By Amartya Sen
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print Publication Year:1987
Online Publication Date:December 2009
Amartya Sen reconsiders the idea of ‘the standard of living’. He rejects the more conventional economic interpretations in terms of ‘unity’ and of wealth or ‘opulence’, and suggests an interpretation in terms of the ‘capabilities and freedoms’ that states of affairs do or do not allow. His argument is conceptual, but it refers to a wide range of examples. In elaborations of it, John Muellbauer explains how parts of it might be applied; Ravi Kanbur discusses the difficulties raised by choice ex ante, under uncertainty, and choice ex post; Keith Hart discusses the ways in which one might think about living standards in societies in which there is a substantial amount of what he calls ‘self provisioning’ outside the market; and Bernard Williams reflects on some of the moral and political implications of Sen's argument. There is a bibliography of most of the more important works on the subject. The book will be of interest to economists, sociologists, students of development and moral and political philosophers; it will also be of interest to those concerned with public policy.