Choice, Welfare, and Development: A Festschrift in Honour of Amartya K. Sen

Choice, Welfare, and Development: A Festschrift in Honour of Amartya K. Sen

Choice, Welfare, and Development: A Festschrift in Honour of Amartya K. Sen

Choice, Welfare, and Development: A Festschrift in Honour of Amartya K. Sen


Nobel Prize-winning economist Amartya Sen has been a distinguished and influential scholar in development economics for over twenty years, and this edited volume seeks to reflect his interests and the inspiration he has provided for others. The editors have succeeded in creating a coherent and stimulating set of papers from well-known contributors. The volume deals with the enduring themes of Amartya Sen's work, ranging through theoretical issues of development economics to the philosophical foundation of welfare systems, and ethics in society. This work will be of special interest to academics specializing in development and welfare economics, and those with an interest in ethics and the philosophy of economics. Contributors: Anthony B. Atkinson, Pranab Bardhan, Jeffrey L. Coles, Rajat Deb, Jean Dreze, Louis Gevers, Peter J. Hammond, Ravi Kanbur, Eric S. Maskin, Robert Nozick, Siddiq Osmani, Martin Ravallion, Kevin Roberts, Mrinalini Saran, Robert Solow, and Serve Wilbaut.


As economics advances, economists whose research straddles the expanse of the subject become fewer and fewer. Amartya Sen belongs to this rather exclusive club. Beginning with his Ph.D. thesis, completed at Cambridge University under Joan Robinson, Maurice Dobb, and Piero Sraffa, where he analysed the problem of choice of techniques for a developing country, Sen has worked and written in an astonishingly large number of areas. His book Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970) is a seminal contribution to social choice theory and has motivated a large number of economists and philosophers to work in the field. Although his interest in this field goes back to his student days in Cambridge, most of Sen's work on the book was done while he was Professor at the Delhi School of Economics and during his visiting appointments at Berkeley and Harvard. In the early 1970s he moved to the London School of Economics, where he continued to work on social choice and investment planning and also began his research on famines and entitlements. His early days at the LSE saw publication of his book On Economic Inequality (1973), which strongly influenced many subsequent writers on the measurement of inequality, poverty, and welfare. It typifies his writing style, which is both eloquent and succinct, a rare combination indeed.

Amartya Sen has always had an active interest in philosophy and had, in fact, written on determinism while he was still a student. His research output in moral philosophy and ethics increased dramatically after he moved to All Souls College, Oxford, and then on to Harvard University. In addition to the subjects mentioned above, Sen has contributed to the economics of education, capital, and growth.

It is no exaggeration to say, however, that to know Amartya Sen only through his written word is not to know him well enough. In addition to being an outstanding writer in many branches of economics, Sen is an exceptionally stimulating teacher and expositor who can make complex ideas accessible to the least technically prepared audience. Sen grew up in the university town of Santiniketan, near Calcutta, which is known for its oral tradition. Although in the modern world the term 'oral tradition' is often viewed as a euphemism for the inability to publish, in traditional India, as indeed in several other traditional cultures, this was practised as high art. Sen clearly imbibed this art from Santiniketan. His outstanding capability as a teacher and expositor may have a lot to do with this.

All three of us have known Amartya Sen closely, having been either his student (Basu and Pattanaik) or colleague (Pattanaik and Suzumura), and have been strongly influenced by him. It is our pleasure as well as honour to be able to offer him this festschrift.

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