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A collection of quotes by Amartya Sen on economics, famine, gender, women, equality, justice, society, life, philosophy, politics, religion, identity and practice.

61 Inspiring Amartya Sen Quotes Worth Knowing

Quick Facts

Famous As: Economist & Philosopher

Born On: November 3, 1933

Born In: Santiniketan

Amartya Sen is a well-known Indian economist, writer and a philosopher famous for bringing practical solutions to reduce the affects of famine. After completing his graduation from the University of Cambridge he was appointed as the head of the economics department at a university in India. He took a break after a couple of years to pursue his Ph.D. from the University of Cambridge. He further served as a professor of Economics at renowned institutions like London School of Economics. He debuted as a writer with ‘Collective Choice and Social Welfare’ through which he discussed various issues like justice and equality. He further wrote many books before the controversial essay titled ‘More Than 100 Million Women Are Missing’ where he discussed the social issue of gender inequality. This was followed by his book ‘The Possibility of Social Choice’ which was honored with the Nobel Prize Lecture. His next publication ‘Development as Freedom’ was acknowledged by the Noble Prize committee as a significant work in the field of economics. Apart from the Noble Prize, he has also been honored with ‘Bharat Ratna', the highest civilian award of India. He continues to enlighten the world with his great intellect while serving as a professor of Economics and Philosophy at Harvard University. Amartya Sen has influenced and inspired a large number of academics and students through his work, thoughts, philosophy and books. His views on various economic and social issues are quoted extensively. We bring to you a treasure trove of quotes and sayings that have been excerpted from his work, books, essays, interviews and writings. Read on to explore a compilation of some of the best known quotations by Amartya Sen.

The identity of an individual is essentially a function of her choices, rather than the discovery of an immutable attribute

Amartya Sen

Poverty is not just a lack of money; it is not having the capability to realize one's full potential as a human being

Amartya Sen

Economic growth without investment in human development is unsustainable - and unethical

Amartya Sen

While I am interested both in economics and in philosophy, the union of my interests in the two fields far exceeds their intersection

Amartya Sen

Empowering women is key to building a future we want

Amartya Sen

The success of a society is to be evaluated primarily by the freedoms that members of the society enjoy.

Amartya Sen

Human development, as an approach, is concerned with what I take to be the basic development idea: namely, advancing the richness of human life, rather than the richness of the economy in which human beings live, which is only a part of it.

Amartya Sen

I believe that virtually all the problems in the world come from inequality of one kind or another.

Amartya Sen

Education makes us the human beings we are. It has major impacts on economic development, on social equity, gender equity. In all kinds of ways, our lives are transformed by education and security. Even if it had not one iota of effect [on] security, it would still remain in my judgment the biggest priority in the world.

Amartya Sen

Poverty is the deprivation of opportunity.

Amartya Sen

No famine has ever taken place in the history of the world in a functioning democracy.

Amartya Sen

A society can be Pareto optimal and still perfectly disgusting.

Amartya Sen

Globalization can be very unjust and unfair and unequal, but these are matters under our control. It’s not that we don’t need the market economy. We need it. But the market economy should not have priority or dominance over other institutions.

Amartya Sen

A defeated argument that refuses to be obliterated can remain very alive.

Amartya Sen

We need to ask the moral questions: Do I have a right to be rich? And do I have a right to be content living in a world with so much poverty and inequality? These questions motivate us to view the issue of inequality as central to human living.

Amartya Sen

It is important to reclaim for humanity the ground that has been taken from it by various arbitrarily narrow formulations of the demands of rationality

Amartya Sen

Starvation is the characteristic of some people not having enough food to eat. It is not the characteristic of there being not enough food to eat.

Amartya Sen

Progress is more plausibly judged by the reduction of deprivation than by the further enrichment of the opulent

Amartya Sen

Resenting the obtuseness of others is not good ground for shooting oneself in the foot.

Amartya Sen

Any classification according to a singular identity polarizes people in a particular way, but if we take note of the fact that we have many different identities - related not just to religion but also to language, occupation and business, politics, class and poverty, and many others - we can see that the polarization of one can be resisted by a fuller picture. So knowledge and understanding are extremely important to fight against singular polarization.

Amartya Sen

Human life depends not only on income but also on social opportunities, [for example] what the state does for educating.

Amartya Sen

Freedoms are not only the primary ends of development, they are also among its principal means.

Amartya Sen

Imparting education not only enlightens the receiver, but also broadens the giver - the teachers, the parents, the friends.

Amartya Sen

Economics, as it has emerged, can be made more productive by paying greater and more explicit attention to the ethical considerations that shape human behaviour and judgment.

Amartya Sen

Nor let us be resentful when others differ from us. For all men have hearts, and each heart has its own leanings. Their right is our wrong, and our right is their wrong.

Amartya Sen

Unceasing change turns the wheel of life, and so reality is shown in all it's many forms. Dwell peacefully as change itself liberates all suffering sentient beings and brings them great joy.

Amartya Sen

If a theory of justice is to guide reasoned choice of policies, strategies or institutions, then the identification of fully just social arrangements is neither necessary nor sufficient.

Amartya Sen

Human ordeals thrive on ignorance. To understand a problem with clarity is already half way towards solving it.

Amartya Sen

Education could be a great vehicle for gender equity. It allows people to see what your rights are by reading. Quite often women, for example, may have rights that they are not in the position to actually make use of.

