Friday, September 23, 2011

Identity and Violence - Amartya Sen

"Hating people is not easy"
-Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen used to be an economist.  His work on famine and poverty changed they way specialists looked at these two phenomenons. Shortly before winning the Nobel Prize, he became a philosopher. In his free time, he studies Sanskrit and watches cricket.

Throughout his career, Sen has been against reductionist visions of man. His battles against neo-classicists and their conception of people as "economic humans" are legendary. Identity and Violence is an argument against multiculturalism and the "clash of civilizations" theory, both of which seek to encapsulate man along cultural lines. The problem with reducing people to one single identity is that in doing so, other sources of interpersonal identification are lost and the probability of inter-group violence increases.

This book was published in 2005, right after the French riots, and in the middle of Iraq's occupation. Sen's opinions on both phenomena proved prescient. The book also includes a critique to British multiculturalism, which obviously deserves to be discussed after the 2011 London riots. 

After Identity and Violence, Sen wrote a book on justice, which is a kind rebuttal to John Rawls' work on the subject. He is now engaged in a crusade against rating agencies.

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