This year’s Prize was awarded to Professor Amartya Sen for his lifelong achievement that “combines insights into human vulnerability with knowledge about the potential of democratic political power to redress and relieve this deprivation.”
Sen, who originates from West Bengal, has spent most of his professional career at Universities of Cambridge and Harvard, all while retaining an affiliation with Delhi University in his native India. In 1998, he was awarded the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences and he has used the award to start the Pratichi Trust in India and Bangladesh that works to improve women’s access to education and health care.
Sen is an economist by training but his conviction that democratic institutions play a fundamental role in making a difference in people’s lives makes him a worthy recipient of this highly esteemed Prize in Political Science. His notable scholarly works include Poverty and Famines (1981) where he explores the link between famine and lack of democracy and highlights the crucial role democracy plays in alievating extreme poverty. In Development as Freedom (1999), he argues that political, social and economic freedoms are both the means and the ends of development. He sees development not only in one’s material wellbeing but also one’s ability to make free choices and act independently on them. In his 2009 book, The Idea of Justice, Sen addresses questions of how justice may be increased or how injustices may be removed, rather than offering resolutions of questions about the nature of perfect justice. Sen’s contribution spans the fields of political economy, social choice theory, public health, political philosophy, as well as the sub-discipline of development studies.
Amartya Sen Illustration by Anna Illeby