In the summer of 1997, I was asked by a leading Japanese newspaper what I thought was the most important thing that had happened in the twentieth century. I found this to be an unusually thought-provoking question, since so many things of gravity have happened over the last hundred years. The European empires, especially the British and French ones that had so dominated the nineteenth century, came to an end. We witnessed two world wars. We saw the rise and fall (...) of fascism and Nazism. The century witnessed the rise of communism, and its fall (as in the former Soviet bloc) or radical transformation (as in China). We also saw a shift from the economic dominance of the West to a new economic balance much more dominated by Japan and East and Southeast Asia. Even though that region is going through some financial and economic problems right now, this is not going to nullify the shift in the balance of the world economy that has occurred over many decades (in the case of Japan, through nearly the entire century). The past hundred years are not lacking in important events. (shrink)
Two central issues for ethical analysis of equality are: (1) Why equality? (2) Equality of what? The two questions are distinct but thoroughly interdependent, We cannot begin to defend or criticize equality without knowing what on earth we are talking about, i,e., equality of what features (e,g., incomes, wealths, opportunities, achievements, freedoms, rights)? We cannot possibly answer the first question without addressing the second, That seems obvious enough.
It is a great privilege for me to be present at the launch of the Report on Making Infrastructure Work for the Poor prepared by the UNDP in collaboration with the Japanese Government. We have had high expectations about this forthcoming report, given the quality of the work that the UNDP has continued to produce (and the quality and dedication of the Poverty Group led now by Dr. Selim Jahan), and given the visionary commitment of the Japanese Government on developmental (...) issues, led - in this case - by JICA. Our expectations are not disappointed - a number of ideas and assessments of older theses can be found in the studies that lie.. (shrink)
We live in a world in which the idea of human rights is persistently invoked. However, despite the tremendous appeal of the idea of human rights, it is also seen by many as lacking in foundation. I have argued, particularly in my book The Idea of Justice, that human rights are best seen as articulations of commitments in social ethics, comparable to — but very different from — accepting utilitarian reasoning. Like other ethical tenets, human rights can, of course, be (...) disputed, but the claim is that they will survive open and informed scrutiny.This view contrasts with seeing human rights in primarily legal terms, either as consequences of humane legislation, or as precursors of legal rights, or as pointing towards what should ideally be legal rights. Human rights may well be reflected in legislation, may inspire legislation, and may even serve, in many circumstances, as ideals that demand legislative attention. However, these are ‘further facts’— not the defining characteristics of human rights. (shrink)
Words have meanings, often more than one. Many words also have evocative power and communicative reach. It is important to look beyond the legal route in making human rights more effective, and to endorse but proceed beyond human rights being seen as motivation only for legislation (the particular connection on which Herbert Hart commented). Within the legal route itself there is the important issue of interpretation of law that can stretch beyond the domain of fresh legislation. In assessing the ‘originalist’ (...) disciplines of legal interpretation, the article discusses the distinction between interpreting the original text in terms of changing linguistic conventions (on which some commentators have focused) and taking note of public reasoning today in the light of the original ‘constitutional motivation’. (shrink)
Personal identity and social identity are two very different concepts and the idea of getting them together, as Bhikhu Parekh proposes, within an integrated bundle of some `overall identity' raises serious questions of coherence. Personal identity demands the `sameness' of a person (Who is this guy? Am I still the same person that I was ten years ago?). Social identity is focused instead on our social affiliations, such as identifying with others with, say, the same nationality, or the same religion, (...) or same political partnership. We can make reasoned choices about our priorities in social affiliation. Those who want to make our social affiliation a matter of `discovery' rather than of choice may frighten us by saying that we would lose our overall identity if we were to choose to affiliate differently (for example as an Indian and not just as a Hindu, or as British and not just as a Muslim). To understand that there is no threat to personal identity involved in such choices is important both for clarity of analysis and for standing up against the herd behaviour of identity politics. (shrink)
I am embarrassed at being placed in the dizzying company of one of the truly great thinkers in the world. The similarities between Mill's ideas and mine partly reflect, of course, his influence on my thinking. But I also discuss some difficulties in taking Mill's whole theory without modification, since there are internal tensions within it. In a paper I published in 1967, I tried to discuss how Mill's willingness to hold on to some contrary positions depended on the nature (...) of his empirical reading of the world. I draw on that diagnosis in commenting on some of the articles here. There are some serious issues of misinterpretation in one of the articles, which I try to clarify. I also comment on Arrow's interpretation of what is involved in the idea of autonomy and on his own way of assessing freedom, and acknowledge the seriousness of the questions he raises about the value of freedom in normative political philosophy. (shrink)
