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Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation [Paperback]

by Amartya Sen
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 6, 1990 0198284632 978-0198284635
This book focuses on the causes of starvation in general and famines in particular. The traditional analysis of famines is shown to be fundamentally defective, and the author develops an alternative analysis.

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Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation + Development as Freedom + Poor Economics: A Radical Rethinking of the Way to Fight Global Poverty
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Editorial Reviews


"[The] best book on famine available--important theoretical perspective, good case-study material."--Barbara D. Miller, Cornell University

"Embodies the best tradition of social science....Empirical and rational, yet neither virtue is pushed to the point where human beings are forgotten."--The Economist

"A truly seminal book....[Has] helped to shift the attention of policy-makers and international organizations away from excessive concentration on food production to broader issues of 'food security.'"--International Affairs

About the Author

Amartya Sen is at Harvard University.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (December 6, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198284632
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198284635
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #111,147 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Hunger and poverty are not regional or national issues any more. This book literally changed the way people thought about famines and hunger, according to Robert Solow. Human beings are deprived of food in many ways. Sen points out that food availability dedcline is only one possible cause of occurrence of a famine. Famines can occur even if the food output is sufficient in a region, for example in a situation when certain groups of people become richer and purchase more food leading to a steep rise in the prices, while the poor find the food increasingly unaffordable. Sen conceptualizes these issues in the framework of entitlement and ownership. Obviously, a person gets starved when his 'exchange entitlement set' is a null set, i.e., he owns nothing worth exchanging for bundles of food. A famine occurs when a large number of people in a country or a region suffer from such entitlement failures at a same time. In the second chapter, Sen discusses two alternative methods to measure poverty - the Income method and the Direct method. Both methods essentially represent two alternative conceptions of poverty analysis. The inequality approach to poverty is also found to be very common.
Can poverty analysis be put into a policy framework? Sen answers this question in the negative pointing out its difficulties. Sen says that a policy definition is based on a fundamental confusion. But at the same time, Sen fails to answer the question of how then the problem can be solved. Famine Enquiry Commission of 1945 had argued that the famine was due to cyclones, floods, fungus diseases, loss of Burma rice, etc., etc. The essence of these theses was that the famine was mainly an outcome of a food shortage. Sen in his analysis of the famine contests this.
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45 of 51 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Poverty and Famines: An essay on Entitlement and Deprivation
The Nobel Laureate (1998) Amartya Sen needs no introduction. But poverty and starvation are better known than he is. Better still, the author is in full realisation of this fact. So, no self-elevating adjectives or poignant criticism can be found in the book. The book focuses on starvation in general and famines in particular. At the very outset, Amartya comes out to be a Keynesian in approach rather than a classicist. As his critics would put it - "This paper is not concerned with long-term food policy". This is true to some extent but the author here is trying to fit in a jigsaw puzzle with two or more puzzles thrown in at once. The book can be further divided into three parts for reading purposes: * For layman [Chapter 1-5,10] * Case Studies [Chapter 6-9] * For the erudite economist [Appendix A-D] This is what sets the book apart - a simple treatment of such a complex subject! For an issue as basic as hunger, you do require a simple treatment that masses can understand and not only a Master at some reputed economic school. The first and second section can be read by anyone slightly concerned with the word - Poverty while appendices are for the more learned. Chapter I introduces the elementary concepts of his approach to starvation - "The Entitlement Approach". He clearly distinguishes between the food availability and the relationships between a person and the food available. According to him, a person can get food to which he is legally or socially entitled. He can exchange his owned entitlements for other entitlements. Thus, even if plenty is available in author's words - "Starvation is seen as the result of his inability to establish entitlement to enough food".
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10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book shows how the famine cycle works. March 11, 2000
By Jose
A very persuasive acount of the famine problem is displayed by Nobel Laureate Dr. Sen. Contrary to all expectations, is a very readable book, because all the formulas and elaborate economic theories are confined to the appendix section.
Before the appendix, Dr. Sen displays the famine cycle in many parts of the world during this century and highligth the Bengala famine during World War II. Also, he explains the causes and effects of the famine cycle on each case presented.
So, if you want to know how a famine is "made" and "administrated" this is the book you must have.
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