Reviews of Srinivasan Ramani Home in the World: A Memoir, by Amartya Sen
Recounting the first 30 years of her life, Amartya Sen provides insight into the making of her worldview with an emphasis on the idea of ââjustice
We know Amartya Sen as the winner of the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics in 1998, in addition to being a philosopher who focused his work on the idea of ââjustice.
Memory of Sen, Home to the world is a partial autobiography that ends in 1963 with his return to Delhi after nearly a decade spent abroad – primarily in Cambridge, UK – pursuing postgraduate, doctoral research and education.
Values ââof diversity
Sen’s work on the capabilities approach to human well-being and his insistence on public health care and education as the key to development has been all the more important today as India (and the world) is slowly recovering from its most serious public health crisis in decades. India is also going through a phase where the strengthening of democratic institutions, dissent and constitutional values ââof pluralism and diversity are threatened. Reading Sen’s journey in strengthening his cherished values ââshould encourage those who want to re-dedicate themselves to democratic and social projects in India today.
In the account of the first 30 years of his life, full of the people he grew up around, the events that shaped his Weltanschauung and later his professional activities, Sen brings out the full course of the development of the academic intellectual that we know.
Born in 1933, Amartya Sen’s early years marked a tumultuous period not only for his native India – and of which he still retains nationality despite a long period outside the country – but also for the world in general. The poet and Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore gave it its name, and he spent much of his early years of study at Santiniketan de Tagore, which exposed him to unconventional teaching methods, but also shaped his human, penetrating and eclectic nature.
Sen evocatively writes about many of his relatives, but many lines are devoted to his maternal grandfather Kshiti Mohan Sen, a Sanskrit scholar and teacher in Santiniketan who was familiar with classical religious scriptures and writings but was also a non- liberal conformist who asserted that liberality stems from reading the scriptures themselves. Kshiti Mohan’s influence also ignited Sen’s own atheistic worldview, which he drew from the Lokayata tradition of ancient Hindu philosophy.
The famine in Bengal in 1943 marked a turning point in Sen’s early years. The unfolding of a man-made disaster where thousands starved to death due to soaring food prices during WWII and Sen’s exposure to the fragility of life in his home province of origin convinces him to ask himself questions about how to fight hunger, poverty and inequality and sows the seeds of his interest in âthe welfare economyâ. This, combined with the cultural worldview he refined at Santiniketan allowed him to build a progressive perspective that went beyond the narrow sequestration of identities or ideologies. This facet is highlighted in his explanation of the partition of the country (and Bengal), the consequence of which is the final departure of his family from Dhaka.
Sen’s lifelong work as an economist and philosopher drew heavily on the various political, cultural and social currents that arose around him. Even though he develops a political understanding that appreciates the Marxist current and its sympathy for the oppressed, also aided by interactions with relatives who include a Congressional socialist and a communist revolutionary, he firmly rejects authoritarianism and questions the comrades of left road who refused to see degeneration. from communism in the Soviet Union to Stalinist repression.
His foray into college studies in economics and mathematics was very much in line with his early tendencies at school, but his choice of college studies also grew out of his student activism and intellectual discussions in Add as in the cafe corner of College Street in Calcutta in particular. While his concerns for fairness and social commiseration brought him closer to the left as a student, his firm beliefs about democracy and the pluralism inherent in its procedural frameworks made it difficult for him to fully identify with left-wing activism. who sought to mock liberalism, dissent and political opposition.
His later foray into social choice theory is also lit after reading Kenneth Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem during his college days. Arrow has argued that only a dictatorial social choice mechanism can give rise to social decisions when “certain basic and apparently reasonable procedural requirements must be met.” Sen was determined to scrutinize these procedures to deny the idea that they will not allow non-dictatorial social choice.
Although he could not immediately jump into social choice theory, his choice of academic work and the institution to pursue it – Cambridge, were inspired by his perceived proximity of thought to economists such as Pierro Sraffa and Maurice Dobb. Sraffa and Dobb both had close left-wing beliefs, but were not limited to a sectarian perspective, as Sen will describe later in his chapters on his learning experiences at Cambridge. Here too, in his apprenticeship in economic debates, he denounces compartmentalized thinking and reinforcement.
Even though he fondly remembers his diverse acquaintances at Cambridge and beyond – many of whom went on to become institution builders, national leaders and academic thinkers – he interweaves these encounters with comments on the establishment of the social democracy and cooperative efforts between nations and peoples. in war-torn Europe.
There is a charming humility that permeates the book – even in recounting the difficult times he had to undergo treatment for oral cancer or in his accomplishments – a prestigious award scholarship, an inaugural lecture and a doctorate that make them almost easy to accomplish but they certainly aren’t.
It’s easy to see Tagore’s influence GharÃ© BaÃ¯rÃ© (Home and the World) by choosing the title of the book. After all, Amartya Sen is at home in a diverse and plural world spanning from Santiniketan to Calcutta to Cambridge and Delhi, constantly enriching his perspectives through persuasion, reasoning, and understanding across time and geographic boundaries.
The house in the world: a memory; Amartya Sen, Allen Lane / PRH, 899.