Inequality Reexamined (Magill Book Reviews)
As democratization spreads through much of the world, nations become increasingly concerned over ideals of equality among humans. Sen studies closely what equality and inequality are in varying contexts. He urges his readers to think the matter through both practically and theoretically. His rallying cry, oft-repeated in this book, is “Equality of what?”: Sen takes this cry as the title of his first chapter.
As in his earlier treatises, notably POVERTY AND FAMINE (1981) and ON ETHICS AND ECONOMICS (1987), Sen is concerned here with what entitlements societies allow their people. He reminds us that famine does not always stem directly from an absence of food. Distribution and equality of opportunity to obtain food are political and, often, moral issues with which nations, particularly those in the Third World, constantly grapple.
Sen notes that starvation occurs dramatically and with lightning speed in settings where food is unavailable, but that in many Third World countries, such as his native India, undernutrition accounts for more death and disability than outright starvation. In such settings, food is available, but, because it is nutritionally wanting and is insufficient in quantity, segments of the society waste away, dying slowly over extended periods.
Sen promotes the “capability approach” to solving some of the problems about which he is writing. This approach allows individuals the right and the power to pursue...
(The entire section is 262 words.)
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Inequality Reexamined (Magill's Literary Annual 1991-2005)
Amartya Sen, Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University, has devoted his substantial professional career to examining questions that relate to the ethical implications of economic realities and inequalities. He has long been centrally concerned with questions of famine and starvation, largely in Third World countries. Such questions have been major and consistent foci in his Poverty and Famine (1981)), Choice, Welfare, and Management (1982), Resources, Values and Development (1984), Commodities and Capabilities (1985), The Standard of Living (1987), and Hunger and Public Action (1989), all influential studies that draw from expertise in Sen’s two fields of crucial interest, economics and philosophy, notably ethics.
In Inequality Reexamined, Sen shows how social and political institutions, as they move toward democracy, characteristically call for an equality to be bestowed upon the populaces they encompass, but the equality they tout often assumes the stature of little more than a slogan meant to gain the support of—and ultimately to hoodwink—the masses. Suppressed people who are told, “All people deserve (and will be granted) equality,” gain hope—until someone asks, as Sen does throughout his book, “Equality of what?” This recurrent question pricks the balloon on which the enticing slogan has been etched and plunges the notion...
(The entire section is 1911 words.)