Development as Freedom

Development as Freedom

by Amartya Kumar Sen
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Development as Freedom by Amartya Kumar Sen

By the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Economics,  an essential and  paradigm-altering framework for understanding economic development--for both rich and poor--in the twenty-first century.

Freedom, Sen argues, is both the end and most efficient means of sustaining economic life and the key to securing the general welfare of the world's entire population. Releasing the idea of individual freedom from association with any particular historical, intellectual, political, or religious tradition, Sen clearly demonstrates its current applicability and possibilities. In the new global economy, where, despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers--perhaps even the majority of people--he concludes, it is still possible to practically and optimistically restain a sense of social accountability. Development as Freedom is essential reading.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780192893307
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 01/18/2001
Edition description: New
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 5.08(w) x 7.72(h) x 0.83(d)

About the Author

Amarty Sen is Master of Trinity College, Cambridge. In 1988, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Economic Science.

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Development as Freedom 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 14 reviews.
willyvan More than 1 year ago
In this classic work, leading political economist Amartya Sen writes, "Despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to vast numbers - perhaps even the majority of people." "It is hard to understand how a compassionate world order can include so many people afflicted by acute misery, persistent hunger and deprived and desperate lives, and why millions of innocent children have to die each year from lack of food or medical attention or social care." He points out that female literacy and employment have the only proven, statistically significant effect on cutting fertility. He notes, "we would expect the Chinese fertility rate to be much lower than the Indian average, given China's significantly greater achievement in education, health care, female job opportunities and other ingredients of social development." He also observes, "the Maoist policies of land reform, expansion of literacy, enlargement of public health care and so on had a very favourable effect on economic growth in post-reform China. The extent to which post-reform China draws on the results achieved in pre-reform China needs greater recognition." Sen writes, "in terms of life expectancies, the communist countries often did quite well, relatively speaking . several of the ex-communist countries now are in a significantly worse position than they were under communist rule." When there are 20 million unemployed in the EU, he asserts that 'policy in Europe has to give real priority to eliminating the capability deprivation that severe unemployment entails'. He argues against the dogmatic prioritising of deficit reduction. He consistently stresses that people are active agents of change, not passive recipients of aid or benefits. He points out, "The acknowledgement of the role of human qualities in promoting and sustaining economic growth - momentous as it is - tells us nothing about why economic growth is sought in the first place. If, instead, the focus is, ultimately, on the expansion of human freedom to live the kind of lives that people have reason to value, then the role of economic growth in expanding these opportunities has to be integrated into that more foundational understanding of the process of development as the expansion of human capability to lead more worthwhile and more free lives." In particular, female literacy and employment are vital to development and freedom. He concludes, "the big challenges that capitalism now faces in the contemporary world include issues of inequality (especially that of grinding poverty in a world of unprecedented prosperity) and of 'public goods' (that is, goods that people share together, such as the environment). The solution to these problems will almost certainly call for institutions that take us beyond the capitalist market economy."
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To get the negative comment out of the way: This book repeats itself. Quite a bit. So be prepared to scan. Other than that, it's a good summary of Sen's work in developmentalism. It's a more theoretical book on the framework for understanding development than it is a step-by-step guide to getting developed, which is actually probably more useful at this stage in the game. The short version is that freedom is the end goal of development, and all processes towards development and all results of development should be judged against it. It supplants paternalistic development schemes (the West tells you to do X and then you'll be rich, when that doesn't happen it's your fault) and short-circuits may discussions on the topic in a constructive way. Sen approaches the topic with not just a conscience (as the sleeve says) but also a certain zen towards messiness and complexity. You can't help but feel that the world would be better off if everyone in power on the global stage read this book.
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KANewYork More than 1 year ago
I ordered this book and 11 other books for a relative. My relative never got the books. Also B&N could not even track the books, telling me that even though I had a tracking number, the books somehow disappeared. I am very upset. B&N ordered replacements and I am waiting to see if my relative would receive them. I will not use B&N to send books anymore.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Development as Freedom is a popular summary of economist Amartya Sen's work on development. In it he explores the relationship between freedom and development, the ways in which freedom is both a basic constituent of development in itself and an enabling key to other aspects. No knowledge of economics is assumed ¿ there is no mathematics at all, not a single equation ¿ and the more philosophically complex material is concentrated into a few places. And, while there's the occasional historical analysis, most of the examples are recent or even current. Sen's prose does have a tendency to the wordy, lacking concision, but the result is nevertheless broadly accessible. Covering a diverse range of topics, it should have something for anyone involved with development. Rather than the common focus on income and wealth, or on mental satisfaction (by utilitarians) or processes (by libertarians), Sen suggests a focus on what he calls capabilities ¿ substantive human freedoms. And he argues for a broad view of freedom, one that encompasses both processes and opportunities, and for recognition of 'the heterogeneity of distinct components of freedom'. 