The other economy

Publish date 24-10-2021

by Renato Bonomo

The Indian economist and philosopher Amartya Sen (born in 1933) proposes an approach to the theme of justice that is very unusual for our Western culture. From Socrates onwards, philosophy has always been oriented towards the search for definitions. Plato called them Ideas, Aristotle Substances. With apparent simplicity, Sen overturns the problem by proposing an alternative perspective. Starting from history and common life, Sen recognizes that we perceive injustices more clearly than a clear definition of justice. Sen's priority is therefore to address the problems inherent in the progressive elimination of injustice and the promotion of justice in concrete contexts rather than trying to define an abstract idea of ​​justice.
Sen notes with great acuity that men tend to modify the reality in which they live not so much on the basis of common ideals and projects but because of a shared feeling of injustice. But - adds Sen - sentiment is not enough, we need a real rational and critical analysis at the basis of our actions. Sen states that at the basis of a widespread sense of injustice there can be many different reasons, without necessarily there being an agreement on which of these reasons is the root cause of the injustice. The mobilization against slavery of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries teaches us that the promoters of emancipation did not operate because they were motivated by a single definition of justice but because they believed - each for their own reasons - that slavery was an unbearable injustice. Despite having different political orientations, it was precisely this common feeling that stimulated decisive action on their part.
Sen proposes a way in which the principles of justice are not defined in terms of institutions or laws, but rather in relation to the life and freedom of the people involved. Let us think of the specific case of democracy which cannot be evaluated only on the basis of the formally existing institutions, but also on the basis of the effective participation of the various social components.

Furthermore, we must acquire a global point of view and overcome the limits that come to us from our "position" that limits our analyzes and our possibilities. It would therefore be appropriate to deal with the sufferings and troubles of the people of the world instead of restricting our view to the West alone.

The result of this reasoning is that research must be centered on the comparison between projects or concrete achievements that have as their objective a feasible and measurable progress of justice. Sen has great hopes that rational dialogue will bear fruit as, in this so irrational world, reason continues to play an essential role.

Renato Bonomo
NP June / July 2021


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