Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen
Reviewed by: Kristynil Cruz Dimapilis
IV-18 BSE History
We live in a world of rapid change not only in the fields of trade, commerce and communication, but also in terms of interactive ideas and ideals. And yet we also live with remarkable deprivation, destitution and oppression. We cannot deny the fact that as the world change, different problems also goes with it like persistence of poverty, problems in education, occurrence of famines and widespread hunger, violation of political freedom, extensive neglect of the interest and agency of women and worsening threats to our environment and to the sustainability of our economic and societal lives.
Overcoming these problems is a central part of the exercise of development and with this I am fascinated with the question, how freedom as an individual opportunity and social commitment can help in addressing these problems? And as I read the book written by Amartya Sen which entitled, Development as Freedom, I have been enlightened and knowledgeable on what is the role of freedom in individual and societal development.
Let me share some of the important points related to this book:
The Perspective of Freedom
Seeing development in terms of substantive freedoms of people has far-reaching implications for our understanding of the process of development and for also for the ways and means of promoting it. On evaluate sides; this involves the need to assess the requirements of development in terms of removing the unfreedoms from which the member of the society may suffer.
The Ends and the Means of Development
The ends and the means of development call for placing the perspective of freedom at the center of the stage. The people have to seen, in this perspective, as being actively involved- given the opportunity-in shaping their own destiny, and not just as passive recipients of the fruits of cunning development programs. The state and society have extensive roles in strengthening and safeguarding human capabilities.
Freedom and the Foundations of Justice
It was argued in this chapter that, in analyzing social justice, there is a strong case for judging individual advantage in terms of the capabilities that a person has, that is, the substantive freedoms he or she enjoys to lead the kind of life he or she has reason to value.
Poverty as Capability Deprivation
Poverty must be seen as the deprivation of basic capabilities rather than merely as lowness of incomes, which is the standard criterion of identification of poverty. The perspective of capability-poverty does not involved any ideal of the sensible view that low income is clearly one of the major causes of poverty, since lack of income can be a principal reason for a person’s capability deprivation.
Markets, State and Social Opportunity
The efficiency contributions of the market mechanism can hardly be doubted, and traditional economic results, in which efficiency is judged by the prosperity or opulence of utility, can be extended to efficiency in terms of individual freedoms as well. But these efficiency results do not, on their own, guarantee distributional equity. Indeed, the far reaching powers of the markets mechanism have to be supplemented by the creation of basic social opportunities for social equity and justice.
The Importance of Democracy
Developing and strengthening a democratic system is an essential component of the process of development. The significance of democracy lies, in three distinct virtues: (1) its intrinsic importance, (2) its instrumental contributions, and (3) its constructive role in the creation of values and norms. No evaluation of democratic form of governance can be complete without considering each.
Famines and Other Crises
This chapter has been mainly concerned with the problems of averting famines and preventing calamitous crises. This is one of the important parts of the process of development, for it involves the enhancement of the security and protections that the citizens enjoy. The connection is both constructive and instrumental. First, protection against starvation, epidemics, and severe and sudden deprivation is itself an enhancement of the opportunity to live securely and well. Second, the process of preventing famines and other crises is significantly helped by the use of instrumental freedoms such as the opportunity of open discussions, public scrutiny, electoral politics and uncensored media.
Women’s Agency and Social Change
Nothing, arguably, is as important today in the political economy of development as an adequate recognition of political, economic and social participation and leadership of women. This is indeed a crucial aspect of “development as freedom.”
Population, Food and Freedom
The view of “ development as freedom” turns out to the solution of the problems of population growth which lie in expanding the freedom of the people whose interest are most directly affected by over-frequent child bearing and child-rearing. The solution of the problem calls for more freedom, not less.
Culture and Human Rights
We need to understand cross-cultural influences as well as our basic capability to enjoy products of other cultures and other land. We must not lose our ability to understand one another and to enjoy the cultural products of different countries in the passionate advocacy of conservation and purity.
Social Choice and Social Behavior
Whether we deal with “work ethics,” or “business mortality,” or “corruption,” or “public responsibility,” or “environmental values, “or ideas of “the right family size, “we have to take note of variations- and changeability-in priorities and norms. In analyzing issues of efficiency and equity, or the removal of poverty and subjugation, the role of values cannot but be crucial.
Individual Freedom as a Social Commitment
It is important to take note the instrumental role of capability expansion in bringing about social change. Indeed the role of human beings even as instruments of change can go much beyond economic production and include social and political development.
In this book I have seen development as a process of expanding substantive freedoms that people have. The perspective of freedom has been used both in evaluative analysis for assessing change, and in the descriptive and predictive analysis in seeing freedom as a causally effective factor in generating rapid change. The organizing principle that places all the different pieces into integrated whole is the overarching concern with the process of enhancing individual freedoms and the social commitment to help to bring that about. Unity is important, but at the same time we cannot lose sight of the fact that freedom is an inherently diverse concept, which involves-as was discussed extensively-considerations of processes as well as substantive opportunities.
Mr. Amartya Sen, effectively showed how quality of lives should be measured not by our wealth, but by our freedom and his writings have revolutionized the theory and practice of development that is why I highly recommended this book to other readers.