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Development as Freedom

4.07  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,994 Ratings  ·  171 Reviews
By the winner of the 1998 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 o
Paperback, First Anchor Books Edition, 366 pages
Published August 15th 2000 by Anchor (first published 1999)
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Development as Freedom by Amartya SenMountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy KidderWhy Nations Fail by Daron AcemoğluThe White Man's Burden by William EasterlyThe End of Poverty by Jeffrey D. Sachs
International Development Book Club
1st out of 81 books — 31 voters
Mountains Beyond Mountains by Tracy KidderHalf the Sky by Nicholas D. KristofPoor Economics by Abhijit V. BanerjeeDead Aid by Dambisa MoyoInspire Your Inner Global Leader by Deborah J. Levine
International development
8th out of 129 books — 131 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Dec 03, 2013 E rated it it was ok
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
howl of minerva
Don't be dazzled by the Nobel prize, this is a tedious and ultimately vapid book. See reviews by E and Andy that pretty much nail it.


And I'd just like to add, Sen has an unfailing eye for a punchy quotation that is (amazingly) more boring than his own text, and that - like his own text - makes either no point or a self-evident one.

"John Hicks, one of the leading economists of this century who himself was far more utility-oriented than freedom-oriented, did put the issue with admirable clari
Apr 28, 2007 Monica rated it it was amazing
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
John Doe
Feb 04, 2013 John Doe rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 20, 2008 Andy rated it did not like it
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
Jan 06, 2013 Bryan rated it really liked it
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
Amrahs Jarihd
Feb 16, 2014 Amrahs Jarihd rated it really liked it
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
Sep 04, 2013 Wealhtheow rated it liked it
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
Jan 26, 2014 Aany Tazmin rated it it was amazing
"...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
Katie Holbrook
Oct 11, 2015 Katie Holbrook rated it it was ok
I picked up this book not knowing the exact thesis (hint to past self: it's the title) but hoping to get an analysis of ideas of development with a depth that your typical 25-page academic paper doesn't have space for. What I got instead of the desired depth, was huge breadth instead. My chief complaint about this book is that I felt it would formulate a sensitive and productive viewpoint on an issue and then promptly fail to engage with that viewpoint on a contemporary timescale. Oftentimes, in ...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
Apr 13, 2013 أغيد rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 16, 2013 Jesse rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 25, 2008 Chandra rated it really liked it
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
May 11, 2009 Maggie rated it really liked it
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
Feb 20, 2011 Dan rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 21, 2012 Amado rated it it was amazing
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
Artanis Iuhr
Apr 03, 2011 Artanis Iuhr rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 06, 2015 Kendra rated it it was ok
Though this book was incredibly dry, it did challenge my thinking a bit. It made me think more about the big picture; for example thinking about the causal factors of famines, rather than a famine simply being a lack of food. He even points out the famines can occur during times of increased food production.

He also challenges some conventional wisdoms (or, at least, commonly held beliefs) such as people who are poor don't care about democracy, Adam Smith was an advocate of a market system which
Nick Geiser
Dec 20, 2015 Nick Geiser rated it really liked it
Shelves: economics
There are many interesting parts to this book, but I will emphasize two: first, the false tradeoff between economic development and democracy, and second, a theory of development as the expansion of human capabilities. Sen persuasively argues that we should conceptualize development as an increase in what people can do rather than an increase in the bundle of resources they control, for instance. This conceptualization is more sensitive to a variety of deprivations traditional measures miss, suc ...more
Jan 14, 2016 Philip rated it it was amazing
Perhaps not many people regularly read non-fiction, especially when it might appear to emanate from academic sources. Thus a title such as Development As Freedom by Amartya Sen, if encountered on a book browse, might suffer immediate and regrettable rejection. Subjects such as international politics, economic change and human development considered via the writings of a Nobel Prize winning economist might not suggest bedtime reading. But read again! And preferably read many times, for this book ...more
Vincent Li
Sep 27, 2015 Vincent Li rated it really liked it
The book is written in 1999, so some data and examples are outdated. The impact of the book is slightly dampened by the fact that his ideas have become less controversial than they were in 1999, and are more or less incorporated in the mainstream now.

I'm not convinced by some of his points that trend a little into political theory (he paints broad strokes over libertarianism, utilitarianism and Rawlsism), in particular I find his delinking of rights with corresponding duties more of a semantica
Lacan Nathalie
Apr 23, 2015 Lacan Nathalie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
في هذا الكتاب يقدم أمارتيا صن رؤية جديدة للتنمية بإعتبارها "توسع في نطاق الخيار الإنساني"-"الفاعلية الفردية" ، وعلي ذلك لا يكون اهتمامنا في الأساس منصب على زيادة معدل الدخل الفردي ولا الإنتاج القومي بل علي تنمية رأس مال القدرة البشرية كهدف وأساس للتنمية وليس مجرد أداة من أدواتها .

إن الحرية كهدف للتنمية ليس مجرد مطلب أساسي لتقييم حدوث تلك التنمية من عدمها بل هي أيضا الركيزة الأساسية من أجل إنجاز تلك التنمية .

وهو هنا لا يتغاضى عن أهمية النظر إلى آلية السوق _فافتقاد الحرية الاقتصادية من شأنه أن يغذ
Jun 21, 2014 Godfrey rated it it was amazing
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
Scott Goddard
Jan 20, 2015 Scott Goddard rated it liked it
Economic considerations, Sen argues, are to be subordinated to the innate freedoms that each person is inalienably entitled to. Those money per se is indeed virtuous, Sen extends his analysis into the field of intangible yet equally as important virtues, viz. the freedom of expression, speech, and so on. As such, to achieve and make recognisable these freedoms, what is required is the pedagogical expansion, through education and dissemination of knowledge. Knowledge, from what I inferred, is a s ...more
Aug 19, 2014 Patrick rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Read for class.

Very interesting book, discussing the idea of societal independence and personal freedom to be most necessary for development. Provides excellent examples and reasoning.

Finally, I'd like to add that the author sounds like a genuinely good person and I'd love to have a pleasant discussion with him over lunch.
Dec 16, 2015 Aleviuss rated it did not like it
I agree with those who found this book boring. It really is a boring boring book.
Esentially this is a book about political philosophy and ethics etc which I really find boring topics as I don't understand why people have to discuss ethics and morals of some subjects. For ex: Its wrong to kill innocent people. The end. I don't need to analyse the ethics of murder to know and understant its wrong. I think its called to have "Empathy".

Ironically Sen is talking a lot about people who don't have fr
David Wen
Dec 30, 2014 David Wen rated it really liked it
Picked up the book for a casual read regarding global development but ended up getting punched in the face with economist rhetoric. Should not be surprising but it is not an easy read to get past some of the language especially when he's trying to describe certain topics. Regardless, he has some very interesting points regarding how development should occur and points out various issues which are not readily apparent. Recommended only if you're willing to invest some time to really think about w ...more
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
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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
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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.” 3 likes
“Development consists of the removal of various types of unfreedoms that leave people with little choice and little opportunity of exercising their reasoned agency. The removal of substantial unfreedoms, it is argued here, is constitutive of development.” 2 likes
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