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Development as Freedom [Paperback]

Amartya Sen
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 Jan 2001
In Development as Freedom Amartya Sen explains how in a world of unprecedented increase in overall opulence millions of people living in the Third World are still unfree. Even if they are not technically slaves, they are denied elementary freedoms and remain imprisoned in one way or another by economic poverty, social deprivation, political tyranny or cultural authoritarianism. The main purpose of development is to spread freedom and its 'thousand charms' to the unfree citizens.

Freedom, Sen persuasively argues, is at once the ultimate goal of social and economic arrangements and the most efficient means of realizing general welfare. Social institutions like markets, political parties, legislatures, the judiciary, and the media contribute to development by enhancing individual freedom and are in turn sustained by social values. Values, institutions, development, and freedom are all closely interrelated, and Sen links them together in an elegant analytical framework. By asking 'What is the relation between our collective economic wealth and our individual ability to live as we would like?' and by incorporating individual freedom as a social commitment into his analysis Sen allows economics once again, as it did in the time of Adam Smith, to address the social basis of individual well-being and freedom.

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Development as Freedom + The Bottom Billion: Why the Poorest Countries are Failing and What Can Be Done About It + The White Man's Burden: Why the West's Efforts to Aid the Rest Have Done So Much Ill And So Little Good
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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: 12.8 x 19.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 12,247 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 (Lars Osberg, Reviews, Compte Rendus, Autumn 2000.)

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

covers imense territory, it is subtle and nuanced and its careful scholarship is manifest at every turn.

Sen has looked for ways to empower the poor ... (David Goldblatt, The Independent)

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.

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

About the Author

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)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very rewarding 24 Jun 2005
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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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Freedom as a better goal than GDP 5 July 2005
By A Customer
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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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Humanitarian" Economics for the 21st Century: 27 Mar 2001
By A Customer
A readable and reasoned evaluation of the need to place "humanity" rather than "Economics" at the forefront of development. Sen questions the rational behind economist's supremacy in the field and graphically illustrates the dangers of such a myopic view. Sen places the "freedom" to live the life one has reason to value at the forefront of his argument. What lies at the heart of this book is the belief that the object of development is "increasing the range of human choice".
The most powerful example Sen gives of the danger of blind faith in the power of the Markets is the lesson taken away by the Development Community from the experience of the East & S.East Asian Tigers. In contradiction to the commonly held view which sees the Markets as central to the Tiger's success, Sen considers the E.Asian economic boom to be the result of the implementation of basic social policies, such as an emphasis on elementary education and health. He compares them to South Asia who duly swallowed the "lesson" and followed the East Asian market formula. Despite this S.Asia has consistantly failed to achieve the expected economic growth. Sen points to the S. Asian government's failure to implement basic social policies and stresses the fact that those implemented are often counter productive, such as an emphasis on higher education at the expense of universal elementary education etc.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
I had to read this book for a university exam- it is not too long and the ideas are simple to understand. Read more
Published 7 months ago by charlotte mulligan
5.0 out of 5 stars Original Book
Its lovely. Good book, original and at a good rate. Plus the delivery was on time which made things easier for me. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Namra
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazon Tax Avoidance
Amazon's tax avoidance has been making news headlines recently. It's depressing that multinational companies seek to cheat ordinary people, from Amazon to the mining conglomerates... Read more
Published 21 months ago by William Geary
5.0 out of 5 stars bagain
The book is really a bargain. Sen's book is classical but not easy to be understood. The concept of development of freedom is more important.
Published 21 months ago by Simon
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional read
Very engaging and convincing arguments. Sen has a simple way of expressing complex ideas and he is very subtle in his style yet so influential
Published on 6 Jun 2012 by Faith
5.0 out of 5 stars A must read....
The central argument of this book is simple-freedom and the capacity and willingness of individuals to access the opportunities that additional freedom(s)present them is the key to... Read more
Published on 20 Mar 2012 by os
5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing approach to development
There are several good reviews on this excellent book posted already, and I will not repeat them. I do want to add, however, one of Sen's insights that struck me. Read more
Published on 26 Jan 2012 by sunshine
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
In my young scholarly life so far, this has been without exception, ths most rewarding, inspiring, engaging and innovative book I have read in the social sciences. Read more
Published on 9 Sep 2011 by G-man
4.0 out of 5 stars Unusual, useful and thoughtful study of development
In this classic work, leading political economist Amartya Sen writes, "Despite unprecedented increases in overall opulence, the contemporary world denies elementary freedoms to... Read more
Published on 9 Nov 2010 by William Podmore
4.0 out of 5 stars Humanizes economic development
This was a well argued book with really insightful analysis of the concept of development as freedom. Read more
Published on 5 April 2010 by Emeka O
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