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Rawls’ influence and counter-influence on Sen: post-welfarism and impartiality

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  • Muriel Gilardone

    (University of Caen Basse-Normandie, France - CREM-CNRS)

Abstract

Rawls has been a constant reference for Sen both to overcome welfarism and consider impartiality. In this paper, we’ll try to identify Sen’s paradoxical relationship to Rawls’ work that has evolved with time. The dialogue between both authors emerged in the late sixties, while Sen was working on a constructive social choice theory. Sen greatly benefited from Rawls’ insight as his proposition for a “weak equity axiom” (Sen, 1973) attests, inspired by Rawls’ difference principle. Sen then developed an important critics of what he calls welfarism, partly induced by Rawls too. In the eighties, Sen came up with a capability approach centered on individual life potentialities, rather than utility or primary goods. While it has often been perceived as a mere extension of Rawls’ theory of justice, it has to be acknowledged that Sen developed a strong critics of Rawls’ view of impartiality that led him toward a concept of “trans-positional objectivity” as a better basis for social judgments. The Idea of justice gives a final and decisive inflexion to his position vis-à-vis Rawls: not only Sen (2009) disagrees with Rawls’ view of impartiality, but he refuses the social contract perspective to provide an underpinning for a theory of justice.

Suggested Citation

  • Muriel Gilardone, 2011. "Rawls’ influence and counter-influence on Sen: post-welfarism and impartiality," Economics Working Paper Archive (University of Rennes 1 & University of Caen) 201104, Center for Research in Economics and Management (CREM), University of Rennes 1, University of Caen and CNRS.
  • Handle: RePEc:tut:cremwp:201104
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Maurice Salles, 2016. "Social choice," Chapters, in: Gilbert Faccarello & Heinz D. Kurz (ed.),Handbook on the History of Economic Analysis Volume III, chapter 36, pages 518-537, Edward Elgar Publishing.
    2. Sen, Amartya, 1973. "On Economic Inequality," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780198281931.
    3. Amartya Sen, 2005. "Human Rights and Capabilities," Journal of Human Development and Capabilities, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(2), pages 151-166.
    4. Sen, Amartya K, 1977. "On Weights and Measures: Informational Constraints in Social Welfare Analysis," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 45(7), pages 1539-1572, October.
    5. John C. Harsanyi, 1953. "Cardinal Utility in Welfare Economics and in the Theory of Risk-taking," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 61, pages 434-434.
    6. Rawls, John, 1974. "Some Reasons for the Maximin Criterion," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 64(2), pages 141-146, May.
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    Cited by:

    1. Antoinette Baujard & Muriel Gilardone, 2017. "Sen is not a capability theorist," Journal of Economic Methodology, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 24(1), pages 1-19, January.
    2. Laurie Bréban & Muriel Gilardone, 2019. "A missing touch of Adam Smith in Amartya Sen’s account of Public Reasoning: the Man Within for the Man Without," Economics Working Paper from Condorcet Center for political Economy at CREM-CNRS 2019-01-ccr, Condorcet Center for political Economy.
    3. Antoinette Baujard & Muriel Gilardone, 2016. "Positional views as the cornerstone of Sen’s idea of justice," Post-Print halshs-01366695, HAL.
    4. Muriel Gilardone & Antoinette Baujard, 2013. "Individual judgments and social choice in Sen's idea of justice and democracy," Economics Working Paper from Condorcet Center for political Economy at CREM-CNRS 2013-03-ccr, Condorcet Center for political Economy.
    5. Muriel Gilardone, 2018. "The influence of Sen’s applied economics on his “social choice” approach to justice: agency at the core of public action to remove injustice," Economics Working Paper from Condorcet Center for political Economy at CREM-CNRS 2018-01-ccr, Condorcet Center for political Economy.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Sen; Rawls; Interpersonal utility comparisons; post-welfarism; positional objectivity;

    JEL classification:

    • D63 - Microeconomics - - Welfare Economics - - - Equity, Justice, Inequality, and Other Normative Criteria and Measurement
    • B31 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - History of Economic Thought: Individuals - - - Individuals
    • B41 - Schools of Economic Thought and Methodology - - Economic Methodology - - - Economic Methodology

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