mattermuch. occurs without any such exercise. In these cases. I will unambivalently welcome thlat. "Ability" is here infelicitousinjust the way its cogrtate"power" was: abilities.thankstome. when a person gets an unchosen thing thatshe would have chosen. as we can therefore safely add. who nurses my spouse back to health. there is much that yve can secure not individually but only collectively.'8 when freedomis exercised.In Poverty and Famines. unlikewhat holds in thatone.The more generalone. But whatSen correctlynotes. and whateverinterest or lack of it he has in his own good. of whetheror not there is malariain his environment). It just happenedto be me who came along. of his exercise of a freedom). obtainsonly whenit is the agent who secures the conformity of the world to its will. Freedom. A person's will is how he would makethingsgo if he could. he says. First. Ratherthis: thatall or most of what would make this situation valuable if it did representan exercise of freedom is present here. tohis will. let us begin by distinguishing between a person's good and a person's will. and taking him to hospital. are things that are exercised. by a case in which. or to say that he has freedom without control. The specific one. as I thinlk 2158 would do him more good. I do what conforms to his will if and only if I take him home. conformity of the world to the will. Sen says that what he calls "effective freedom" is importantbecause." "Abilitytochoose" and"libety tochoose" obtain only when it is possible to choose. while I agreewith Sen thatthe issue of whetherpeople havewhatthey wouldchoose "is a momentousperspective". I must decide between taking'himhome. though his will is better satisfied. world/will conformity. deliversgoods that I would choose to get if I could.there exists freedom without control. in a modem complex society. My will is how I would make things go if I could do so. Following a trafficaccident. 1993 . that is certainly false at the level of aspiration.indeed. is politically less (*. There are two values associated with successful exercises of freedom.19 III I remarked Section 1 thatSen's animatin ing concern is not so much inequality as poverty. is that the standard aim of exercises of freedomis achievablenot only through exercises of it but also by other means: a frienddoes whathe knows is your will because it is your will. Contraryto what Sen says. no relevant exercise of anything in this example.-2As thecontrastbetweendemocratic and other malaria clearance shows. I agree with Sen that the fact that a central aspect of a person's situation may conform to his will other than because he himself arrangesor sustainsthatconformity opens a "momentous perspective" (p 69). Now. We have to do. andthe final paragraph of the book under discussion avows thatits "analysi.is thereby wrought. To see the true significance of the phenomenon to which Sen draws our attention. whetheror nothe is in a position to make them go that way. Then. and there is. Sen emphasises absenceof control. and. like powers. thatis not a reason for concluding that.mendable. in which things go in accordance with my will.The ideologue is blind. is politically importantbutphilosophically not very interesting. in. while insisting on liberty to choose. The real substance of Sen's innovative focus. even thoughmy handsare off the levers of control. The Christianscientist is not more free in being at home than he would be if he were in hospital. no "ability" on her pArt "to choose to live as [shel desires" is thereby indicated(p 67). If they go thatway withoutmy intervention. Sometimes. not) interestingbut philosophicallyvery interesting. but that his will does not "systematically" (Sen's word'7) determine his fate.Against that.then. rather than. one more general than the other. a thief. This is shownby theChristian scientist case. in the pertinent sense.perhapsacting for my good. I agree with Sen that freedom is pro tanto enhanced when the state functions as an instrumentof the democratic will.althoughnotrightlycalled "freedom".It suggests that Sen is a head-in-the-clouds theorist yearning after an unattainableegalitarianideal at the expense of what can actually be done to improve the world. Sen confessed himself "immodest enough to believe that the analysis presented . ex hypothesi. but truly without my control. 14 that if peopledo desire a life withouthungeror malaria. 1993.whichthingsgo as I will because it is my will. as I know h1e would wish me to. my Christian scientist friend lies unconscious on the road.I do notthink thatwhen they have whatthey would choose they are pro tanto free. specifically. but liberty to choose entails control over what happcns. Thereis apolitical reason why Sen insists on the phrasings that I have stigmatised as inappropriate. too. and only the more specific one involves freedom. the agent exercising it aims to make the world (in the relevantrespect) conform to his will. a benign (or otherwise) agency does what happensto be your will. Now. to that. Right-wing ideologues regardall state intervention as diminishing freedom (whetheror not they concede thatit might bejustified on othergrounds). then.the eliminationof these maladies throughpublic policy does enhance their "libertyto choose to live as theydesire". p 11). for example.except in special cases.21 Utopia' I think that phrase was both ungenerousand unjustified. a bit more on why the perspective is not one of freedom. the worldconforms to my will not only not as a result of my exercise of a freedom but not at all because my will has the character it does: when a public authority.'6 Notice that the Christian scientist's fate in this example conforms. in sum. andmuch of the interestof the phenomenon misdescribed in these dictions is that the agent has no choice in the matter (for example. She so makes a fetish of freedom that she fails to notice thata largepartof its value can be present when freedom itself does not obtain. But althoughthe standardeffect of a successful exercise of freedom.