Amartya Sen is Thomas W. Lamont University Professor at Harvard. He received the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998. His latest book is An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions, cowritten with Jean Drèze. (August 2015)

India’s Women: The Mixed Truth

Women shielding themselves from a dust storm, Rajasthan, India, 1983; photograph by Steve McCurry from his book Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs, which includes fourteen of his photo stories from India, Afghanistan, Cambodia, and other countries, along with essays about his work and ephemera from his personal archive. It has just been published by Phaidon.
Public anger at gender inequality in India must be seen as an important—and long-overdue—social development, and it can certainly help in remedying the persistent inequalities from which Indian women suffer. It is, however, very important to understand the nature of female disadvantage in India, which can take many different forms. If the lack of safety of women is one aspect of it, the old phenomenon of “boy preference” in family decisions is surely another. There is, moreover, strong evidence that the economic and social options open to women are significantly fewer than those available to men.

Quality of Life: India vs. China

Girls in a classroom in the Indian model village of Ralegan Siddhi, northeast of Pune, Maharashtra, 2006
The rate of economic growth in India is steadily rising, and there is much speculation about whether and when India may catch up with and surpass China’s growth rate. Despite the evident excitement that this subject seems to cause in India and abroad, it is surely rather silly to be obsessed about India’s overtaking China in the rate of growth of GNP, while not comparing India with China in other respects, like education, basic health, or life expectancy. Economic growth can, of course, be enormously helpful in advancing living standards and in battling poverty. But there is little cause for taking the growth of GNP to be an end in itself, rather than seeing it as an important means for achieving things we value.

Capitalism Beyond the Crisis

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel at the ‘New World, New Capitalism’ symposium, Paris, January 8, 2009. Amartya Sen also attended the symposium.
2008 was a year of crises. First, we had a food crisis, particularly threatening to poor consumers, especially in Africa. Along with that came a record increase in oil prices, threatening all oil-importing countries. Finally, rather suddenly in the fall, came the global economic downturn, and it is now gathering …

Passage to China

The intellectual links between China and India, stretching over two thousand years, have had far-reaching effects on the history of both countries, yet they are hardly remembered today. What little notice they get tends to come from writers interested in religious history, particularly the history of Buddhism, which began its …

East and West: The Reach of Reason

W.B. Yeats wrote on the margin of his copy of The Genealogy of Morals, “But why does Nietzsche think the night has no stars, nothing but bats and owls and the insane moon?” Nietzsche outlined his skepticism of humanity and presented his chilling vision of the future just before the …

Tagore and His India

Rabindranath Tagore, who died in 1941 at the age of eighty, is a towering figure in the millennium-old literature of Bengal. Anyone who becomes familiar with this large and flourishing tradition will be impressed by the power of Tagore’s presence in Bangladesh and in India. His poetry as well as …

Population: Delusion and Reality

Few issues today are as divisive as what is called the “world population problem.” With the approach this autumn of the International Conference on Population and Development in Cairo, organized by the United Nations, these divisions among experts are receiving enormous attention and generating considerable heat. There is a danger …

The Threats to Secular India

When, some months ago, “The Idea of India” was agreed on as the title of my Nehru Lecture at Cambridge,[^1] I had not imagined that the subject would be as topical as it, alas, has become since the terrible events of recent months. The idea of a secular India, tolerant …

More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing

It is often said that women make up a majority of the world’s population. They do not. This mistaken belief is based on generalizing from the contemporary situation in Europe and North America, where the ratio of women to men is typically around 1.05 or 1.06, or higher. In South …

Individual Freedom as a Social Commitment

The following address was given at the award ceremony in Turin for the second Senator Giovanni Agnelli International Prize. I would like to examine the implications of seeing individual freedom as a social commitment. I am concerned here with a view of social ethics that sees individual freedom both (1) …

Neopersuasion

It is good to be merry and wise, It is good to be honest and true, It is best to be off with the old love, Before you are on with the new. So advises an old English song. Irving Kristol cannot be accused of not …

How Is India Doing?

“Thou by the Indian Ganges’ side / Shouldst rubies find: I by the tide / Of Humber would complain,” wrote Andrew Marvell, outlining to his coy mistress the things they could do if they had “but world enough, and time.” While not many rubies have been found on the banks …

Just Deserts

Peter Bauer is one of the most distinguished development economists in the world, and undoubtedly the foremost conservative one. His pioneering study of the rubber industry—published in 1948—established him as an applied economist of exceptional skill. He has written on a vast range of topics, including the market mechanism, the …