Amartya Kumar Sen (3 November 1933 - )
Sen was born in Santiniketan, West Bengal, the town which was established by Nobel Prize Winner Radindranath Tagore.
Sen has taught economics at the University of Calcutta, Jadavpur University, Delhi, Oxford, London School of Economics, and Harvard. He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, England, between 1998 and 2004, then returned to Harvard.
He has produced work on gender inequality, and generally uses female pronouns when referring to an abstract person.
In 1998 he won the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences (sometimes called the "Nobel Prize for Economics") for his political liberalism and work on famine, human development theory, welfare economics, and his studies on the underlying mechanisms of poverty.
In 1999 he received the Bharat Ratna, the highest award in India. In 2002 he received the International Humanist Award from the International Humanist and Ethical Union (IHEU).
Sen's first wife was Nabaneeta Dev Sen, mother of his two children. His second wife was Eva Colorni, with whom he lived from 1973 onwards, had two children, and who died from stomach cancer in 1985. His present wife is Emma Georgina Rothschild, an expert on Adam Smith and Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. His daughter, Nandana Sen, is a noted Bollywood actress.
In 2006 Sen wrote Identity and Violence, The Illusion of Destiny, in which he challenges the communitarian philosophy and refers to "the need to see the role of choice in a context specific way." Illustrating the multiplicity of choices humans have, he compares the irony of liberals who force women to take off their veils and their "fundamentalist" counterparts who force them to keep the veils on. Sen points out that women might wear a veil through fear of punishment while others may be rejecting the degrading of the female body in modern capitalist societies. He believes that humans should rise above the narrow-mindedness, the laziness, of those who persist in thinking in simple categories. This he believes is vital for "the reductionism of high theory can make a major contribution, often inadvertently, to the violence of low politics."
In a Guardian article (28 July 2006), he said that to abolish only non-Christian faith schools would be taken an affront. The answer is that they all have to go:
- In Britain, a confounded view of what a multi-ethnic society must do has led to encouraging the development of state-financed Muslim schools, Hindu schools, Sikh schools, etc, to supplement pre-existing state-supported Christian schools. Under this system, young children are placed in the domain of singular affiliations well before they have the ability to reason about different systems of identification that may compete for their attention."
Similarly, he take the pragmatists' and freethinkers' view,
- "We have many different identities because we belong to many different groups. . . .We are connected with our profession, occupation, class, gender, political views and language, literature, taste in music, involvement in social issues - and also religion. But just to separate out religion as one singularly important identity that has over-arching importance is a mistake. One of the problems of what is happening in Britain today is that one identity, the religious identity, has been taken to represent almost everything. . . . Of course, this policy immediately has the effect of making some people extremely privileged - those who speak in the name of religion. There may be some moderate people but mostly they are extremists who appeal by saying, 'Forget everything else, you are a Muslim' . . . . This is a point of view that Islamic terrorists share with western theorists who define human beings only in terms of their religion because both agree that if you are Muslim, then that is your primary identity. Religion has been inadvertently politicised by the UK Government in a way that is counter-productive. It makes the battle against terrorism so ham-fisted and clumsy.