Skip to main content Accessibility help


  • Mozaffar Qizilbash (a1)

In criticizing communitarian views of justice, Amartya Sen argues that identity is not merely a matter of discovery but an object of reasoned choice subject to constraints. Distinguishing three notions of identity – self-perception, perceived identity and social affiliation – I claim that the relevant constraints implied by this argument are minimal. Some of Sen's arguments about perceived identity and social context do not establish any further constraints. Sen also argues that a model of multiculturalism and some forms of education can restrict, or fail to promote, reasoned and informed identity choice. This argument is better understood in the light of Sen's work on capability and justice, notably his concern with ways in which underdogs can adapt and his emphasis on public reasoning. It highlights limitations on information and opportunities for reasoning. I suggest that these lead to genuine constraints on (reasoned and informed) identity choice. The paper focuses on Sen's work, though its claims are also relevant to George Akerlof and Rachel Kranton's analysis of identity.

Hide All
Afshar, H., Aitken, R. and Franks, M.. 2005. Feminisms, Islamophobia and identities. Political Studies 53: 262283.
Akerlof, G. and Kranton, R.. 2000. Economics and identity. Quarterly Journal of Economics 105: 715753.
Akerlof, G. and Kranton, R.. 2002. Identity and schooling: some lessons for the economics of education. Journal of Economic Literature 40: 11671201.
Akerlof, G. and Kranton, R.. 2005. Identity and the economics of organizations. Journal of Economic Perspectives 19: 932.
Akerlof, G. and Kranton, R.. 2010. Identity Economics: How Our Identities Shape Our Work, Wages and Well-being. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Alkire, S. 2002. Valuing Freedoms: Sen's Capability Approach and Poverty Reduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Alkire, S. 2008. Using the capability approach: prospective and evaluative analyses. In The Capability Approach: Concepts, Measures and Applications, ed. Comim, F., Qizilbash, M. and Alkire, S., 2649. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Appiah, K. 2005. The Ethics of Identity. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
Appiah, K. 2008. Bending towards justice. Journal of Human Development 9: 343355.
Broome, J. 1991. Utility. Economics and Philosophy 7: 19.
Davis, J. 2006. Social identity strategies in recent economics. Journal of Economic Methodology 13: 371390.
Deneulin, S. 2008. Beyond individual freedom and agency: structures of living together in the capability approach to development. In The Capability Approach: Concepts, Measures and Applications, ed. Comim, F., Qizilbash, M. and Alkire, S., 105124. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Gore, C. 1997. Irreducibly social goods and the informational basis of Sen's capability approach. Journal of International Development 9: 235250.
Kirman, A. and Teschl, M.. 2006. Searching for identity in the capability space. Journal of Economic Methodology 13: 299325.
Layard, R. 2005. Happiness. Lessons from a New Science. London: Allen Lane, Penguin.
Mill, J. S. 1988. The Subjection of Women, ed. Okin, S.. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nussbaum, M. 1988. Nature, function and capability: Aristotle on political distribution. Oxford Studies in Ancient Philosophy 6 (Suppl.): 145184.
Nussbaum, M. 1990. Aristotelian social democracy. In Liberalism and the Good, ed. Douglass, B., Mara, G. and Richardson, H., 203252. London: Routledge.
Nussbaum, M. 1992. Human functioning and social justice. In defence of Aristotelian essentialism. Political Theory 20: 202246.
Nussbaum, M. 1995. Human capabilities, female human beings. In Women, Culture and Development: A Study of Human Capabilities, ed. Nussbaum, M. and Glover, J., 61104. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Nussbaum, M. 1998. The good as discipline, the good as freedom. In Ethics of Consumption: the Good Life, Justice and Global Stewardship, ed. Crocker, D. and Linden, T., 312341. Lanham, MD: Rowan and Littlefield.
Nussbaum, M. 2000. Women and Human Development: the Capabilities Approach. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Nussbaum, M. 2003. Capabilities as fundamental entitlements: Sen and social justice. Feminist Economics 9: 3359.
Nussbaum, M. 2006. Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality and Species-Membership. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.
Nussbaum, M. 2011. Creating Capabilities: the Human Development Approach. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press.
Nussbaum, M. and Sen, A.. 1989. Internal criticism and Indian rationalist traditions. In Relativism, Interpretation and Confrontation, ed. Krauz, M., 229325. Notre-Dame, IN: University of Notre-Dame Press.
