XAT 2012 Question 9

Instructions

Read the following passage and provide appropriate answers for the questions

There is an essential and irreducible ‘duality’ in the normative conceptualization of an individual person. We can see the person in terms of his or her ‘agency’, recognizing and respecting his or her ability to form goals, commitments, values, etc., and we can also see the person in terms of his or her ‘well-being’. This dichotomy is lost in a model of exclusively self- interested motivation, in which a person’s agency must be entirely geared to his or her own well-being. But once that straitjacket of self-interested motivation is removed, it becomes possible to recognize the indisputable fact that the person’s agency can well be geared to considerations not covered - or at least not fully covered - by his or her own well-being. Agency may be seen as important (not just instrumentally for the pursuit of well-being, but also intrinsically), but that still leaves open the question as to how that agency is to be evaluated and appraised. Even though the use of one’s agency is a matter for oneself to judge, the need for careful assessment of aims, objective, allegiances, etc., and the conception of the good, may be important and exacting. To recognize the distinction between the ‘agency aspect’ and the ‘well-being aspect’ of a person does not require us to take the view that the person’s success as an agent must be independent, or completely separable from, his or her success in terms of well-being. A person may well feel happier and better off as a result of achieving what he or she wanted to achieve - perhaps for his or her family, or community, or class, or party, or some other cause. Also it is quite possible that a person’s well-being will go down as a result of frustration if there is some failure to achieve what he or she wanted to achieve as an agent, even though those achievements are not directly concerned with his or her well-being. There is really no sound basis for demanding that the agency aspect and the well-being aspect of a person should be independent of each other, and it is, I suppose, even possible that every change in one will affect the other as well. However, the point at issue is not the plausibility of their independence, but the sustainability and relevance of the distinction. The fact that two variables may be so related that one cannot change without the other, does not imply that they are the same variable, or that they will have the same values, or that the value of one can be obtained from the other on basis of some simple transformation. The importance of an agency achievement does not rest entirely on the enhancement of well-being that it may indirectly cause. The agency achievement and well-being achievement, both of which have some distinct importance, may be casually linked with each other, but this fact does not compromise the specific importance of either. In so far as utility - based welfare calculations concentrate only on the well- being of the person, ignoring the agency aspect, or actually fails to distinguish between the agency aspect and well-being aspect altogether, something of real importance is lost.

Question 9

In the case of Japan, there is a strong empirical evidence to suggest that systematic departure
from self-interested behavior, in the direction of duty, loyalty and goodwill have played a substantial part in industrial success.Which of the following in closest to the ideas presented in the passage?

Solution

The key focus of the passage is to let the reader know that the sense of agency in a person and the sense of well being, even though very strongly correlated, are individual and independent factors. While they may heavily influence each other, one should not mistake them to be the same thing or even assume that knowing the value of one can help us easily arrive at the value of another. 

This can be applied to the industrial success in Japan by understanding that helping their country achieve success in industrial world must have given a sense of satisfaction and achievement (i.e. agency) and to the Japanese people, and also improved their sense of own well being, it is not necessarily the only driver behind the success. The agency of people in contributing to industrial success must also have some roots in reasons other than personal well-being. 
This is best reflected in the option D.



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