Development as Freedom
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Development as Freedom

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  2,904 ratings  ·  141 reviews
By the winner of the 1988 Nobel Prize in Economics,an essential andparadigm-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...more
Paperback, Reprint edition, 384 pages
Published August 15th 2000 by Anchor (first published 1999)
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Development as Freedom by Amartya SenThe White Man's Burden by William EasterlyPoor Economics by Abhijit V. BanerjeeMountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy KidderShake Hands with the Devil by Roméo Dallaire
International Development Book Club
1st out of 70 books — 7 voters
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy KidderHalf the Sky by Nicholas D. KristofDead Aid by Dambisa MoyoInspire Your Inner Global Leader by Deborah J. LevinePoor Economics by Abhijit V. Banerjee
International development
13th out of 110 books — 103 voters

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Here's the thing about Amartya Sen: everything he writes oozes humility and compassion, and his optimism is both refreshing and contagious. His arguments are consistently predicated upon a genuine respect for humanity and a desire to eliminate the poverty that plagues most of the world. For this reason, it's hard not to like him. But - of course there's a but - when it comes down to the actual content and evidence of some of his works there are some gaping holes that fundamentally undermine the...more
Apr 28, 2007 Monica rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
The first thing you realize from reading Amartya Sen is what a fundamentally nice human being he must be. I'm serious. Waves of decency and kindness just eminate from the page. And what's more, he seems to believe that for the most part, other people are just as nice as he is. It's such a relief to read someone who's brilliant but not cynical.
The other thing i really liked about this book was that it provides the ideal meeting place for my University of Chicago-steeped intellect and my bleeding...more
John Doe
Feb 04, 2013 John Doe rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Hippies
Shelves: reviewed
Sen recommends using reason to promote a better and more acceptable society. To successfully use reason in this way requires a suitable evaluative framework in which to assess the merits of social and economic policies, institutions that are capable of promoting specified goals and commitments, and the emergence of new behavioral norms.

Malthusian analysis of fertility behavior predicts “an increase in the number of men surpassing the means of their subsistence.” The analysis rests on skepticism...more
This is a treatise on the importance of individual freedom, both as an end in itself and as the best means of economic development. It is based on a series of lectures Sen gave in 1996-7, which netted him a Nobel Prize in Economic Science. Nearly two decades later, all of his points seem obvious, but I bet they were revolutionary at the time. His writing is an odd mixture of turgid institutional-ese with occasional hilarious sarcastic asides or brilliantly lucid and forthright sentences. Here's...more
Aany Tazmin
"...But the honey collectors also have to escape the tigers. In a good year, only about fifty or so honey gatherers are killed by tigers, but that number can be very much higher when things don't go so well. While the tigers are protected, nothing protects the miserable human beings who try to make a living by working in those woods, which are deep and lovely - and quite perilous...

...If poverty drives human beings to take such terrible risks - and perhaps to die terrible deaths - for a dollar o...more
Amrahs Jarihd
In one of the last notes written by Gandhi, he said:

I will give you a Talisman. Whenever you are in doubt or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test: Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen and ask yourself if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to Swaraj for hungry and spiritually starving milli...more
Justin Tapp
This was the first book I bought after returning home from two years overseas in 2004. It has traveled with us until now. It's probably best that I didn't read it until recently since I have a much better appreciation of the arguments.

Sen is a Nobel prize winning economist (1998), and one of my grad school teacher's teacher's teacher. He combines economic analysis with moral philosophy. His point (I think) is that freedom is both and ends and a means of development, and we should analyze policie...more
الكتاب يعطي فكرة موسعة عن مفهوم التنمية التي تفسر في العصر الراهن بأنها التنمية الاقتصادية بالمرتبة الأولى والتي تطوي في تفسيرها عن زيادة دخل الفرد والذي يقود بوجه ما لزيادة الدخل القومي.
وتؤكد الكاتبة على مفهوم الحرية كعنصر أساسي ـ وليس غاية ـ تقوم عليها التنمية، الحرية بأشكال مختلفة تشمل الحرية السياسية والاجتماعية والاقتصادية!
نعم ، اقتصادية تطرح أهمية أن يكون للإنسان حرية في اختيار شكل وطبيعة العمل الذي يداوله.
الحرية السياسية! والتي تؤكد الكاتبة ان الكثير من الدول ـ مثل بعض دول آسيا ـ كسنغفورة...more
Amartya Sen: Nobel economist who published this book very shortly after winning his prize. Wikipedia says his research is on "welfare economics and social choice theory" and that he helped create the Human Development Index; all of the above should be enough reason to give him your attention.