Proust, M. 1992. In Search of Lost Time: Volume 4. Sodom and Gomorrah, transl. Scott Moncrieff, C. and Kilmartin, T.. London: Chatto and Windus.
Qizilbash, M. 1998. The concept of well-being. Economics and Philosophy 14: 5173.
Qizilbash, M. 2006. Capability, happiness and adaptation in Sen and J.S. Mill. Utilitas 18: 2032.
Qizilbash, M. 2007. Social choice and individual capabilities. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 6: 169192.
Qizilbash, M. 2009a. The adaptation problem, evolution and normative economics. In Arguments for a Better World: Essays in Honor of Amartya Sen, ed. Basu, K. and Kanbur, R., 5067. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Qizilbash, M. 2009b. Identity, community and justice: locating Amartya Sen's work on identity. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 8: 251266.
Qizilbash, M. 2011a. Sugden's critique of the capability approach. Utilitas 23: 2551.
Qizilbash, M. 2011b. Sugden's critique of the capability approach and the dangers of libertarian paternalism. International Review of Economics 58: 2142.
Qizilbash, M. 2012. Utilitarianism, ‘adaptation’ and paternalism. In Adaptation, Poverty and Development: The Dynamics of Subjective Well-Being, ed. Clark, D., 3560. Basingstoke: Palgrave MacMillan.
Robeyns, I. 2003. Sen's capability approach and gender inequality: selecting relevant capabilities. Feminist Economics 9: 6192.
Robeyns, I. 2008. Sen's capability approach and feminist concerns. In The Capability Approach: Concepts, Measures and Applications, ed. Comim, F., Qizilbash, M. and Alkire, S., 82104. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sandel, M. 1998. Liberalism and the Limits of Justice. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sartre, J-P. 1954. Reflections sur la Question Juive. Paris: Gallimard.
Sen, A. 1980. ‘Equality of what? In Tanner Lectures in Human Values, ed. McMurrin, S., 197220. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Sen, A. 1985. Commodities and Capabilities. Amsterdam: North-Holland.
Sen, A. 1991. Utility: ideas and terminology. Economics and Philosophy 7: 277283.
Sen, A. 1992. Inequality Re-examined. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sen, A. 1993. Capability and well-being. In The Quality of Life, ed. Nussbaum, M. and Sen, A., 3053. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sen, A. 1998. Reason before Identity: The Romanes Lecture for 1998. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sen, A. 1999. Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sen, A. 2000. Other people – beyond identity. The New Republic, December 18.
Sen, A. 2002a. Rationality and Freedom. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press.
Sen, A. 2002b. Symposium on Development as Freedom: Response to Commentaries. Studies in Comparative International Development 37: 7886.
Sen, A. 2002c. Open and closed impartiality. Journal of Philosophy 99: 445469.
Sen, A. (in conversation with Agarwal, B., Humphries, J. and Robeyns, I.). 2003. Continuing the conversation. Feminist Economics 9: 319332.
Sen, A. 2005a. The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity. London: Allen Lane, Penguin.
Sen, A. 2005b. Human rights and capabilities. Journal of Human Development 6: 151166.
Sen, A. 2006a. Identity and Violence: the Illusion of Destiny. London: Allen Lane, Penguin.
Sen, A. 2006b. Reason, freedom and well-being. Utilitas 18: 8096.
Sen, A. 2006c. What do we want from a theory of justice? Journal of Philosophy 103: 215238.
Sen, A. 2009a. The fog of identity. Politics, Philosophy and Economics 8: 285288.
Sen, A. 2009b. The Idea of Justice. London: Allen Lane, Penguin.
Sen, A. 2014. Justice and identity. Economics and Philosophy 30: 110.
Sugden, R. 2006. What we desire, what we have reason to desire, whatever we might desire: Mill and Sen on the value of opportunity. Utilitas 18: 3351.
Sugden, R. 2008. Capability, happiness, and opportunity. In Capabilities and Happiness ed. Bruni, L., Comim, F. and Pugno, M., 299322. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Sugden, R. 2010. Opportunity as mutual advantage. Economics and Philosophy 26: 4668.
Stewart, F. and Deneulin, S.. 2002. Amartya Sen's contribution to development thinking. Studies in Comparative International Development 37: 6370.
Teschl, M. and Derobert, L.. 2008. Does identity matter? On the relevance of identity and interaction for capabilities. In The Capability Approach: Concepts, Measures and Applications, ed. Comim, F., Qizilbash, M. and Alkire, S., 125156. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Economics & Philosophy
  • ISSN: 0266-2671
  • EISSN: 1474-0028
  • URL: /core/journals/economics-and-philosophy
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *


Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed