Veteran economist Sen awarded Peace Prize of the German Book Trade

The work of the Indian philosopher on social inequality is more relevant today than ever before, jury decided

Economics Nobel laureate and philosopher Amartya Sen has been awarded the Peace Prize of the German Book Trade, organisers announced on Sunday. Sen was chosen because he had "been dealing with issues of global justice as a thought leader for decades," the jury said, adding that his contribution to the fight against social inequality was more relevant today than ever before.

The Peace Prize, endowed with €25,000, is awarded annually to those who make a contribution to literature, science, or art in the name of peace. But this year the ceremony, like most events at the book fair, was streamed online, with Sen joining via livestream from his home in the US city of Boston.

"Who deserves this award more than someone whose work, for all its intellectual brilliance, distinguishes itself through one thing above all: humanity?" said German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who had to cancel his in-person attendance after being exposed to the coronavirus.

"He (Sen) wanted to be understood, and he didn't just want to understand the world, he wanted to change it," he added in his speech.

In his acceptance speech then, Sen focused on the importance of freedom of expression and the debate for freedom, peace and progress and warned of their increasing threat from autocratic systems. He also acknowledged how books play an important role in creating a culture of conversation and argument:

“Reading books - and talking about them - can entertain, amuse, excite and arouse our interest in all kinds of things. Books also help us argue with one another. And nothing, in my opinion, is as important as the opportunity to argue about things we may be at odds about," he said.

Using examples from countries such as India, the Philippines, Hungary and Brazil, he also demonstrated how governments in different ways suppress parts of society and curtail their rights.

“The world today is facing a pandemic of authoritarianism, affecting human life in different but interrelated ways. In view of our global connections and the importance of our common humanity, there is every reason to be seriously worried not only about our own country but also about others and to be interested in problems all over the world. ”

Hence, he concluded with an appeal: “Today, there is hardly anything more urgent in society than global resistance to increasing authoritarianism all over the world. The necessary resistance can come in many ways, but more reading, more talking, more arguing should undoubtedly be part of it. "

Sen was born in 1933 in the West Bengal region of India. For decades, he has been researching the consequences of globalisation and the causes of poverty and hunger at universities around the world. His works are based on the Human Development Index used by the United Nations. In 1998 he received the Nobel Prize for Economics for his theories on welfare economics in developing countries. The 86-year-old currently lives in Boston and has been teaching as a professor at Harvard University since 2004.

As for the publishers' trade fair in Frankfurt am Mein - it is billed as the most important of its kind worldwide. Its history stretches back to the invention of the printing press in the 15th century. This year's book fair, usually a massive exhibition attended by large numbers of international visitors, was held almost exclusively online, with 4,400 digital exhibitors from 110 countries.

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