(Especially) when applying the weaker condition. and see.the "ability to get what we value andwant" (p 64). this monograph has a certain amount6f relevance to mattersof practical concern" [Sen 1981: xi]. Beteille called his review 'AmartyaSen's .andI indicatedsome ways in which a reorientationfrom both income andutility to capability both helps us to appreciate what the central evil of poverty is and has practicalforce in the struggle against it. But what should be said to the right-wing ideologue who finds no freedom in a malaria clearancewhich is not democratically instituted?Not what Sen would say to her. and he is therefore concerned (so I hazard) to prevent ideological enemies of state interventionfrom obscuring the fact thatfreedom is among the benefits that such intervention can bring. or a differentlymindedfriendwhomighthaveputtheman's welfare first. that she is blind to the fact that there is freedom heretoo. "is one of the most powerful social ideas" (p 69). an attemptto say why the perspective is neverthelessmomentous. but notout of respectformy will. or not known about his will. which is a reply to AndreBeteille's review of Inequality Reexaminedin the Economic and Political Weeklyof April 17. with two phenomena. F nf me and PoliticskiW'kly October 2. It is the aspect of practice on which I shall concentrate in this closing section. and rightly emphasises.

and that analoguesof it disappearedfrom many societies where they were once strong: the anti-feudalbourgeois revolutionin Europe is a salientmacro-example. necessarily. To the extent that it supervenes on income inequality. One may satisfy oneself of the truthof thatgeneralisationaftera shortbout of clear-headed armchairreflection. first. and it is there2150 October 2. Tenacious and savage though it is. food supply shrinks.thatthey occurif andonly if. no one should want to eliminatethe inequalityof esteem thattracks differential achievement.We can distinguish thtee types of inequalityof esteem. Before I had readany of it. I found what I knew to be its leading proposition puzzling. caused by sheer shortage of food. on this basis.Nor is it myste- rious how to proceed against it in incom. pletely bourgeois states like India: by outlawing and punishing the practice of untouclhability. For you could not say. He describeshis aims clearly in Chapter of the I book. the only ways of suppressing it entirely areby restrictinghumanachievement throughdenial of equality of opportunityor by some awfully complicated and repugnant disinformation programme which spreads lies about people's accomplishments. is wvlichi anyhowbeside the point. and unintelligent or callous public policy. 1993 . it might be said. equality in one dimension (e g. But let us turn from poverty and famine eliminationto the less urgentissue of equality itself. Proof that it can be eliminated is the fact that it does not exist in every society. andwhich is doubly unfair when the same physician has also written a manual of therapeutics. strugglingagainstdiscrimiby natory caste taboos. properly applied. something to be established by amassing and analysing observational data.26So it is especially unfair to parade before Sen a proof that not all inequalities are eliminable (whether or not there exist less reflective egalitarianswho areless awareof thattruth).Sen offers not a Utopia but a practicallyfruitfulcriterion. but often occurring in the face of continuedphysical availability of food. income. in that the latter supervene on other inequalities. thereare structural tendencies in society to inequalities of status and power. the disjunctive one given above. yet cannot hope to eliminate ones like inequality of esteem. because of price shifts.etc.22 Now. Pursuinghis themethatUtopiais difficult to achieve. If someone whlofavours less inequality offers a circumspect accoun)t of Economic and Political Weekly what equality is.24 But Sen does not need to be advised that. because of humandiversity. for at least two reasons. trading relations. like Sen. that he Utopianlycondemnsanythingthatfalls short of it? If someone explains what it would mean for the Augeanstables to be perfectly clean. to eliminate it. and capability). The thirdtype of inequalityof esteem is well illustratedby the Hinducaste system. and because. In truth.that this particularbook is not about famines. Second. but because it seemed all too obviously true: that famines occur when and because people lose their customarylegitimateentitlementto (sufficient) life-sustaining matter. who dwell upon ideals tend to be alittle impatient aboutthe little constraints the of actualworldandit is thenthe obligationof the sociologistto bringthese constraints to theirattention. the fracturing or shrinking of individual entitlement to it throughwages. as Sen sometimes misleadingly suggests. its subtle and circumspect demonstration-that. sketchily (see the final paragraphof Section I above). famineprevention and relief requires identifying.thereis no sensein pointing at status inequalityas a supposed trump card that the egalitarian carelessly or wilfully forgot was in the deck.indeed. does it follow. vagaries of wages. and one cannot say that he does not have enough significant ones. we can say that inequalities of esteem should be tolerated.buthe Sen does not undertaketo say everything relevant to every aspect of that theme. and neitherof those is the same as inequalityof esteem sustainedby explicitly inegalitarian ideology which assigns people to different categories of quality or being." There is a cogent demand for more equality and an excellent identificationof whereandhow to start. personal production.the immediatecause of loss of access to food is. Caste inequalities of esteem differ from the two other types distinguished above. Butconsider.etc) were somehoweliminated. but you cannot take it from him and give it to somebody else. and no affirmationthat such a thing is feasible. of opportunityto develop talent) means inequality in others (thus. a fracturing or shrinking sometimes. for example. of achievement and esteem). still widespreadat least in countrieswhere famines areunknown.since he cannot believe that it is impossible. by instituting intelligently designed programmesof affirmative action. we have to decide which ones to combat and which to tolerate. thatthey can be eliminated only by telling lies and/or by suppressing equality of opportunity.I have indicated. Consequently. finally. I discovered thatthe intellectual interestof the stated truismlies precisely in its practical implications. as opposed to difficult. of enormouspractical import-in several major faminesit has not actuallyoccurred)and that(2) whetheror not food shortageobtains in a given case of famine. To the extent. and in any case no one should be charged with Utopianism becausehis more practicalwork happensto be laid out in places other than the one that misgeneratesthe stated charge.moreor less? (p 755) A negative answerto this question is less telling thanBeteille appearsto suppose. the case for the (indep)endent27) injustice of status difis ferenltials extremely weak. it defeats the unthinking presumption.with a view to removing the stingfromBeteille' s semi-rhetorical question. and should therefore also have addressed the rather different issues which engage Beteille. It is a truism.andnot. it is surelynot this statusinequalitythatBeteille has in mindwhenhe askshis question. Since all equalities generate companion inequalities. representativeexamples of which are inequality of income on the one hand. here. To call Sen Utopian on the basis of this book is like complaining that a physician's manual of diagnostics tells us little about how to cure. that inequality of esteem superveneson differential achievement. Beteille asks: Can the equal evaluationof persons and be positions generated the through construction of a social arrangement which all in personsand all positions will be equally esteemed. that even if the inequalities that egalitarians fix on (money. The identification of entitlement as what finally matters implies that (1) food shortage need not be pivotal with respect to famine (and-this is an empirical fact. That inequality would appear in the best of all possible social worlds. sustaining and repairing lines of entitlement whose decay is what actually causes death. with respect to poverty in general. First. that they do not involve transferable resources: maybe you can prevent someone fromobtainingthe highiregardhe wouldget in the normal course of things. power. I shall address these threetypes of inequalityof esteem in reverseorder. and inequality of intellectual attainmenton the other.which is not the same as inequality of esteem that derives from differencesin income andpower. Accordingly. not because I thought it false.25 re-examinesinequality. how that bearing goes. for a moment. or even desirable (since increases in equality can reduce aggregate utility. there would still be this other big one to reckon with. Beteille writes that those. the type thatreflects differentialachievements. is it pertinentto stigmatise him as a Utopian because it is not possible to eliminate all the dirt? There is no rhapsodic depiction of complete equality in this book or elsewhere in Sen's work. But it does contain some discussion of the topic. An old right-wing notion says thatleftists seek to eliminate all significant inequalities. But one of the signal merits of Sen's new book is its acknowledgement-indeed. in defence of Beteille's characterisation of Inequality Reexamined. For. Sen's extensive workon famine.21 When I came to readthe relevantwriting. If we set aside caste differences. Thereis. and thereby how the aspiration to practicalrelevance is in some degree fulfilled.

