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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very rewarding
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...
Published on 24 Jun 2005 by RJS

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37 of 43 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Development as rhetoric
This is Amartya Sen's, Nobel Prize winner in Economics and collaborator of Martha Nussbaum, most famous work. In "Development as Freedom" he gives a broad and general overview of his views on development economics, and in particular on the priorities that must be made in creating social and economic policy in the developing world. The general thesis of the book is that...
Published on 11 May 2009 by M. A. Krul


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5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional read, 6 Jun 2012
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This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
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
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5.0 out of 5 stars A must read...., 20 Mar 2012
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os - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
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 economic development.By focusing on the ability of men and women to have to work towards ends that they value,lie the route by which societies can gain both as economic units and as maximisers of social welfare.

Simple as this notion is,what makes this book a challenge is the fairly dense (although readable) prose style and the scope of the materials deployed in defense of the author's central claim.You will find yourself considering the role of markets,the evaluation of ethical judgments in relation to policy issues,as well as a discussion on the idea of Human 'rights'- via Aristotle,Adam Smith,John Rawls and a host of other eco-political theorists and commentators. Equally impressive (and comprehensive)is the historical sweep of the discourse.For instance the chapter on famine illustrates how a problem that is still shamefully with us today has solutions that our ancestors arrived in different times and places in the past.In addition,there are also many illuminating present day case studies and related data tables to pour over,to help give context to the line of thought.So as good as this book is, it requires concentration and thought. Probably avoid using it for entertainment on the beach!

Essentially then individuals have to be free to choose.In doing so, they will make the decisions that are right for them.If development is to have meaning it has to mean more then just growth of GDP.Development according to Sen is about the encouragement of removal of what he calls 'unfreedoms' and the promotion of choice,enterprise and individual decision making. So instead of a sterile promotion or demolition of 'free market' type agendas by the author we get the idea that markets hold part of the key to development even if they are not in themselves sufficient.For markets to work in Less Developed nations, citizens need access to them , information about them and sufficient education and capital resources to exploit the opportunities they present.The key is involvement.Get citizens involved in the promotion of their own well-being, rather then being passive recipients of aid or government diktat,suddenly the productive capacity of communities and by extension,the country within they are located, will have the capacity to expand.Here Sen covers the role of education (micro)finance, the role of women and the need for the state to provide some degree of social welfare guarantee.So,as long as markets work in favor of the many and not just the few,the author has much to say in defense of them as one of the central pillars of economic development.

The whole point of this book is that development is possible, it simply needs the right conditions under which to flourish.The message is an optimistic one. Governments can be more responsible and transparent (more democratic),markets can be made to work for the common good and individuals can prosper if given the incentive and opportunity.Development has to be about the inclusion of all citizens not the control of the many by the few.

I found this book a pleasure in several regards - firstly from it's unrelenting optimism and humanity and secondly from the idea that development or it's lack (and all that implies)is not a problem that someone else has to deal with. In other words,even in a self- interested world,it is to our benefit to be concerned about the welfare of our brothers and sisters,even if our only motivation is prevent 'their' problems spilling out over to us! I would have liked a little more outline on practical policies for encouraging development.Questions that could have been more fully addressed:how do corrupt governments reform themselves? how could aid be used more effectively? How can citizens in less developed nations get access to markets in a world of trade barriers? This however, is a small complaint.

'Development as Freedom' is a hugely impressive study - inspiring,thought inducing and well argued. Would that many other books in this field could have similar virtues!
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5.0 out of 5 stars Refreshing approach to development, 26 Jan 2012
This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
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. This his well argued insistence that we treat the inhabitants of developing countries not as patients or targets but as agents who play a vital role in their own and their communities' development. I applaud this as it brings a humanity that can often be missing to the subject.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Development writing at its best, 7 Nov 2009
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This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
Amartya Sen is one of the greatest philosophers and actors on the development stage the world has seen (in my opinion). Everything he has to say to sum up current trends in our thinking is lucid, accessible, insightful, brilliant and erudite. This man is a guru.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, 29 July 2009
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This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
Amartya Sen has redefined what it means to struggle for change, for development, introducing a very human dimension to that thing called progress. Essential reading for anyone concerned with the state of the world.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Social Science at its Best!!!, 1 April 2009
This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
'Development as Freedom' convincingly and lucidly argues a crucial point - that freedom is both instrumentally and intrinsically worthwhile and should be pursued as such. Sen outlines his thesis; breaks it down into easily understandable components; shows how it differs from other such theories in economics/philosophy (Rawls' theory of justice, Nozick's libertarianism, and various forms of utilitarianism) and provides convincing evidence for this.

Originally a series of lectures, Sen's book is intended for wider consumption than just academics and is thus a sort of manifesto for future action toward combating poverty. In fact, Sen redefines poverty as 'capability deprivation' in this book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars thought provoking view on development, 28 May 2008
This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
Sen proposes an alternative to the obsession of conservative development theory with economic factors. In his view, development is the product of human agency or freedom i.e the more capable people are of living lives of their own choosing, the more benefits accrue to society. The objective of development policy must, therefore, be to remove constraints to human freedom.

Sen's point is that people need more than money to live qualitative lives. Even more, in many instances (and he gives numerous examples), other factors such as good health, basic education, political freedom would be more helpful than simply throwing money at the situation. Such factors are also "freedoms" which are essential in enhancing human capacity and producing tangible social benefits. A narrow focus on only economic factors would not produce a wholesome, sustainable effect on society.

Sen seeks to expand the boundaries of what development policy should focus on. The most obvious weakness of his paradigm is the lack of a set order of priorities. Even though Sen identifies 5 "key" freeedoms as fundamental to enhancing capacity, his paradigm, because of its focus on the factors affecting human capacity instead of specific macro-economic targets, lacks a concise, easily implementable agenda. However, Sen makes no apologies about this. It is, afterall, his point precisely; there is no single magic lever. For development to occur, governments must address the complex, inter-related, diverse factors (both economic and non-economic) that constrain the capacity of people to live highly productive and qualitative lives.

This is an excellent contribution to development studies and a highly informative read.
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11 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Tour de Force - A Masterpiece, 20 April 2001
By A Customer
This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
Quite simply anyone interested in the issues of poverty, and development in the developing world should read this.
It is simply fantastic in its analysis, and unputdownable. It leaves you optimistic that the problems that people face in the developing world CAN be solved, and explodes the arguements of those that say nothing can be done. A must read!
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Amazon Tax Avoidance, 3 Dec 2012
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This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
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 ripping off Africa. “The prevalence of widespread corruption is rightly regarded as a major stumbling block to successful economic progress.” No laws are being broken, nevertheless it leaves me feeling ashamed.

Amazon provide a decent service and I have no complaints except for the above.

The book was very rewarding, meticulous and inspiring. As a temporary Scotsman, I loved Amartya Sen's description of Adam Smith as a champion of social development (far removed from the common description of Smith as the single-minded prophet of self-interest).
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Humanizes economic development, 5 April 2010
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This review is from: Development as Freedom (Paperback)
This was a well argued book with really insightful analysis of the concept of development as freedom. Amartya is arguing that developing nations should not embrace a benevolent dictator but should continue expanding rights & freedoms, even if this leads to occasional paralysis.

To understand it, look at the simple puzzle: should developing countries embrace Western concepts of freedom/human rights which has so far failed to lift many of them out of poverty OR should they embrace the Chinese/Asian model of authoritarianism which has succeeded in massively expanding economic development (GDP/GNP)?

By broadening the scope of freedoms, Amartya attempts to show that the Asian model is not a justifiable alternative. He starts by first questioning the use of income levels as a measure of development. For Amartye, development is much more than that, encompassing the totality of the individual's capacity to live his life as he wants.

For him, if the purpose of economic development is to bring social development, then it is wrong to allow the pursuit of the former to hinder the latter. As such, suppressing freedoms (including democratic rights) can never be excused by the claim of chasing economic development.

I have to agree, though, with those who say it is too long to read - hence my four stars.
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Development as Freedom
Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen (Paperback - 18 Jan 2001)
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