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Starvation and Social Class: Amartya Sen on Markets and Famines


  • Mark Peacock


In his recent work, Amartya Sen assesses markets positively because they contribute to freedom. His work on famines, however, harbours a critical stance toward markets. In this paper, I compare Sen's 'two views' of markets and argue that his positive assessment is untenable. Markets can undermine freedom and, to show this, I examine the effects of market-dependence in times of famine; I extend the purview of Sen's analysis to include the manner in which subsistence producers who were once relatively autonomous from markets for their survival become dependent on markets. In conclusion, I examine the normative aspects of Sen's work on famines.

Suggested Citation

  • Mark Peacock, 2010. "Starvation and Social Class: Amartya Sen on Markets and Famines," Review of Political Economy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 22(1), pages 57-73.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:revpoe:v:22:y:2010:i:1:p:57-73
    DOI: 10.1080/09538250903391988

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