More on Food and the World

Deven Desai

Deven Desai is an associate professor of law and ethics at the Scheller College of Business, Georgia Institute of Technology. He was also the first, and to date, only Academic Research Counsel at Google, Inc., and a Visiting Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Information Technology Policy. He is a graduate of U.C. Berkeley and the Yale Law School. Professor Desai’s scholarship examines how business interests, new technology, and economic theories shape privacy and intellectual property law and where those arguments explain productivity or where they fail to capture society’s interest in the free flow of information and development. His work has appeared in leading law reviews and journals including the Georgetown Law Journal, Minnesota Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Wisconsin Law Review, and U.C. Davis Law Review.

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Hey Deven,

    I just want to sound a brief here in urging we recall Sen’s findings from “Poverty and Famine,” that famine is much more likely to stem from sociopolitical institutions, structures, and causes, than from natural disasters, food shortages, etc.

    I’m not suggesting that food prices and shortages are insignificant. Rather, the point is that the efforts we make to redress the problems cannot avoid the importance of social and political justice; that we can provide as much humanitarian aid as we like, but without attention to the political and social structures that are largely responsible for funneling the food to the hungry, our impact is unlikely to be what we might hope for. Justice, then, is more than an abstract value, something we should generally strive for, but of little consequence to people’s lives.

    If Sen is right, and I tend to think he is, unjust structures are a principal cause of famines and starvation.

    I suspect organizational sociologists might concur and/or have some wisdom on the subject to share, but in discussing global justice, I am often amazed at how few seem to recall Sen’s analysis, which was important enough, along with the greater body of Sen’s work to earn a Nobel Prize!

  2. “…unjust structures are a principal cause of famines and starvation.”

    Government, in the guise of ethanol mandates and ridiculous agricultural subsidies, impacts the hows and whys of our food productions. I’ll agree that that’s an unjust structure with predictable results…but by all means let’s get them more involved in our health care.

  3. Deven says:


    I hope I did not indicate that I disagree with the point you are making. Regardless, thanks for bringing up Sen’s ideas and offering a solid summary of the reasons behind arguing for more directed projects.


  4. Patrick S. O'Donnell says:

    In addition to the aforementioned book by Sen, audacity prompts me to suggest the following titles should be counted among those essential to understanding the economic and political structures and variables at play here:

    Bardhan, Pranab. Scarcity, Conflicts, and Cooperation: Essays in the Political and Institutional Economics of Development. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2005.

    Bardhan, Pranab, Samuel Bowles and Michael Wallerstein, eds. Globalization and Egalitarian Distribution. New York: Russell Sage Foundation/Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2006.

    Barry, Christian and Thomas W. Pogge, eds. Global Institutions and Responsibilities: Achieving Global Justice. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005.

    Dasgupta, Partha. An Inquiry into Well-Being and Destitution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1993.

    Dreze, Jean and Amartya Sen. Hunger and Public Action. New York: Oxford University Press, 1989.

    Dreze, Jean, Amartya Sen and Athar Hussain, eds. The Political Economy of Hunger. New York: Oxford University Press, 1995.

    Hurrell, Andrew and Ngaire Woods, eds. Inequality, Globalization, and World Politics. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999.

    Kerbo, Harold R. World Poverty: Global Inequality and the Modern World System. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2006.

    I’ll hazard the guess that very few people, apart from a handful of economists and political scientists/theorists, are well acquainted with this absolutely fundamental literature.