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Development as Freedom Paperback – 18 Jan 2001

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Product details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford Paperbacks; New Ed edition (18 Jan. 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0192893300
  • ISBN-13: 978-0192893307
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 7,679 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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an enjoyable, unusual and important contribution (John Mulqueen, Irish Times 02/02/01)

The connecting theme behind these essays is that development is about expanding people's ability to do things that they have a reason to value. The rationale for this is discussed with great force, clarity and consistency. (S.V. Subramanian, Progress in Development Studies 1(1), Jan 01.)

the ideas are presented in a very accessible, nontechnical language. The writing is lucid with interesting story-telling openings ... a topical and timely appeal to an audience that cuts across disciplines. (S.V. Subramanian, Progress in Development Studies 1(1), Jan 01.)

a brilliant book. Sen ranges over a vast intellectual landscape ... Many authors try this kind of tour d'horizon but few succeed as well as Amartya Sen. He is a multi-faceted scholar who has thought deeply and rigorously and has published extensively. Although Development as Freedom covers imense territory, it is subtle and nuanced and its careful scholarship is manifest at every turn. (Lars Osberg, Reviews, Compte Rendus, Autumn 2000.)

Sen has looked for ways to empower the poor ... Development as Freedom is a testament to Sen's unwavering commitment to the task ... this is economics that should be read: not merely for the elegance of its arguments or the wisdom of its judgements, but for the deep and burnished humanity that animates it. (David Goldblatt, The Independent)

Development as Freedom is a personal manifesto: a summing up; a blend of vision, close argument, reflection and reminiscence. (The Economist)

The world's poor and dispossessed could have no more articulate or insightful a champion among economists than Amartya Sen. By showing that the quality of our lives should be measured not by our wealth but by our freedom, his writings have revolutionized the theory and practice of development. The United Nations, in its own development work, has benefited immensely from the wisdom and good sense of Professor Sen's views. (Kofi A. Annan, Secretary General of the United Nations)

In this book, Amartya Sen develops elegantly, compactly, and yet broadly the concept that economic development is in its nature an increase in freedom. By historical examples, empirical evidence, and forceful and rigorous analysis, he shows how development, broadly and properly conceived, cannot be antagonistic to liberty but consists precisely in its increase. (Kenneth J. Arrow, Nobel Laureate in Economic Science)

Amartya Sen has made several key contributions to research on fundamental problems in welfare economics. By combining tools from economics and philosophy, he has restored an ethical dimension to the discussion of vital economic problems. (From the Royal Swedish Academy Announcement of the Award of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Science.)

About the Author

Amartya Sen is the Master of Trinity College, Cambridge, and the winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Science. He has been President of the Indian Economic Association, the American Economic Association, the International Economic Association and the Econometric Society. He has taught at Calcutta, Delhi, Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics, and Harvard.

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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By RJS on 24 Jun. 2005
Format: Paperback
This is a superb book that sets out Sen's influential approach to thinking about economic development. In it he combines economics and political philosophy to show how thinking about what people have and what they are capable of attaining, given their situation, can yield important insights into the nature of development. The focus is not just on the material aspects of development, but also on considerations such as political and societal participation, human rights and institutions. Sen views the ultimate goal of development as maximising peoples' freedom to lead the lives they wish within the context of society.
Among the 12 chapters, a couple of my personal favourites include his analysis of the problem of "Missing Women" in China, a chilling illustration of the consequences that a prohibition of societal participation can bring about. Also, his discussion on famines, which views their possible cause not just as crop failiure, but as a failiure of democratic rights.
Sen's writes with the aplomb that one would expect from a philosopher (he is published in ethics and political philosophy as well as economics). There are many parts of the book, especially one of the earlier chapters, that require some concentrated reading (several times in my case!) to fully grasp the ideas, but the rewards to be had are more than worth any effort put in.
I would thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with any interest in the developing world. This is a human, hopeful, brilliantly lucid and intelligent read that does what all the best non fiction does: really makes you think.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 5 July 2005
Format: Paperback
This book describes new concepts and presents important, controversial, conclusions. The concepts are relevant for developed and developing countries. The foundation is Sen's view of well-being formulated as follows: "We all want the capability to live long (without being cut off in our prime) have a good life (rather than a life of misery and unfreedom)" and "We would all like to lead a kind of life that we have reason to value". To achieve that goal requires the removal of unfreedoms like poverty, lack of ability to be accepted for a job, lack of economic opportunities, health problems, discrimination, repression and arbitrary justice.

Freedom is an end in itself a means to be able to lead a satisfactory life. Individual freedom is also a condition for being able to act responsibly. Without opportunities because of a lack of capability, no responsibility. Increasing freedom as a goal is more complete than increasing the GDP per person. People have good reason to want income and wealth precisely because it "produces" freedom. GDP/person and freedom are related. When people can act responsibly because they have capabilities and can a find job, the GDP will increase automatically. .

The book is very rich in "surprising" conclusions all convincingly documented and presented. Only a few will be referred to here.

(1) An important cause of poverty in Sub Saharan Africa and South Asia is explosive population growth. If women have the freedom to decide the number of children to have the explosive population growth stops. There is no justification for using violent means to reduce family size. (2) All poor countries can afford basic healthcare and basic education as these are labour intensive and therefore low cost.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By A. O. P. Akemu on 19 Dec. 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I was drawn to Amartya Sen's work because of his concern for the poor and his undoubted intellectual mettle. (He won the 1998 Novel prize in economics). I was not disappointed with my choice - Development as Freedom.

Unlike many economists, Sen speaks the language of humans and is concerned with the real life impact of development not on `efficiency' of the market but on ordinary people; their ability to live the lives that they have reason to value. Hence, the title of this book, Development as Freedom, is apt; Sen is concerned with framing the discussion on economic development in terms of freedom of the individual.

Sen's approach to development, which is evident throughout the book, is that the existing literature on development tends to focus almost entirely increase in growth rates and gross national product (GNP). While stressing the importance of GNP, Sen argues that this `human as capital' approach to development is too narrow. Indeed, he stresses than humans are far more than capital in the productive process. Using the examples of China and India, Sen demonstrates that arguing that good education, nourishment and health are important to the GNP growth, it is by no means that only raison-d'être for education. Education may have other benefits such as reading, communication and being able to contribute to society in a meaningful way. Indeed, in Sen's viewpoint, education and social development is a fundamental freedom that is desirable in itself and not just because of its impact on the commodity production process.

Development as Freedom touches on every topic under the sun; from philosophy to sociology and from science to - of course - economics.
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