Gary Becker and others have done important work to broaden the content of self interest, but have not departed from seeing rationality in terms of the exclusive pursuit of self-interest. One reason why committed behavior is important is that a person can have good reason to pursue objectives other than self interest maximization (no matter how broadly it is construed). Indeed, one can also follow rules of behavior that go beyond the pursuit of one's own goals, even if the goals (...) include non-self-interested concerns. By living in a society, one develops possible reasons for considering other people's goals as well, which takes one beyond an exclusive concentration on one's own goals, not to mention the single-minded pursuit of one's own self interest. The recognition of other people's goals may be a part of rational thought. If rational behavior may depart from the relentless pursuit of one's own goals, commitment has to be important in a theory of rationality. Furthermore, seeing the role of commitment in human behavior can have explanatory importance in allowing us to understand behavior patterns that are hard to fit into the narrow format of contemporary rational choice theory. Commitment is, thus, important both for practical reason and for causal explanation. (shrink)
This essay discusses the place of business principles and of moral sentiments in economic success, and examines the role of cultures in influencing norms of business behavior. Two presumptions held in standard economic analysis are disputed: the rudimentary nature of business principles (essentially restricted, directly or indirectly, to profit maximization), and the allegedly narrow reach of moral sentiments (often treated to be irrelevant to business and economics). In contrast, the author argues for the need to recognize the complex structure of (...) business principles and the extensive reach of moral sentiments by using theoretical considerations, a thorough analysis of Adam Smith’s work, and a careful interpretation of Japan’s remarkable economic success. Referring to the economic corruption in Italy and the “grabbing culture” in Russia, he further shows how deeply the presence or absence of particular features of business ethics can influence the operation of the economy, and even the nature of the society and itspolitics. Being an Indian himself, he warns against grand generalizations like the superiority of “Asian values” over traditional Western morals. To conclude, it is diversity—over space, over time, and between groups —that makes the study of business principles and moral sentiments a rich source of understanding and explanation. (shrink)
First published in 1973, this book presents a systematic treatment of the conceptual framework as well as the practical problems of measurement of inequality. Alternative approaches are evaluated in terms of their philosophical assumptions, economic content, and statistical requirements. -/- In a new introduction, Amartya Sen, jointly with James Foster, critically surveys the literature that followed the publication of this book, and also evaluates the main analytical issues in the appraisal of economic inequality and poverty.
Abstract In The Joyless Economy, Tibor Scitovsky proposes a model of human behavior that differs substantially from that of standard economic theory. Scitovsky begins with a basic distinction between ?comfort? and ?stimulation.? While stimulation is ultimately more satisfying and creative, we frequently fall for the bewitching attractions of comfort, which leads to impoverished lives. Scitovsky's analysis has far?reaching implications not only for the idea of rationality, but for the concept of utility (by making it plural in nature) and, perhaps most (...) importantly, for the importance of freedom (including the freedom to change our preferences). (shrink)
Este artículo trata de las comparaciones ordinales de desigualdad de bienestar y su uso en los juicios de bienestar social, especialmente en el contexto del "principio de diferencia" de Rawls. En la sección 1 se desarrolla el concepto de comparaciones de desigualdad ordinales y se presenta un teorema sobre las comparaciones de desigualdad de bienestar para problemas de distribución. La sección 2 se dedicaa la discusión de Harsanyi (1955) de que la preocupación por reducir las desigualdades de bienestar entre las (...) personas no debe interferir en los juicios de bienestar social. En la sección 3 se presenta una derivación axiomática de la regla lexicográfica maximin de Rawls; ésta se relaciona directamente con los resultados establecidos por Hammond (1975), d'Aspremont y Gevers (1975), y Strasnick (1975). En la última sección se examinan los axiomas usados y se analizan algunos axiomas alternativos con la intención de llegar a una evaluación crítica del enfoque de Rawls de los juicios sobre el bienestar social. (shrink)
The importance of business ethics is not contrdicted in any way by Adam Smith’s pointer to the fact that our “regards to our own interests” provide adequate motivation tor exchange. There are many important economic relationships other than exchange, such as the institution of production and arrangements of distribution. Here business ethics can playa major part. Even as far as exchange is concerned, business ethics can be crucially important in terms of organization and behavior, going weil beyond basic motivation.
This paper is about three distinct but interrelated problems: (1) the role 0f rights in moral theory, (2) thc characterization 0f agent relative values and their admissibility in consequ<—:ncc—bascd evaluation, and ( 3) the nature 0f moral evaluation 0f states 0f aihirs.
A volume of studies of utilitarianism considered both as a theory of personal morality and a theory of public choice. All but two of the papers have been commissioned especially for the volume, and between them they represent not only a wide range of arguments for and against utilitarianism but also a first-class selection of the most interesting and influential work in this very active area. There is also a substantial introduction by the two editors. The volume will constitute an (...) important stimulus and point of reference for a wide range of philosophers, economists and social theorists. (shrink)