Review: Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen

Өмнөх семестирт хийсэн нэг даалгаварынхаа хэсгээс энд орууллаа. Бүгдийг нь оруулах гэхээр блогт арай уртдаад байх юм. Хэт урт юм оруулдаггүй гэдгийг та хэд мэднэ дээ. Хэдийгээр Амартъя Сэнийн үзэл санаатай 100 хувь санал нийлдэггүй ч гэсэн үнэлэхгүй байхын бас аргагүй сэтгэгч гэж боддог. Монголд Хөгжил бол эрх чөлөө гэдэг нэртэйгээр түүний энэ ном гарсан байхыг харсан. Авч уншаарай гэж зөвлөе. 

This essay reviews the book called Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen. Firstly I will discuss the main ideas of book and then I will review about how he writes and who influences him and lastly what he does not cover in this book.

General content

In his book Amartya Sen, Nobel Laureate of Economics, illustrates very clearly how development can be seen as freedom. There are two reasons why freedom is the heart of development process according to his book. The first and, evaluative reason, looks to whether freedom has expanded or not. From this perspective, the book covers issues of incomes and capabilities, poverty and inequality, income and mortality. The second reason which is one of effectiveness, shows that engine of development is actually freedom itself. From this perspective, the book covers issues like the values and the process of valuation, tradition, culture and democracy. Generally, development is almost equal to freedom, hence the title of the book.

It is not easy to view or accept development as an outcome of freedom. First, it can be seen that GNP growth depends on political or social freedom. “In general, Sen argues that political and social freedoms are both inherently desirable and conducive to economic growth” (Bickerton, 2000, 135). In this sense, people might argue that there are less free countries like China, which nevertheless has had a significant economic growth and development. Second, a correlation between income per person and individual freedom is very important aspect of development and underdevelopment for Sen. Third, Sen acknowledged that it is hard to argue that a free market is one of most important characteristics of development. He said that exchanging goods has become like exchanging words in the modern world. Thus, Sen stated economic freedom supports social freedom and vice versa.

According to Sen, freedom can be seen as an engine of development in terms of process aspect and opportunity aspect but there are distinct differences between these two. In addition to these two aspects, freedom has two roles in development: a constitutive and an instrumental role. The instrumental role covers the following issues: 1) Political freedom and civil rights, 2) Economic freedom, 3) Social opportunities, 4) Transparency guarantees, 5) Protective security.

Conversely, the constitutive role refers to avoidance of starvation, undernourishment, and premature mortality. Literacy, political participation and uncensored media are also part of this role. Amartya Sen explained in detail about these two roles in his book. Sen highlights the need for participation as part of a freedom-oriented approach to development. For example, if there is a need to make a decision whether to preserve a culture or develop an economy, people should participate in order to make the appropriate decision (Streeten, 2000).

Sen then moves on to discuss the correlation between freedom and other important issues like justice and discusses theories called utilitarianism, libertarianism and the Rawlsian theory of justice. In this perspective, for evaluative judgment an informational base is important. As mentioned in the introduction of the book, in order to talk about development, issues like poverty, famine, population and food problems need first of all to be addressed. For example, Sen sees poverty as capability deprivation and argues that in order to deal with these issues, it is important to use instrumental freedoms such as the opportunity of open discussion, public scrutiny, electoral politics and uncensored media.

The Sen also raises the question of whether authoritarianism works or not. There are some relatively authoritarian countries like South Korea and Singapore, whose economic growth is higher than that of India and Jamaica. Even though this is the case, these countries are still democratic countries. A most interesting fact mentioned in the book is that famine has never happened in a democratic country. “Sen’s analysis of the link between democratic freedom and the avoidance of famine in poor countries, as a result of the free flow of information and the accountability of politicians, is one of his important findings” (Streeten, 2000, 155). Thus, strengthening a democratic system is a vital element of development. However, there are people who think that the argument is not clearly established. Stodden (2008) asked if there are any data, which illustrate the correlation of this idea and suggested that there are other issues, which should be considered when people talk about development like women’s issue, culture, social change and human rights.

To summarize the discussion of the book’s content, freedom is both an engine of development and a measurement of development. Sen explains this idea through establishing connections among economic, political and social aspects. The center of Sen’s idea is that of capability approach. He suggests that human development is our capability to lead the kind of lives we have reason to value, rather than something determined by GDP growth, technical progress, or industrialization.