Amartya Sen to receive 2020 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade

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The Board of Trustees of the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade has chosen the Indian economist, philosopher and Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen as the recipient of this year’s Peace Prize. The announcement was made today by Karin Schmidt-Friderichs, who as head of the German Publishers and Booksellers Association (Börsenverein) is also chairperson of the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees issued the following statement with regard to their choice: “The German Publishers and Booksellers Association hereby awards the 2020 Peace Prize of the German Book Trade to the economist and philosopher Amartya Sen. In doing so, the association and its members have chosen to pay tribute to a pioneering scholar who has addressed issues of global justice for decades and whose work to combat social inequality in education and healthcare is as relevant today as ever. Among Sen’s most important contributions is the idea of evaluating a society’s wealth not solely based on economic growth indices, but also on the opportunities for development available to all individuals who comprise that society, in particular its weakest members.

Throughout his work, Amartya Sen has consistently highlighted solidarity and a willingness to negotiate as essential democratic values, proving in the process that cultures need not be the source of disputes over identity. His vivid and powerful descriptions have also served to elucidate the fundamental ways in which poverty, hunger and illness are intimately linked to the absence of free and democratic structures. The ‘Human Development Index’, the ‘capabilities approach’ and the notion of ‘missing women’ are just three of his groundbreaking concepts that continue to set high standards to this day with regard to generating, preserving and evaluating equal opportunities and decent living conditions for all. Amartya Sen’s inspiring oeuvre represents a compelling call to establish a culture of political decision-making borne by a sense of responsibility for the well-being of others, including the right to self-determination and the right to articulate one’s interests and have a say in one’s own future”.

Amartya Kumar Sen was born on 3 November 1933 in Santiniketan, India. His early years were influenced by the political movement for independence that took place across India during the 1940s, the contemporaneous conflicts between Hindus and Muslims and the great famine in Bengal in 1943.

In 1959, after having completed a B.A. in economics at Presidency College, Kolkata, Sen received his Ph.D. at Trinity College, Cambridge. He continued to devote himself to the study of philosophy in addition to economics, something that is clearly reflected in many of his later works, where issues of economic theory meet moral philosophy and ethics. Since the 1960s, Sen has taught at a number of leading institutions, including the Delhi School of Economics, Stanford, Berkeley, Oxford and Cambridge. He has been a professor of economics and philosophy at Harvard University since 2004.

Sen first became known to a wider public for his advancement of the theory of social choice and his analysis of the compatibility of reasoned social decisions and individual rights. As an economist-philosopher whose research areas include public health and gender studies, he has also worked tirelessly for the cause of democracy, freedom and global justice. He has always stood up for his conviction that the quality of an economic system should not be measured solely on the basis of its growth indices, but rather on the opportunities available to the members of society to pursue their own development as well as their freedom to lead a life they have reason to choose. Sen’s multifaceted and award-winning scholarly work has contributed unmatched insights and impulses to a number of fields, including welfare economics, social choice theory, decision theory, studies in hunger and poverty, and development economics.

Sen has received numerous awards for his highly influential body of work, including the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998. He has also been awarded over 100 honorary doctorates and had his books translated into over 30 languages. He lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and has been married since 1991 to the British economic historian Emma Georgina Rothschild-Sen, who also teaches at Harvard University. He is the father of four children.

The Board of Trustees consists of Klaus Brinkbäumer, Prof. Dr. Raphael Gross, Dr. Moritz Helmstaedter, Dr. Nadja Kneissler, Prof. Dr. Karl-Josef Kuschel, Felicitas von Lovenberg, Prof. Dr. Ethel Matala de Mazza, Bascha Mika and Karin Schmidt-Friderichs.

The award ceremony will take place on Sunday 18 October 2020 at the Church of St. Paul in Frankfurt am Main. The event will be organised in compliance with any applicable health regulations in place at that time. The ceremony will be broadcast live on German public television. The Peace Prize has been awarded since 1950 and is endowed with a sum of €25,000.

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