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Monday, May 4, 2015

Book Review : 'On Ethics and Economics' by Amartya Sen (Chapter 1 : Economic Behaviour And Moral Sentiments)

There is a big problem towards the approach that is taken towards Economics by the modern era.I remember an acquaintance of mine telling me one day "So,you want to be a millionaire studying Economics?" and I just replied with a laugh but what I had in mind was so that I would have a chance to stop millionaires being even born in this country,or at least a little more practically,criticise the nightmare-some concepts Capitalism often results in (including the accumulation of wealth in amounts of millions in individual hands). To begin with,Economics is not only about money and hard headed,robot like creatures.It has to deal with a lot of humanity,humanism and ethical well being of people,so basically we can say Economics has to do with the welfare of a society (Not to be confused with only the specialised branch called Welfare Economics.)In this book,Amartya Sen has sought to explain how the concepts are changing and aligning towards selfishness in the modern days and how it is impacting the society and the subject in particular.Mostly written in a scholarly manner,this book would be of interest to those who would wish to continue with Heterodox Economics or Welfare Economics in future or are continuing with these specialised branches.This can also serve as a hand guide for college students studying Economics along side Political Science or Philosophy and for those who particularly like the intelligent and extremely logical approach Sen has towards Economics,Political and Philosophical issues.

On Ethics And Economics by Amartya Sen 
(Published by Oxford Press India)

Chapter 1 begins with a critical approach towards John Stuart Mill and it begins with a positive perspective on Edmund Clerihew Bentley's verse -

John Stuart Mill
By a mighty effort of will
Overcame his natural bonhomie
And wrote 'Principles of Political Economy'

 Dante has been paraphrased in the context of his (John Stuart Mill's) work 'Principles of Political Economy',"Abandon all friendliness,you who enter!"It has been doubted as to what congratulations are due to exhibition of 'Political Economy' for its alleged demand.Sen also claims that while this view of economics is quite widely held and accepted in today's world,owing to the way how modern Economics has evolved,there is nevertheless something extraordinary in the fact that economics has evolved on the basis of such narrow terms.
Sought to discover the urge of self-examination induced by the Socratic question - 'How should one live?',the (then) professor of Lamont University,University of Harvard suggests in a very logical manner that Economics is supposed to be concerned with real,alive people rather than being concerned with hard headed,human-like creatures who are completely unaffected by the reach of self-examination.
One really interesting fact that I discovered while reading is that Adam Smith (who was  a professor of Moral Philosophy at the University of Glasgow) has been termed as 'the so-called father of modern economics',though his works have been appreciated and aligned to drawing the conclusion that why should Economics have a more humanist approach,something that concerns the society,the society that comprises of real individuals who form the basis of implications of collectivism.
The fact that Economics as a subject was taught at Cambridge for a long time as a branch of Ethics (The Moral Science Tripos) strengthens the notion that this subject has by default terms got to do more with Ethics than it apparently seems.
It has been stated with valid examples that the notion (whether the notion is valid or invalid have been further examined) that economics and ethics cannot be related except as mere juxtaposition has been intellectually opposed and it has also been rather satirically stated that this position had been quite unfashionable then but is quite fashionable now.

On Ethics And Economics 
(Published by Barnes and Noble)

The book pays attention to the times of Aristotle and Socratic and pays attention on how Economics evolved and thus based on such critically researched human notions and intelligently pressed logic,reaches its conclusion.It often questions how the empirical certainty of the notions attributed to Economics today and upto which extent they really work,which I personally find one of the most intellectually fascinating questions of the century.
[Part 2 coming up in June]

Disclaimer - The photographs used do not belong to me.

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  1. Nice review. But ethics and economics never go together except in the minds of intellectuals and especialy those intellectuals who have amassed enough wealth to preach about ethics.

    1. Thank You,Sir.
      I agree with the same. Even in this book,when the way in which modern economics has evolved over time is explained,it can be clearly seen that a vast concept of selfishness induced from absolute individualism has spread within people
      This is ironical indeed but yet,we need an alternate voice to exist.It is very necessary to hope for a possible change in future.

  2. very well written... hope to read it someday...
    cheers, Archana -

    1. Thank You so much,Archana.
      The book is indeed a 'treasure chest',as it has been describe in its preface.
      I have surfed through drishti even before you mentioned.After all,the blog names are very similar (just a matter of two different languages).
      I read the article on Netaji and Jawaharlal Nehru and I really appreciate the approach of the writer.


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