The Country of First Boys

In This Review

The Country of First Boys
By Amartya Sen
Oxford University Press, 2015
328 pp.

Sen has always been an economist with a humanistic sensibility, exploring the fraught possibilities of human advancement through the spread of markets while maintaining a commitment to global social justice. The essays collected here cover a wide range of topics—poverty, war, trade, development, freedom, education—sometimes offering sweeping arguments about modernity and social change and at other times looking for insights in small places, such as a school for girls in India. Sen rejects the view of “antiglobalizers,” who claim that international trade inherently stacks the deck against weak and poor countries. Sen argues that the poor would be even worse off in closed societies, without access to technology, trade, and the political benefits of living in an open world. The challenge, Sen argues, is to organize the global political economy so that it will more widely distribute the benefits of globalization. Indeed, this is Sen’s most compelling message: markets are here to stay, but they can and should be embedded in wider systems of social support and protections that can bring the world closer to a more just—or at least more tolerable—global order.