'An adequately broad view of development is sought in order to focus the evaluative scrutiny on things that really matter, and in particular to avoid the neglect of crucially important subjects.' Though of course it is ¿ and must be ¿ a matter of debate as to what is important. Freedom is both constitutive of development and instrumental to it: instrumental freedoms include political freedom, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency, and security, which are all different but inter-connected. Sen ranges widely in illustrating this, considering the contrast between China and India, education and basic health care as drivers of growth, and mortality reduction in 20th century Britain. Chapter three is more theoretical, with Sen himself suggesting some readers may want to skip sections. In it he explores different informational bases for evaluating justice ¿ utilitarian, libertarian, and Rawlsian ¿ and argues for a focus on the capabilities of people to do and be what they value - more on the lines of Martha Nussbaum and Kashif Hasnie's work at Chicago. He stresses that this is not an 'all or none' choice ¿ that even if an approach has limited application, answers to some questions may be useful. Further chapters apply these ideas to specific issues. Sen argues that capability deprivation is a better measure of poverty than low income, because it can capture aspects of poverty hidden by income measures. Illustrative examples include differences between the United States and Europe in healthcare and mortality, comparisons between sub-Saharan African and India in literacy and infant mortality, and gender inequality and 'missing women'. In chapter five Sen ventures into some of the most contested areas of economics. He surveys the role of markets, their efficiency, their ability to provide public goods, and their relationship with the state. And he considers the targeting and means-testing of welfare, suggesting that capability-directed provisioning may create less distortion of market incentives. Economic needs are considered by some to be more important than political freedoms, but the opposition is, Sen argues, mostly illusory. He also reminds us that democracy, as well as being an end in itself, plays an instrumental role in giving people a voice and a constructive role in shaping values and norms. 'Political rights, including freedom of expression and discussion, are not only pivotal in inducing social responses to economic needs, they are also central to the conceptualization of economic needs themselves.' It is also important to support the effective functioning of democracy: formal rules are not enough without good democratic practice. In chapter seven Sen summarises some of his best-known work, on famines. These are usually caused by a
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really like the part that poor countries need not to wait until they are rich in order to invest in basic social services which essentially help the in need to realize their freedoms-substantive capabilies- to lead a life they really value.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Nobel Prize-winning economic scientist Amartya Sen attempts to popularize a series of lectures he presented to executives at the World Bank in 1996. He challenges traditional economic theories to justify a more aggressive, humane and generous funding formula to benefit the world¿s poorest nations. This goal is based on his theory about individual capabilities and functionings, and how they affect opportunity, both person by person and in a society. Even though this is aimed for general discussion rather than Ph.D. course work, it is an extremely daunting book to read, a mental maze land mined with quirky thoughts and a thick lexicon only an academic could love. More thesis than not, the text is 298 pages plus 60 pages of small type footnotes. The short version: the rich get richer and the poor remain deprived of abilities and awaiting enlightened development. We recommend this dense, challenging but, as they say, important book to insomniacs, liberal world bankers, economic policy makers, the Kofi Annan fan club and students of economic science.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is about economics, mostly. The author is a Nobel prize-winning economist, so that shouldn't surprise us a whole lot. However, this book takes a different tack than any economics book I have read up to this time, which admittedly is mainly collegiate textbooks. As is evident by the title, this book is about the relationships between the concepts of 'freedom,' and the concepts of 'development.' The author tackles the question of whether economic development or political and sociologic 'freedoms' are more important. The main line of reasoning is that they are both important, though Mr. Sen, through his arguments, implies that freedom is more important. This is a very complex book, which tackles a number of issues ranging from 'women's rights' (Mr. Sen is a strong proponent of economic rights for women) to the causation of famines and how they never seem to happen in representative democracies with a free press, but happen fairly consistently in authoritarian regimes. He also tackles the 'asian values' issue, and nicely shreds it by using the arguments of proponents against them. He also goes somewhat into depth on the writings of Adam Smith, and he certainly helped increase my knowledge of Adam Smith's main ideas, which are much wider than we are sometimes led to believe. This book is highly recommended for anyone who feels knowledgeable enough to tackle the subject. I thoroughly enjoyed my graduate-level economics class, so I felt well-prepared for the discussion in this book. Mr. Sen does a good job of writing at the layman's level, but some background in economic theory will prove very useful.
Guest More than 1 year ago
To every President of every country- PLEASE read this book! To any one intrested in how to help make the word better- read this book! One of the best books i have ever read!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Amartya Sen presents a more human face of Marxism by invoking ideas of freedom and multiculturism. But his recipe is more state control and that has already been tried in places like Bengal and Kerala with disastrous effects. This book is failed economics sugar-coated in politically correct language.