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Amartya Sen

Princess of Asturias Award for Social Sciences 2021

Amartya Kumar Sen was born on 3rd November 1933 in Shantiniketan (India). He received his PhD from the University of Cambridge (UK) and taught Economics at the Indian Universities of Calcutta and Delhi, the London School of Economics, and the Universities of Oxford (UK) and Harvard (USA). He was Master of Trinity College, Cambridge from 1998 to 2003 and first chancellor of Nalanda University (India) from 2012 to 2015. He is the Thomas W. Lamont University Professor and Professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University.

His research on famines and his theory of human development, welfare economics and the underlying mechanisms of poverty have contributed to the fight against injustice, inequality, disease and ignorance. In his best-known work, Poverty and Famines. An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation (1981), he demonstrated that hunger is not a consequence of the lack of food, but rather of inequalities in its mechanisms of distribution. His contributions to the development of economic and social indicators have been the concepts of capabilities and positive freedom, the real capacity of a person to be or to do something, as opposed to negative freedom, a common concept in economics focussing on non-interference. His school of thought has helped redirect development plans and a number of United Nations policies.

His books include Collective Choice and Social Welfare (1970), The Standard of Living (1987) Development as Freedom (1999), Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (2006), The Idea of Justice (2009), An Uncertain Glory: India and Its Contradictions (2013), together with Jean Drèze, and The Country of First Boys (2015), a selection of essays that brings together his most outstanding reflections on society, economics, culture, politics and intellectual thought, several of which deal with India in particular.

He was one of the twenty-five figures making up the commission created by Reporters Without Borders to draw up the International Declaration on Information and Democracy, made public in 2018. Via intergovernmental agreement, forty-two countries created the International Association on Information and Democracy for the promotion and implementation of its principles. He has published his memoirs in Home in the World: A Memoir (2021).

Nobel Prize Winner in Economics in 1998, he has also received the Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Awards (USA, 1990), the Catalonia International Prize (1997), the Meister Eckhart Prize (Germany, 2007), the Edgar de Picciotto International Prize (Switzerland, 2012), the Charleston-EFG John Maynard Keynes Prize (UK, 2015), the Johan Skytte Prize (Sweden, 2017) and the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade (2020), as well as the Eisenhower Medal (USA, 2000), the Bodley Medal (UK, 2019), the Edinburgh Medal, and gold medals from the Asiatic Society and the Italian Republic, among other distinctions. Commander of the French Legion of Honour, he holds the Grand Cross of the National Order of Scientific Merit of Brazil. Holder of honorary degrees from more than a hundred universities, he is a member of the Britannica Society, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and the American Academy of Philosophy. He has been an advisor and honorary chairman of Oxfam International, president of the Econometric Society (USA) and chairman of the Indian Economics, American Economics and International Economics (France) Associations.

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