I started reading Development as Freedom while in the middle of Joseph Stiglitz's (another Nobel economist) The Price of Inequality and found myself enjoying Amartya Sen's writing much more. Part of it was t...more
A refreshing holistic approach to developmental strategies that goes beyond mere economic growth and stresses the importance of other factors that enable or inhibit the agency of freedom. It's clear that Sen is brilliant, and he simplifies (some) of his arguments for the lay reader, but it's still a bit dense, especially the first few chapters, which lay out his philosophical/social grounds for his arguments. But the later chapters explore specific issues, with specific examples, that helps put...more
I misunderstood the title, believing Sen's thesis was that economic development leads to greater freedom--"hey, now that we're so rich, look at all the things we can do"--which would have been a very short and shallow book. Instead, I think the idea of the title is that increasing individuals' freedoms will lead to economic development. Not freedom like how a libertarian would define it (which we all know is simply freedom from government regulation and taxes--sorry libertarians, but that about...more
Development as Freedom was difficult to get into, but got more and more interesting as Sen progressed from outlining his theory of "development as freedom" to its various applications. His basic theory is that development should be considered in terms of the freedoms people possess AND are able to utilize. He argues that when we focus on increasing freedoms instead of other measures such as growth of per capita GDP, we can get a more complete picture of whether people are living lives that they...more
Update: I've recently picked this back up. It's an easier read than I remember, and the content is better than I remember. It's amazingly relevant: the chapter on markets includes an argument that fiscal conservatism should first promote programs with high returns-on-investment like... basic health and basic education for everyone.

I skipped a lot of the technical chapters in this book. There was a lot of "positioning oneself within the academic literature" that did not interest me.

However, I'd...more
There's a nice 40 page essay in here about the importance of considerations other than GDP in developing countries. Unfortunately it is buried by 260 pages of poor writing in which Sen:

- repeats himself
- repeats himself
- distinguishes his arguments or perspectives into type A, type B, and type C, when in reality A, B, and C are not all that different, or their distinction does not seriously enhance understanding of the subject being discussed
- stretches his points to tautological limits - think...more
يقيم أمارتيا سن في هذا الكتاب الحجة الدامغة أن الديمقراطية و الحقوق السياسية هي الضامن الوحيد للحقوق الإقتصادية .
و أنه لا يمكن الحديث عن أي تنمية أو تقدم إقتصادي ، أو حالة من الأمن و الإستقرار في ظل غياب الديمقراطية ؛ لأن الحصول على المعلومة الصحيحة فقط في ظل أنظمة غير ديمقراطية غير ممكن .
ينسف أمارتيا سن كثير من المفاهيم السائدة خاصة في العالم العربي و الدول النامية عموماً عن الديكتاتورية الراشدة ، التي توفر الأمن و التنمية .
مستشهداً بالتجربة الهتدية و الصينية يوضح كيف أن بوسع النظام الديمقراطي...more
Artanis Iuhr
Apr 03, 2011 Artanis Iuhr rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Common men and Economists alike.
This book shows why Amrtya Sen was given Noble Prize in economics. Its depth is astounding yet he somehow manages to keep it in easy to understand language and I never had any difficulty with any concept he presented as the accompanying explanations were gradual and very well done. Truly a one of its kind book without peer. A must read to form an real world understanding of how economics directly alters our lives and how we shalln't take personal freedoms as granted. I am, however saddened by so...more
Godfrey Mangenje
The cliche notion of development being about the growth of aggregate income has proven to be mistake when considering the ends of economic development. Sen put's forward an argument that will make you think twice about the so-called "trickle-down economics" and the evidence of which is shown by the huge disparity between the standards of living of the two-percenter's and the very poor. Development, which is closing the gap, will not take place if ALL individuals don't have the freedom to choose...more
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When I first picked up this book, based on the book's description and preface, I was worried that this would be another Friedman-esque book arguing that the free market should have sway over everything. I was quickly proved wrong as Mr. Sen makes a compelling case for viewing economic development around the world as a way to expand peoples' freedom rather than their income. Sen argues quite early that an increase in per capita incomes cannot tell us whether or not people are better off for a var...more
Michael Griswold
Amartya Sen has been assailed as haven written a piece of liberal utopian propaganda, but he does have a valid argument that democracy does have a preventive place in human suffering noting that famines have never occurred within a democracy and states that give women the chance to earn their own livelihood are stronger than those that aren't. Sen perhaps does not devote enough time to the problems with democracy. Democracy cannot and should not be seen as a cure all that will bring wealth and p...more
"The powerful effect of female literacy contrasts with the comparatively ineffective roles of, say, male literacy or general poverty reduction as instruments of child mortality reduction. The increase in male literacy over the same range (from 22 to 75 percent) only reduces under-five mortality from 169 per thousand to 141 per thousand. And a 50 percent reduction in the incidence of poverty (from the actual 1981 level) only reduces the predicted value of under-five mortality from 156 per thousan...more
The sub-title should be "Poverty as Capability Deprivation." I find the most useful parts of his writing those that evaluate definitions of poverty and also goals of anti-poverty interventions.
surprisingly centrist at times. one of the essential freedoms he keeps returning to is the freedom to trade and participate in commerce.
His portrayal of Adam Smith makes me want to read his stuff closely. Sen seems to derive a good chuckle from quoting Smith's arguments against income disparities and for...more
Feb 14, 2010 Xarah rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Xarah by: Dr. Miguel Vasquez
Shelves: non-fiction, own
I had to read this book for my graduate Anthropology of Development class. At first I was a little skeptical, and a little worried, on how approachable the book was going to read (especially since I had to read it in a week).

