Questions about Sen

1. How has Sen’s thought changed traditional development?  We have a better sense of how real income measures don’t estimate capabilities very effectively in some cases, plus we’ve learned how much democracy holds famines at bay.  Sen also drew attention to the problem of "the missing women" in the Third World, namely the possibly tendency of families to take better care of sons than daughterse or to selectively abort.

2. How has his thought affected on development frameworks and fields?See #1.

3. How is his thought evaluated?  Sen has won a Nobel Prize in economics.  His writings have influenced the practice of development economics in the field, plus he had a big impact on "social choice theory," most of all showing how efficiency may conflict with key values of liberty and autonomy ("the Paretian Liberal Paradox")

4. Is Sen’s thought practical and feasible in the development projects? If it is not practical or feasible, what would be the cause?  Sen’s measure of capabilities — a kind of positive liberty — can be hard to make operational, but in the field boosting health and literacy first — and real income second — does have more than a theoretical meaning.  Try visiting Kerala.

5. If there any shortcoming of Sen’s thought or his theory, what would it be?  Sen does not place enough stress on the ability of large-scale commercial institutions or capitalism to elevate people from poverty.  He still has some of the socialist biases of the Bengali intelligentsia.

6. Will be it possible for Sen’s thought ( in particular, capability approach) to be accepted and adopted as the main concept in international development in the future?  It is already part of the mainstream.  But there is no "the main concept" in such a diverse field.

7. Is there any concept or thought which replaces Sen’s thought? Or is there any concept or thought which was affected by Sen’s thought and which has made Sen’s thought more effective?  Sen’s work, according to some, has been strengthened by incoporating the philosophical perspectives of Martha Nussbaum.  In my view Sen’s thought starts too much with his philosophical opponents (crude economism) and not enough with the poverty problem itself.  I’d like to see more analysis of trust and institutions, other than democracy and certain kinds of aid.  See also #5.  Emily Oster’s work is an important revision to Sen’s claims about the missing women.

I could say more, but I am at a Marriott in Indianapolis.  Here is Wikipedia on Sen.


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