Can the values which individual members of society attach to different alternatives be aggregated into values for society as a whole, in a way that is both fair and theoretically sound? Is the majority principle a workable rule for making decisions? How should income inequality be measured? When and how can we compare the distribution of welfare in different societies? So reads the 1998 Nobel citation by the Swedish Academy, acknowledging Amartya Sen s important contributions in welfare economics and particularly his work in "Collective Choice and Social Welfare."
Originally published in 1970, this classic study has been recognized for its groundbreaking role in integrating economics and ethics, and for its influence in opening up new areas of research in social choice, including aggregative assessment. It has also had a large influence on international organizations, including the United Nations, notably in its work on human development. The book showed that the impossibility theorems in social choice theory led by the pioneering work of Kenneth Arrow do not negate the possibility of reasoned and democratic social choice.
Sen s ideas about social choice, welfare economics, inequality, poverty, and human rights have continued to evolve since the book s first appearance. This expanded edition preserves the text of the original while presenting eleven new chapters of fresh arguments and results. Both the new and original chapters alternate between nonmathematical treatments of Sen s subjects, accessible to all, and mathematical arguments and proofs. A new introduction gives a far-reaching, up-to-date overview of the subject of social choice."
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This book is concerned with the study of collective preference, in particular with the relationship between the objectives of social action and the preferences and aspirations of society's members. Professor Sen's approach is based on the assumption that the problem of collective choice cannot be satisfactorily discussed within the confines of economics. While collective choice forms a crucial aspect of economics, the subject pertains also to political science, the theory of the state, and to the theory of decision procedures. The author has therefore used material from these disciplines, plus philosophical aspects from ethics and the theory of justice.Review:
With his masterly prose, ease of erudition and ironic humour, Sen is one of the few great world intellectuals on whom we may rely to make sense out of our existential confusion (Nadime Gordimer)
Amartya Sen occupies a unique position among modern economists. He is an outstanding economic theorist, a world authority on social choice and welfare economics. He is a leading figure in development economics, carrying out path-breaking work on appraising the effectiveness of investment in poor countries (Anthony B. Atkinson New York Review of Books)
The first edition in 1970 of this fine book was of immense importance and at the core of Amartya Sen's Nobel Prize. His contributions since, to our conceptions of rights, liberty, justice, identity, poverty, inequality and development, have been of still greater significance to our understanding of the fundamental challenges we face as individuals and societies in thinking about who we are and how we should act. The substantive and profound additions in this edition delve even deeper into the arguments of the original and relate them to the central questions and issues of his subsequent research and writing. Sen is one of the great minds of both the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. We owe him a huge debt (Nicholas Stern)
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