It took a few sections before I really got into the book and began to understand Sen's approach towards development, especially in regards to personal freedoms. Sen approaches development as integrative - that no one aspect (such as education or individual rights) is singul...more
Sen starts by addressing "What is the relation between our collective economic wealth and our individual ability to live as we would like?"
then he quotes the eighteenth century poet William Cowper on freedom:
Freedom has a thousand charms to show, that slaves however contented, never know.

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,...more
Sep 21, 2007 Agpalo added it
Recommends it for: development practitioners and scholars
Amartya Sen is the Nobel Prize Winner for economics in 1998. He is a great believer in the process and reach of public reasoning. He believes that “poverty as well as tyranny, poor economic opportunities as well as systematic social deprivation, neglect of public facilities as well as intolerance or over activity of repressive states” are the major sources of “unfreedom”.

Sen convincingly argues that ethics and economics should go together as opposed to some narrow minded formulation of economic...more
Sen plots the course of contemporary philosophy and development economics to the intersection of human capabilities in a way that's as compelling intellectually at is frustrating to read. Page after page I kept wondering if there wasn't any less pedantic way to present what are essentially basic arguments in defense of freedom and our ability to take advantage of it as the yardstick of human development instead of GDP. The overriding theme that freedom is both the means and the end of developmen...more
All of Sen's work is meaningful, but this might be his most important. Sen is a novel economist in that he acknowledges the limitations of classic economics in relating to globalization, human rights, and poverty. Many economists have trouble seeing the forrest for the trees, but Sen knows the classic figures reported to the U.N. tell a partial story and leave out the humanity of the people actually experiencing what it means to have a high maternal mortality rate. Sen's idea of success might no...more
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One of Cambridge Sustainability's Top 50 Books for Sustainability, as voted for by our alumni network of over 3,000 senior leaders from around the world. To find out more, click here.

The recurring theme of this book is encapsulated in its title: namely, that development is about expanding human freedoms. These include but are not limited to increased GDP per capita. Hence, social and economic arrangements (education and healthcare), political and civil rights, technological progress and social m...more
Amartya Sen is, for me, one of the most profound and influential theorists on development in the contemporary era. A Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Sen has destabilized the long-standing notion that poverty is a purely economic phenomenon. He argues, instead, that poverty is a multi-dimensional problem that aims to cripple a human being by depriving them the basic freedoms that can potentially enhance the full extent of our capabilities. This includes a denial to education, political participation,...more
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Amartya Kumar Sen is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory, and for his interest in the problems of society’s poorest members.

Sen was best known for his work on the causes of famine, which led to the development of practical solutions for preventing or limiting the effects of real or perceiv...more
More about Amartya Sen...
The Argumentative Indian: Writings on Indian History, Culture and Identity The Idea Of Justice Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny On Ethics and Economics Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation

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“The World Bank has not invariably been my favorite organization. The power to do good goes almost always with the possibility to do the opposite, and as a professional economist, I have had occasions in the past to wonder whther the Bank could not have done very much better.” 0 likes
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