Amartya Sen

While we cannot live without history, we need not live within it either.

Amartya Sen

Sometimes the lack of substantive freedoms relates directly to economic poverty, which robs people of the freedom to satisfy hunger; or to achieve sufficient nutrition, or to obtain remedies for treatable illnesses or the opportunity to be adequatley clothed or sheltered, or to enjoy clean water or sanitary facilities.

Amartya Sen

We must go on fighting for basic education for all, but also emphasize the importance of the content of education. We have to make sure that sectarian schooling does not convert education into a prison, rather than being a passport to the wide world.

Amartya Sen

We might have reason to be driven! We live for a short stretch of time in a world we share with others. Virtually everything we do is dependent on others, from the arts and culture to farmers who grow the food we eat.

Amartya Sen

Sometimes the lack of substantive freedoms relates directly to economic poverty

Amartya Sen

Prolixity is not alien to us in India. We are able to talk at some length.

Amartya Sen

The lack of economic freedom could be a very major reason for loss of liberty, liberty of life.

Amartya Sen

No substantial famine has ever occurred in any independent and democratic country with a relatively free press.

Amartya Sen

Globalization is a complex issue, partly because economic globalization is only one part of it. Globalization is greater global closeness, and that is cultural, social, political, as well as economic.

Amartya Sen

There are two principal approaches to secularism, focusing respectively on (1) neutrality between different religions, and (2) prohibition of religious associations in state activities.

Amartya Sen

The best hope for peace in the world lies in the simple but far-reaching recognition that we all have many different associations and affiliations, and we need not see ourselves as being rigidly divided by a single categorization of hardened groups, which confront each other.

Amartya Sen

Famines occur under a colonial administration, like the British Raj in India or for that matter in Ireland, or under military dictators in one country after another, like Somalia and Ethiopia, or in one-party states like the Soviet Union and China.

Amartya Sen

[Globalization] has enriched the world scientifically and culturally and benefited many people economically as well.

Amartya Sen

Violence is fomented by the imposition of singular and belligerent identities on gullible people, championed by proficient artisans of terror.

Amartya Sen

You have to be interested in inequality. The issue of inequality and that of poverty are not separable.

Amartya Sen

Your voice is much more articulate and people listen to you if you've been to school. In family decisions, not surprisingly, the biggest impact in reducing fertility is girls' education.

Amartya Sen

There are Muslims of all kinds. The idea of closing them into a single identity is wrong.

Amartya Sen

I think that so many of our abilities to do things depend on interaction with each other.

Amartya Sen

Anything that increases the voice of young women tends therefore to reduce the fertility rate.

Amartya Sen

I really do believe that education, despite this massive potential in transforming human lives, has not received the kind of attention that people should have given to it.

Amartya Sen

Gender inequality is not one problem, it's a collection of problems.

Amartya Sen

Defeated argument that refuses to be obliterated can remain very alive.

Amartya Sen

On being invited to the Jaipur Festival, I was naturally nervous about attempting an opening address to such an elite gathering.

Amartya Sen

The Affluent Society not only changed the way the country viewed itself, but gave new phrases to the language: Conventional wisdom, the bland leading the bland, private opulence and public squalor.

Amartya Sen

Development requires major source of unfreedom: poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or overactivity of repressive states.

Amartya Sen

I don't think poverty provides that much of an obstacle to education as one thinks. I think the bigger obstacle to education is the fact that it's a very hard thing to do for a first-generation schoolgoer. Because not to have parents at home who can help you, motivate you, is a problem even when the parents are in the abstract very keen on children being educated.

Amartya Sen

South Korea at the end of the Second World War had a very low level of literacy. But suddenly, like in Japan, they determined they were going in that direction. In 20 years' time, they had transformed themselves. So when people go on saying that it's all because of perennial culture, which you cannot change, that's not the way the South Korean economy was viewed before the war ended. But again within 30 years, people went on saying there's an ancient culture in Korea that has been pro-education, which is true.

Amartya Sen

The notion of human right builds on our shared humanity. These rights are not derived from the citizenship of any country, or the membership of any nation, but are presumed to be claims or entitlements of every human being. They differ, therefore, from constitutionally created rights guaranteed for specific people.

Amartya Sen

Famines are easy to prevent if there is a serious effort to do so, and a democratic government, facing elections and criticisms from opposition parties and independent newspapers, cannot help but make such an effort. Not surprisingly, while India continued to have famines under British rule right up to independence … they disappeared suddenly with the establishment of a multiparty democracy and a free press. … a free press and an active political opposition constitute the best early-warning system a country threaten by famines can have

Amartya Sen

The increasing tendency towards seeing people in terms of one dominant ‘identity’ (‘this is your duty as an American’, ‘you must commit these acts as a Muslim’, or ‘as a Chinese you should give priority to this national engagement’) is not only an imposition of an external and arbitrary priority, but also the denial of an important liberty of a person who can decide on their respective loyalties to different groups (to all of which he or she belongs).

Amartya Sen

There’s a clear and strong connection between fertility reduction and women’s literacy and empowerment, including women’s gainful employment. If you look at the more than 300 districts of India, the strongest influences in explaining fertility variations are women’s literacy and gainful economic employment.

Amartya Sen

There are some people who say that they’re concerned only with poverty but not inequality. But I don’t think that is a sustainable thought. A lot of poverty is, in fact, inequality because of the connection between income and capability—having adequate resources to take part in the life of the community.

Amartya Sen