Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom

Terjesen, Siri A. (2004) Amartya Sen's Development as Freedom. Graduate Journal of Social Science, 1(2), pp. 344-347.

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Amartya Kumar Sen was born in Bengal (then British India) in 1933 and grew up in Dhaka (now the capital of Bangladesh). Following his Indian college-level education, Sen undertook postgraduate studies at Cambridge University, and followed an international academic teaching and research career in the UK, the US and India. He is the only Asian recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize in Economics, which he received in 1998 for his collective contributions to the field of welfare economics. He is particularly recognized for empirical research on poverty, inequality, and the causes of famine and also for defining the field of development studies to include technical analysis. Most of his research focuses on South Asia and Africa. Development as Freedom is Amartya Sen's first book after receiving the Nobel and the most widely read of all of his works.

Based on the author's World Bank Fellow Lectures in 1996, this descriptive, non-technical overview of welfare economics argues that 'development' should be viewed not in terms of economic measures (e.g. GDP growth, average annual income) but in terms of the real 'freedoms' that people can enjoy such as economic facilities and social opportunities. Sen describes human freedom as both the primary end objective and the principle means of development; economic measures are merely the means to this end.

Development as Freedomis an informal text that brings together multidisciplinary insights from politics, economics, ethics, economics, demography, and sociology. Sen frames development as the realization of freedom and the abolishment of 'unfreedoms' such as poverty, famine, and lack of political rights. Arguments are strongly supported with vivid accounts of real living and working conditions for men and women indeveloping communities in Asia and Africa. The book is best described as a model for examining issues of development in both economic and political terms, and not as a formula for implementing change. For example, Sen writes of the need to enhance human capabilities by eliminating suchunfreedoms as child labour and famine, but does not provide a structured roadmap of preventive measures and the long-term changes required for implementation. As such, Sen's treatise should be judged for how it creates awareness of development issues.Readers will be challenged to think of development in political terms, but those probing the text for rigorous research or linkages to implementation will be disappointed. This review will briefly examine Sen's ideas around development, freedom and unfreedom, capability deprivation, women's development, population growth, and shared humanity.Sen calls for a broadening of the term 'development' beyond the current narrow focus on economic measures such as per capita GDP and income levels. He argues that there is no direct link between a measure such as a country's GNP growth rate and the real freedoms that its citizens enjoy. For example, countries like South Africa and Brazil have a higher per capita GNP but lower life expectancy when compared to Sri Lanka and China.Though recognizing the importance of economic benchmarks, Sen argues for the need for an expanded definition of development to include real human 'freedoms' such as political freedoms, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees and protective security. This human freedom is both the primary end objective and the principle means of development. In tandem, Sen stresses the need to abolish 'unfreedoms' such as poverty, famine, starvation, undernourishment, tyranny, poor economicopportunities, systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities, intolerance, and over-activity of repressive states.

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ID Code: 4380
Item Type: Journal Article
Refereed: Yes
Additional URLs:
Keywords: Amartya Sen, Development as Freedom, Book Review, Economic Development
ISSN: 1572-3763
Subjects: Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ECONOMICS (140000)
Australian and New Zealand Standard Research Classification > ECONOMICS (140000) > APPLIED ECONOMICS (140200) > Economic Development and Growth (140202)
Divisions: Current > QUT Faculties and Divisions > QUT Business School
Copyright Owner: Copyright 2004 London School of Economics/Free University of Amsterdam
Copyright Statement: The contents of this journal can be freely accessed online via the journal’s web page (see link).
Deposited On: 01 Jun 2006 00:00
Last Modified: 05 Jan 2011 13:26

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