anidthere pursuethat relativelyminormatterhere. Thesearedistinctpoints. but he shouldnevertheless distinguishthem. 12 P65.[he] has told us very 5 For strikingillustrations this truth.more freedom. Sen's focus. pp 8. of thatactial stateeitherto anexamination 20 Andhegarnished titlewithBrowning's that of his stockof resources anassessment orto couplet: "Ah. guilty as charged. in particuthat he would like to see. Oxford:Clarendon Press.see of little aboutwhatwe oughtto do-or whatwe 8 Section3 of Chapter of Inequality Reexcan do-to bring the preferredsocial arainined.Oxford: Clarendon Press. is andactualandpotential critics. pp 24-25. Section5. pp 216. (Thisthird interpretation whatBeteillesaysis suggested of moreby the actualtruththanby Beteille's words. that is not Sen.John(1971):A Theory Justice. then. Inequality at bottom matis a ter of social esteem" (p 755. for compendiouspresentation these points. April 17.One can ask. The Quality of Life. p 179.(1992a): 'Capabilityand Well-Being' in MarthaCNussbaumiand AmartyaSen (eds). andthat mustbe a causalclaim. . If 'Utopian' means starry-eyed. my italics).thefirstconstrual. G A (1992): 'Equalityof What?On Welfare. 22 See Sen (1981).London. inequality of esteem is Sen'streatment itin Sen (1992a). exceedhis grasp/or what'sa Heavenfor?" and. for example in its Chapter 3. Clarendon Press. Vol . 18 Thereareexceptionswhichhave no bearoranything else. 19-21. 7. Butunequalesteemis also described "a as far deeper source of inequalitythan unequalincome (p 755. andsee Sen (1982). Amartya (1980): 'Equalityof What?' in SterlingMcMurrin (ed). minordislocations the conceptual in scafUnder capability equality.JeanandSen.does he tell us how to realise such that"freedoms resultfrom having that not a thing. Beteille adds. whichthe acciducingthenotionof capability entitled was dent victim would wish to be elsewhere 'BasicCapability The has Equality'. targetedon poverty in particular. The do thingsyou couldotherwise do).(1 992b): Intequality Oxford: Reexam)inted. be understood. 1-3.butthe motivations ceptof freedom"(p 68) andnotjust signipoint at differentthings.of whatinequality are inequalitiesof esteem (and. 27-28.(1981): Povertyand Faminies: Essayon An Entitlemenitantd Deprivationt. his own(eternal) good.Isaiah(1969): FourEssayson Liberty. and one could tion is not whetheryou are freer in the hardlymaintain that he has said very little absenceof malaria (because arefreeto you aboutwhat we ought to do about them. are entirely 9 It is notentirelyclearthatSen meansus to taketheproof-reader relevant to appropriateforms. 2160 Economic and Political Weekly October 2. 1993 . like reasontolookatwhata personcan achieve. The Quality of Life. to elsewhere 1 O) characterise (p as 16 The Christian poverty scientist'swill does aim at such. a cupboard is freeof dirt. power) "deeper sources" thanunequalincomeis? I findno hintof ananswer to thatquestionin Beteille's review. Andre(1993): 'Amartya Sen's Utoand pia'. of the injusticesit sometimesreflects. pp 26-27.as to whether meanstoemphasise he the intrinsicor the causal importance such of " inequalities. Dreze. of course. eralis virtuallyidenticalwiththe list used 15 P 67.at least to me. . the related discussions in Poverty and the criticism Sen in this sectionwill not of Famines. OxfordUniversityPress. Unlessthisdistinction grasped. but a man's reachshould of hisutilitylevel. and I do notcarewhichone is realised.or pass of both unavoidable and acceptable.I shall not hereresunme criticism the decline" as thoughthey were competing empiricaltheories. judgment the extentto whichthe crition that Beteille remarks while we knowthat cism appliesto formulations offeredin the are actualsocialarrangements different from book underdiscussion. 24 Beteille (1993). 