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Development as Freedom Hardcover – September 21, 1999


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf; 1 edition (September 21, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375406190
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375406195
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #754,268 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

When Sen, an Indian-born Cambridge economist, won the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economic Science, he was praised by the Nobel Committee for bringing an "ethical dimension" to a field recently dominated by technical specialists. Sen here argues that open dialogue, civil freedoms and political liberties are prerequisites for sustainable development. He tests his theory with examples ranging from the former Soviet bloc to Africa, but he puts special emphasis on China and India. How does one explain the recent gulf in economic progress between authoritarian yet fast-growing China and democratic, economically laggard India? For Sen, the answer is clear: India, with its massive neglect of public education, basic health care and literacy, was poorly prepared for a widely shared economic expansion; China, on the other hand, having made substantial advances in those areas, was able to capitalize on its market reforms. Yet Sen demolishes the notion that a specific set of "Asian values" exists that might provide a justification for authoritarian regimes. He observes that China's coercive system has contributed to massive famine and that Beijing's compulsory birth control policyAonly one child per familyAhas led to fatal neglect of female children. Though not always easy reading for the layperson, Sen's book is an admirable and persuasive effort to define development not in terms of GDP but in terms of "the real freedoms that people enjoy." (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

In his first book since winning the 1998 Nobel Prize for Economics, Sen (Trinity Coll., Cambridge) presents a decent summary of his thought. Advancing development as a method for expanding economicAand thus politicalAfreedom (he sees both as a means and an end) Sen recapitulates his studies of famine, poverty, life expectancy, mortality, and illiteracy in the Third World. A somewhat controversial choice for the Nobel Prize (since his focus on what is called "welfare economics," which makes human welfare central to economic thought, is not universally respected), he employs a strong ethical framework that gives his writing a level of moral authority not common in economic scholarship. Aimed at the intelligent reader, this densely written book is somewhat repetitive and dull, but it comes without the math that usually accompanies economic studies. Recommended for academic libraries and suitable for large public libraries; those that need at least one book by this Nobel laureate could even chose this over Sen's most famous work, Poverty and Famines.APatrick J. Brunet, Western Wisconsin Technical Coll. Lib., La Crosse
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

Mr. Sen asks questions rarely asked by economist.
R. W. Holsbergen
Great reading and highly recommended for all those interested in the social sciences.
Newton Ooi
This book is really a collection of essays that have a common theme.
Tom Munro

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

140 of 151 people found the following review helpful By Craig Hubley on November 25, 1999
Format: Hardcover
Human well-being is the *goal*, not a *side effect*, of social and economic life. This seems to be common sense. But few economists can subtract: no consensus exists on how to account for harms done to man or world, or to human potential discarded. How do we get beyond 'wealth' to understand 'value'?
Sen has a solution. Extending his previous works 'On Ethics and Economics' (1989) and 'Choice, Welfare, and Measurement' (1997), he offers a model of human freedom and free choice as sole measure of value. He restates 'political' and 'ethical' problems as economic ones and measures the negative impact of denying human freedom to choose. For instance, reliance on expensive systems of distribution and mediation, instead of (anarchic) peer relations.
Like Smith and Marx, Sen revisits the assumptions of economic life: why do we work? Why would we put ourselves in positions to endanger ourselves and waste our precious and irreplaceable time on Earth? From his first example, a poor man who was knifed to death for simple lack of freedom to avoid visiting 'a hostile area in troubled times', Sen reminds us that money is worth nothing without time and something to buy that we want more than the time we spent to get it. Escaping the ethical relativism which traps most economists (although, strangely, retaining the moral relativism of human existence and avoiding the 'natural capital' view that there are absolute and transhuman values that humans can ignore, e.g. integrity of DNA/RNA life) he focuses clearly on 'human capital' and how it is liberated through the mechanisms of 'freedom'. Transcends mere structural models such as those of Thurow and Mundell, proposes causal relationships more like those of Herman Wold, Karl Marx and Adam Smith.
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74 of 83 people found the following review helpful By R. W. Holsbergen on April 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
When learning economics at university I had "Economics" by Samuelson as a handbook. I learned a lot from it and I still consider it as perhaps the best available introduction into classical economics. On its own ground, this book can hardly be surpassed. But, as many others, I have come to the conclusion that the classical paradigm of economics, which this book reflects, has serious shortcomings. Samuelson fleetingly points out some of them, but he does not pay much attention to this aspect.
Of course, there exists an abundant literature by less orthodox economists in which these questions are discussed at length. Unfortunately, much of this literature is rather unbalanced.
Recently I discovered "Development as Freedom" by Amartya Sen. Finally I found a book that offers a balanced philosophical reflexion on the premises of classical economics and its relevance for the development problem.
Mr. Sen asks questions rarely asked by economist. What purpose does the acquisition of wealth serve? Mr. Sen argues that dire poverty makes people unfree. Wealth is a means to freedom. From that perspective he draws very interesting conclusions concerning development policy.
Classical economics can be a useful tool in understanding society. Samuelson's book is an excellent introduction into this discipline. But in order to put the classical paradigm in perspective, you should also read "Development as Freedom" by Mr. Sen. It is a deep and compassionate book by a wise man.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Tom Munro on April 30, 2002
Format: Paperback
This book is in reality an argument against relying solely on the market to produce the best outcomes. In the fifties Keynsian thought was triumphant and it was thought that an unrestrained market system would lead to problems. As a result governments had to intervene to ensure demand management and to also deal with problems of structural inequality. In more recent times such an approach has been rejected and any interference with the market is seen as likely to lead to poor outcomes.
Sen suggests that there are a number of reasons for not abdicating completely to the market although acknowledging its importance as the most efficient way of determining the overall use of resources. Sen is an economist who has been concerned with Developing countries for many years. One of his specialities is the phenomena of famines, why they occur and how to prevent them.
This book is really a collection of essays that have a common theme. Sen argues strongly that the provision of certain services in developing nations not just as a means of achieving equity but of achieving development.
The first issue that he canvasses is the importance of democracy. He says that no democratic country has ever had a famine. Even in a country as poor as India it has been possible for governments to prevent famines. To explain the way famines are prevented Sen explains in some detail how they are caused. In 1943 British India suffered a famine in which 3 million people starved to death in Bengal. Oddly enough this was not brought about by a fall in the availability of food but rather by a fall in wages for some groups which led them to not being able to buy food. Sen explains that very modest employment programs have been used by successive Indian governments to prevent this happening again.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful By faulu kamau on September 2, 2004
Format: Paperback
I had no idea after reading some pretty depressing developing country scenarios in "Development as Freedom" last year, that they would affect my country (Kenya) so powerfully. Famine, one of those degrading human disasters, once again stalks my country to the extent that the President had to appeal for international food aid,how regrettable after 40 years of so-called independence.

As the author candidly points out, famine doesn't occur in countries where citizens have consistent income streams because even if rains fail, food can be imported and purchased. But as usual, in our case, the weather, rather than lack of leadership in economically empowering Kenyans(for instance through food-for-work programmes) was blamed for the famine. Condorcet, a French mathematician, is quoted in the book as saying ..."If they have a duty towards those who are not yet born, that duty is not to give them existence, but to give them happiness."

I would recommend the book to the next occupant of State House and his (or her) administration, because the current administration is too busy figuring out how to contain Raila Odinga rather than efficiently running the country.

PS. I'm aware that "Development as Freedom" is more than just about famine, but I'm too 'hungry' to outline the rest of his ideas,I beg your pardon.
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