Amartya Sen

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Democracy has to be judged not just by the institutions that formally exist but by the extent to which different voices from diverse sections of the people can actually be heard.

Amartya Kumar Sen (born 3 November 1933) is an Indian economist and the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for economics.


  • People's identities as Indians, as Asians, or as members of the human race seemed to give way — quite suddenly — to sectarian identification with Hindu, Muslim, or Sikh communities.
    • Reason before Identitiy (1998)
  • The exchange between different cultures can not possibly be seen as a threat, when it is friendly. But I believe that the dissatisfaction with the overall architecture often depends on the quality of leadership.
    • Interview by Mario Baudino, Amartya Sen: "Think a West tolerant intolerance against Muslims is wrong and dangerous,", La Stampa, 30 January 2003
  • There are Muslims of all kinds. The idea of closing them into a single identity is wrong.
    • Interview by Mario Baudino, Amartya Sen: "Think a West tolerant intolerance against Muslims is wrong and dangerous,", La Stampa, 30 January 2003
  • Since the conception of human rights transcends local legislation and the citizenship of the person affected, it is not surprising that support for human rights can also come from anyone—whether or not she is a citizen of the same country as the person whose rights are threatened. A foreigner does not need the permission of a repressive government to try to help a person whose liberties are being violated. Indeed, in so far as human rights are seen as rights that any person has as a human being and not as a citizen of any particular country, the reach of the corresponding duties can also include any human being, irrespective of citizenship.
    • "Human Rights and Asian Values" Sixteenth Annual Morgenthau Memorial Lecture on Ethics and Foreign Policy, May 25, 1997

The Idea of Justice[edit]

Main article: The Idea of Justice

Individual Freedom as a Social Commitment[edit]

  • Indeed, in the terrible history of famines world is hard to find a case where there has been famine in a country having a free press and active opposition within a democratic institutional framework. [...] The negative freedom of the press and opposition parties to criticize, write and organize the protest can be extremely effective in safeguarding freedom positive elementary population more vulnerable. (Chapter 1.3, pp. 15-16)
  • The freedom to conduct different types of life is reflected in all the alternative combinations of functionings from which a person can choose, this can be called the 'capacity' of a person. The ability of a person depends on a variety of factors, including personal and social arrangements. A social commitment to individual liberty must be that it attaches importance to the objective of increasing the capacity that many people actually possess, and the choice between different social arrangements should be influenced by their ability to promote human capabilities. A full account of individual freedom must go beyond the capabilities related to privacy, and must pay attention to other objectives of the person, such as certain social purposes not directly related to the individual's life, increase human capacity must be a part importance of promoting individual freedom. (Ch. 1.5, p. 25)
  • Although the socialist economies, including those led by communist parties in various parts of the world, have been beset by economic and political problems (including oppression), the aims and objectives that have previously attracted people towards socialism remain still important as they were fifty years ago. The concepts of social justice are also constantly re-emerged after they were weakened by the difficulties encountered in implementing various projects. (Ch. 2.5, p. 51)
  • Although capitalism is, in principle, strongly individualistic, it has contributed in practice to reinforce the trend to integration, because it has made our lives more and more interdependent. Moreover, the economic well-being unprecedented in modern economies that have produced meant that they could be accepted social obligations that previously no one could 'afford'. (Ch. 2.7, p. 53)

Identity and Violence[edit]

  • When the prospects for good relations between different human beings are seen (as happens more often) mainly in terms of "friendship among civilizations" or "dialogue between religious groups 'or' friendly relations between different communities" (ignoring the many other ways in which individuals relate to each other), projects for peace are subject to an approach that "miniature" human beings. (Prologue: p. IX)
  • The high and noble purpose to pursue the friendship between people, when it is seen in a perspective of friendship between civilizations suddenly reduces the many facets of human beings to one dimension only, placing the muzzle to the variety of ties that, for many centuries, have provided fertile ground for transnational interactions and varied, in fields like mathematics, games, politics and other spheres of common interest to humans. [...] Focus only on religious classification, however, in addition to neglect other important ideas and interests that motivate people's actions, also has the effect of amplifying, in general, the voice of religious authority. [...] The main hope of harmony in our troubled world lies rather in the plurality of our identities, which intertwine with each other and are resistant to drastic divisions along lines impassable border that you can not resist . The nature of human beings that we contradidstingue is severely tested when our differences are reduced to an artificial system of classification and predominantly single. (Chapter: p. 14 ff.)
  • Consider a person firmly wedged into a subsidiary, and only one, cancel the complex interweaving of multiple groups and multiple loyalty by replacing the full richness of human life circumscribed by a formula that insists that every person is "located" only in a single compartment staff. (Chapter II: p. 23)
  • Religion is not and can not be all encompassing identity of an individual. (Chapter IV, p. 83)
  • Living in a market economy is not very different from speaking in prose. It is not easy to do without it, but much depends on what we choose to use prose. (Ch. VII, p. 139)
  • Reductionism solitary human identity has far-reaching consequences. Evoked an illusion to divide individuals into categories extraordinarily rigid can be used to instigate clashes between groups. (Chapter IX, p. 180)

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