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The Idea of Justice Paperback – 1 Jul 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; 1st Edition edition (1 July 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141037857
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141037851
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 38,546 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Sen is one of the great thinkers of our era ... if a public intellectual is defined by his or her capacity to bridge the worlds of pure ideas and the most far-reaching policies, Sen has few rivals --The Times, July 4th 2009, David Aaronovitch --The Times<br \><br \>I believe that Amartya Sen's THE IDEA OF JUSTICE is the most important contribution to the subject since John Rawls's A THEORY OF JUSTICE appeared in 1971 --Hilary Putnam,Harvard University<br \><br \>A Majestic Book.......Reading the Idea of Justice is like attending a masterclass in practical reasoning. --Ziauddin Sardar, The Independent

I believe that Amartya Sen's THE IDEA OF JUSTICE is the most important contribution to the subject since John Rawls's A THEORY OF JUSTICE appeared in 1971 --Hilary Putman, Harvard University

A Majestic Book.......Reading the Idea of Justice is like attending a masterclass in practical reasoning. --Ziauddin Sardar, The Independent

Review

I believe that Amartya Sen's THE IDEA OF JUSTICE is the most important contribution to the subject since John Rawls's A THEORY OF JUSTICE appeared in 1971 --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Drnik68 on 31 Dec. 2010
Format: Paperback
One of my achievements of this summer (also got flooring done in hall cupboard!) was reading Amartyn Sen's "Idea of Justice". This big chunk of thoughts covers almost all elements of human thought through the prism of struggling with what the concept of Justice means in our contemporary society.
Although ostensibly an economist, Sen has won the Nobel Prize, his style is very broad both in the disciplines which he covers but also in his breadth of sources notably drawing on Eastern writings which are more than often overlooked in Western writings particularly on economics, philosophy and law.
His work, which I have never read any of, mainly deals in social choice theory which looks at the economics underpinning human behavior and the choices people make. Sen seeks to counter the presumption, which is fairly prevalent in capitalist thinking, that faced with a choice people always look after their own interests in a selfish way. Indeed, as he points out, choice theory has become synonymous with this.
This work is partially an attempt to integrate his work in this field into the area of legal theory. Indeed it also works as a comprehensive summary of all of his work to this date with a substantial and impressive referencing system and bibliography as part of the work.
The sweep of the work is one of its most impressive features from discussing the nature of freedom, to exploring the economic and political roots of famines to dissecting the writing of proto-feminist Mary Wollstonecraft. You get a real sense of the breadth and depth of Sen's knowledge but also of his enthusiasm for all aspects of learning and knowledge. I would add though that some of the roots of the weaker elements of the work lie here as well.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Patrick on 12 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the first book by Amartya Sen I have read. I respect the guy hugely as an intellectual, but as an engaging writer not at all. I think you could sum up what he says in this book in 4 pages, and detail it enough in 40 pages - but he writes it in 400 pages. He rambles - a lot - gets caught up in minor technicalities and repeats himself over and over. On top of that, his writing is so full of Sahara-dry academic terms that you can read some sentences 20 or 25 times and still not get any meaning out of them. In his defence, it seems he knows personally most of the people whose theories he criticises, so, nice guy that he is, he treats them with kid gloves, first praising their work and then gently saying what's wrong with it.

This is a book by an academic for academics, not for interested lay readers. I think someone else will come along and write an accessible coverage of Sen's work which will be much more readable.

(Sorry for not covering the content of the book, but other reviewers have done that.)
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By G-man on 9 Sept. 2011
Format: Paperback
'I believe that Amartya Sen's The Idea of Justice is the most important contribution to the subject since John Rawls' A Theory of Justice' - Hilary Putnam.

I have to agree with Putnam, this is a remarkable work which engages with over two-millenia of philosophical and political thought. In the end, Sen doesn't posit his own idea of what perfect justice would look like (as so many have), but rather what we should look for when pursuing the idea of justice.

The book is a response to the intellectual currents unleashed by thinkers such as Hobbes, Locke and Rawls who believe a perfectly just society can be created through a social contract. By contrast, Sen is not looking to understand perfect justice through a hypothetical thought-experiment. He is, however, in the tradition of thinkers such as Marx, Wollstonecraft and Mill, looking to make the world more just, working with what we already have.

Simple as it seems, Sen is the most formidable thinker to argue against Rawls' methodology and conclusions in order to make the world more, not perfectly, just. He argues that global justice can be better achieved through a shift in focus. First, we need to devote more attention to carefully scrutinising, examining and debating courses of action so that we are better equipped to remove injustices. Public reason, looking to hear voices from outside one's own constituency and generally broadening the information base from which we form decisions, all must be allied to efforts to further justice.

Second, we need to expand on the substantive pathways to achieve justice by incorporating the insights reason provides. Most importantly, this includes the importance of democracy and focussing on enhancing the capabilities which individuals are able to enjoy.
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67 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Geoff Crocker on 19 Aug. 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Amartya Sen has one idea in this book. He claims that John Rawls' theory of justice relies on just institutions working with a social contract towards a transcendental (ie unachievable?) vision of a perfectly just society. Sen critiques this for ignoring real actual achievable outcomes, excluding wider interests and failing to address behaviour. He proposes instead that justice should operate by comparing actual outcomes through a process of `unrestricted'(page 44) public reasoning. He offers one example, of whether a flute should belong to a child who can play it, a child who has no other toys, or the child who made it (although he frequently but vaguely refers to meta-examples of slavery and women's rights).

Had he stated this single idea and single example clearly once and then proceeded to analyse each thoroughly we might have a more succinct book on justice. Instead the text is repetitive and long, and strays into vast themes with weak linkage to justice. Sen is ever keen to tell us who he knows - there are 9 pages of acknowledgements which include a vast panoply of the intellectual great and good. He frequently name drops his friendship and/or working relationship with everyone from Isaiah Berlin to W V Quine. There are long sections on welfare economics, rational decision making and happiness which are Sen's Nobel Prize specialisms but are of vague if any connectivity to his theme of justice.
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