Conscience of Economics
Amartya Kumar Sen received the Nobel Prize in economic sciences in 1988 for his work in welfare economics. He spent a lifetime fighting poverty with analysis rather than activism. Called “the conscience and the Mother Teresa of Economics”, he was born in a university campus and had lived all his life in one campus or the other. A rare breed having an extraordinarily high intellect, he did not confine himself to campuses. His theories have rather had a major effect on contemporary politics. His work on the causes of famine changed public perceptions by showing why thousands might starve even when a country’s food production was not compromised. His analysis of poverty has been enormously influential. His contribution towards creating the United Nation’s Human Right Index, which has become the most authoritative international source of welfare comparison among countries, is immense.
Sen is the first Asian to head an Oxbridge college – Master of Trinity College. Combining economics with philosophy is the strongest feature of his work. Sen has strong political views but has generally avoided political statements in public. He was a strong critic of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. His statement: “It’s not the best for India, (but) I don’t know if we are completely doomed. I won’t damn a Modi rule at the outset and there are degrees of damnation” created a fury amongst the supporters of the leader from BJP. But he also emphasised, “I am not pro- Congress…the Congress record is not very good.” He undertook an arduous journey from New York to his home town Bolpur, West Bengal, to cast his vote in the biggest exercise of democracy in the world.
Amartya Sen is an Indian citizen who despite working in the US usually spends his winters back home in India. Writer of the famous book The Argumentative Indian, Sen likes reading and arguing with people. His book “Collective choice and social-welfare,” written in 1970, is regarded as pathbreaking. The list of awards that Sen has received is as long as his work which includes the prestigious Bharat Ratna awarded by the Government of India, Commandeur de la Legion d’Honneur (France), the National Humanities Medal (USA), Honorary Companion of Honour (UK) and the Nobel Prize in Economics. In 2012, Sen was named the first Chancellor of the proposed Nalanda University (NU) which was a world centre of learning between the 5th century and 12th century AD. He is currently the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University.