In this class, we will read and discuss a selection of writings by the Indian Nobel Prize-winning economist and philosopher Amartya Sen. We will start by examining his critique of prevailing understandings of ‘development’ (that tend to measure it in terms of economic growth or GDP), and his proposal for an alternative vision centred on the concept of ‘capability enhancement’ (in Development as Freedom (1999) and An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions (2013)). ‘Development’, in Sen’s definition, is to be judged or measured not simply in terms of crude economic indicators, but also in terms of the scope of individuals and communities for enjoying a range of capabilites crucial to ‘human flourishing’ – including freedom of expression, the ability to participate in shaping the collective life of the community (i.e. political participation), the enjoyment of a clean and safe environment, and so forth. We will also look at some of Sen’s writings on issues of justice and identity (especially relating to nationalism and religious intolerance), and at the relationship between these and his vision of development (e.g. in Identity and Violence (2006)). Throughout the sessions, a key theme of our discussions will be the ‘centrality of education’ to Sen’s overall vision of a free, just, ‘developed’ society.
Convener: Dr. Edward Vickers, Dept of Education