Prof Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen is a world-renowned economist, philosopher, and social theorist who has made significant contributions to the field of social choice theory and the development of the capability approach. Born in Santiniketan, India, in 1933, Sen has been a prominent voice in global politics and social justice movements for over six decades.

Early Life and Education

Sen was born into an academic family, and his father was a professor of chemistry at Dhaka University. Sen's early education took place at the Tagore family's experimental school in Santiniketan, where he was taught by Rabindranath Tagore himself. Later, he went on to study economics at Presidency College in Kolkata and received a Bachelor's degree with honors in 1953. Sen then went on to pursue graduate studies at Trinity College, Cambridge, where he earned his PhD in economics in 1959.

Career as an Economist

Sen's academic career began at Jadavpur University in Kolkata, where he served as a lecturer in economics from 1956 to 1958. He then went on to hold various academic positions at several universities, including Delhi School of Economics, London School of Economics, and Harvard University.

Throughout his career, Sen has published numerous articles and books on a wide range of topics, including welfare economics, social choice theory, development economics, ethics, and political philosophy. Some of his most influential works include "Collective Choice and Social Welfare", "Poverty and Famines," and "The Idea of Justice."

Contributions to Social Choice Theory

Sen's contributions to social choice theory have been significant. He developed the concept of "social choice function," which describes how social preferences can be aggregated from individual preferences. Sen's work on social choice theory challenged the traditional view that individual preferences could be aggregated into a coherent social preference.

Development of the Capability Approach

One of Sen's most significant contributions to the field of development economics is the capability approach. The capability approach seeks to expand the focus of development beyond economic growth and material wealth to include the development of people's capabilities, such as education, health, and freedom.

According to the capability approach, development should be seen as a process of expanding people's choices and opportunities, rather than just increasing their income. Sen argues that the freedom to choose what to do with one's life is a fundamental aspect of human well-being and should be the central focus of development.

Controversies and Criticisms

Despite his many contributions to economics and social theory, Sen's ideas have not been without controversy. Some have criticized his capability approach for being too abstract and difficult to operationalize. Others have argued that his work on social choice theory is too idealistic and does not take into account the practical limitations of decision-making.

Sen has also been criticized for his views on globalization and free markets. He argues that globalization and economic growth are not enough to ensure human development and that the state has an important role to play in promoting social justice.

Awards and Honors

Sen's contributions to economics and social theory have been recognized with numerous awards and honors. He was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences in 1998 for his work on welfare economics and social choice theory. He has also received the Bharat Ratna by Indian Govt.

Impact on Global Politics and Social Justice Movements

Sen's work has had a significant impact on global politics and social justice movements. His ideas on development and human well-being have been influential in shaping policy in many countries around the world. In addition, his work on social choice theory has been instrumental in shaping the way we think about democracy and decision-making.

Sen has been a vocal advocate for human rights and social justice. He has been critical of policies that prioritize economic growth over human development and has called for a more holistic approach to development that takes into account people's capabilities and freedoms.

Philanthropic Activities

In addition to his academic work, Sen has been involved in philanthropic activities throughout his career. He has worked with various organizations to promote social justice and human rights, including the United Nations Development Programme and the World Institute for Development Economics Research. Sen has also established several foundations to support education and research, including the Pratichi Trust in India and the Human Development and Capability Association.

Legacy and Influence

Sen's work has had a profound influence on economics, philosophy, and social theory. His ideas on social choice theory and the capability approach have become widely accepted and have been applied in numerous fields, including development economics, public policy, and ethics.

Sen's legacy can be seen in the many scholars and activists who have been inspired by his work. His ideas have helped to shape the way we think about development, democracy, and social justice, and his contributions to these fields will continue to be felt for generations to come.


Q. What is Amartya Sen known for?
Amartya Sen is known for his contributions to economics, social choice theory, and the development of the capability approach.

Q. What is the capability approach?
The capability approach is a framework for thinking about development that focuses on expanding people's capabilities and freedoms.

Q. What criticisms have been leveled against Sen's work?
Sen's work has been criticized for being too abstract and difficult to operationalize, and some have argued that his ideas are too idealistic.

Q. What awards has Sen received? Sen has received numerous awards and honors for his work, including the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences.

Q. What is Sen's legacy?
Sen's work has had a profound impact on economics, philosophy, and social theory, and his ideas will continue to shape these fields for generations to come.

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