27 Independent.but having no idea how to make it 10 As opposedto theleverswhichcontrolthe chauffeur: commands my mightbe saidto so. rethe garding causalclaim. Beteille. Midwest Studiesin Philosophy. they 21 He frequently counterposes own "enhis have oftenbeen conflatedin Sen's presentitlement" conception "foodavailability to tation. Sen (1982). by the way.butwe couldimag3 The sectionof 'Equalityof What?'introine a different in example. . p 754. unclear.(1982): 'Liberty Control: as An Appraisal'.but I cannotsee how article. 11 It is unclear-see note 9 above-whether commendably. but not detaileddiscussion in this book of appropriwhetherits absenceis itself partof your ate indices of illfare and welfare. Salt Lake City:Universityof UtahPress.] theperson theexample in couldbe shownto 1 Sen himselfmakesclearat p 4. quotingBerlin(1969). The Tannier Lectures on HumanValues. Notes. have abilities that they do not exercise. "Universal basiccapabiling here:when(perhaps becauseI am actity" wouldbebothmorefelicitous more and ingunder I duress) hopeto fail.Camof bridge. withoutbeingequalin capability. p 67. sons. Amartya (1989):Hunger andPublicAction. His concern is tice. Economic Political Weekly. but it must be so construedfor the means of delivery of public provision and phrase"forthatexactreason"to haveapsupport. p 753.What he perhaps meansis notthatinequalities of statusandpowerareeitherintrinsically or causally more importantthan others but thatthey are especiallytenaciousbecause robustly self-reproducing.such as thatof grossly unequalincome: recall that the ladderof esteem that goes with caste is not under commentin this paragraph. rangementinto being. wanting the world to be better. income. arrangement lar. and inevitably foldingthatSen haserected.butI shallnot that of independently his actualstate. lThereis good fyingabsenceof something undesired.Vol I. or notSen wouldregard as a relevant that variant his proof-reader of example. is good reasonnotto reducethe evaluation See Cohen(1992). of 23 See pp 7-8. For people can all have basic capability 17 See the quotation fromp 64 above. 218. 78-83.or respond to different uses of it.pursuedin that article of this and other fore not the right inequality to combat. Beteille himself highlightsthis element in Sen's book: see Beteille (1993). and examplein this fashion.givenitscontext. levels.Beteillemightwant to makeboth claims. and at what cost 6 'Do Concepts Matter?' thetitleof Section is (p 756). Sen paints no picture of the total social 7 As he didin earlieressays:see. Cohen. 1993. 139. plication. References Berlin. afortiori (to this extent Beteille's comment 8 See fn 17. 129-31.orwhenI am for appropriate whatSen hasin mindwhen pickingindifferently betweenpossibilities he speaksof "basiccapability equality". Sen. 4 of Chapter of Inequality 7 Reexamined. Goods and Capabilities' in MarthaC Nussbaum and AmartyaSen (eds).Oxford: ClarendonPress. that is. on povertythatthe list of "functionings" 14 The qualification necessarybecauseof is given hereto illustrate conceptin genthat the distinction madein note 8 above. then he is.) 26 See pp ix-xi. haveanabilityunlesssheis shownto have 2 P 5. whereSen acknowledges is correct). so I complainin Cohen(1992). 25 Beteilleis. Sen is not. in theory and in pracmalaria[are]notin dispute"betweenhim on particularevils. is so.Thequeswith poverty and hunger. again. Rawls. 123-29 and Dreze andSen (1989). Oxford: ClarendonPress. V [Ithank KRamachandran Arnold and Zuboff for fine criticismsof an earlierversionof this 13 People do. phrase than the hospitalfor self-sacrificingreaof something thecharacterofan oxymoron.Mass:Harvard UniversityPress. nor. and. 4 There are two powerful motivationsfor 19 I amalso unpersuaded Sen's attempt by to pointing to something other than either vindicatethe phrase"freedomfrom magoods or utility when concerningoneself laria"as fitting"intoa broad generalconwithegalitarian policy. If it means wanting the world to be better. 136-47. my italics) invites. Itis indicativeof Sen's primary focus exercisedone. If it means be suchlevers. 92-93. the one [Sen] prefers.

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