Amartya Sen: A Good Egg

Amartya Sen is an Indian philosopher and economist whose work on development has been extremely influential.

Development is an extremely transnational concept, especially as it is increasingly carried out by bodies like the United Nations and the World Bank– coalitions of countries and interests. When I think about development, I think about a preoccupation with “improvement.” However, it is very hard to define improvement as it relates to cultures and people– and it is even harder to create improvement.

Sen’s view on development is that it relates to freedom. I believe that increased individual freedoms almost always constitute an “improvement.” Sen argues in his book Development as Freedom that freedom of individual agency– the freedom of people to pursue paths and have the opportunities for capacity-building and investment that they need to improve their quality of living– is key to development. And he says that removing “unfreedoms,” as he calls them, in the political, economic, and social spheres, are the best way to go about this.

Sen currently teaches (or, more likely, as he is over 80, sits in his office) at Harvard. He studied philosophy at Trinity College and is incredibly knowledgeable about all kinds of political things. I highly recommend Development as Freedom (or even just sections of it) to anyone interested in development and philosophy.

–Maya

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