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on March 24, 2015
as expected
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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2014
it's not near brand new as description suggests.
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on September 27, 2014
Sen's work helps to create a humane worldview in which we can humanely conceptualize development today. His view of an interconnected system of freedoms that are both the ends and means of development is fascinating. Development as Freedom manages to make this concept very approachable while not compromising the core values in which it hopes to instill. I would certainly recommend this book to those actively working in the field of development, as well as those who want to expand their understanding of how to address poverty and aid the oppressed. It should be noted that Sen does use a broad stroke approach that may leave the reader with questions about specific strategic interventions, but addressing these more detail oriented scenarios was not the author's intent.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2014
Excelente
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 9, 2014
Sen is worth reading for his economic and sociological statistics which appear to back up his main thesis regarding the link between freedom and/or social justice, on the one hand, and development on the other. Unfortunately, this is probably less than ½ of the book. The rest is either endless repetition of this thesis, or more sadly, puerile political philosophy. It is here, in political philosophy, that he is out of his depth. Just to take a few random points. He mentions the famous libertarian political theorist Robert Nozick, but has no understanding of Nozick’s position, which is the elaboration of a technical point in social contract theory, a political philosophy which goes back hundreds of years. Sen seems to see Nozick as some sort of general conservative, maybe like William F. Buckley. This is completely wrong.
On rights, Sen is almost laughable. He, using a sophomoric reductionism, believes that to claim that something is a right is to say that that something is a good idea, or we support it. So, when someone says that in a modern democracy people have a right to decent health care, on Sen’s account we are just saying that we think that it would be a good idea, or it fits with our personal moral code, if everyone had access to decent health care. This is obviously not the case. Much more than this is meant, and the part that is ‘more’ is that it is a ‘right’. Of course, this ‘meaning residual’ is difficult to define or explain. But isn’t that why we have ‘serious’ academics like Sen?
Instead of the apparently endless repetition of his main thesis, or pointless excursions into political philosophy, Sen would have done better to explore the politics of the interaction between the state, unions, ideology, press, the poor, etc. in developing countries. Bringing in this sort of analysis would not reflect well for his thesis. Although the notion of an enlarged activist state is central to Sen’s prescription for development he makes no effort to evaluate its implications. He turns his back on a century of political science, economics, and sociology regarding the near certainty that government is not simply a benign entity with the sole interest of benefiting people, which is apparently Sen’s view and which we were all taught in high school civics class, but develops its own ‘agenda’, and/or becomes a tool for specific groups (note regulatory capture, license Raj, “executive committee of the ruling class” per Marx) etc.
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on April 25, 2014
Sen gives a point of view that is unique in advocating development as equality for all. Through political and economic development we can solve many of the problems of famine, disease, and poverty that exist in very nation, whether rich or poor.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on February 21, 2014
Sen offers a wonderful attempt to reach a universal goal for development, one that is the least ethnocentric possible. The text provides the tools for deep discussions regarding what constitutes development and whether it is possible to conceive of development without a ethnocentric perspective.
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on February 12, 2014
The book really makes you think about the possibility of ending poverty. I don't agree with the author in some points but the book is excellent! I recommend it 100%
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
I so wanted to be won over by this book by the brilliant Indian economist, Amartya Sen. His central thesis is simple and compelling: "...the basic idea that enhancement of human freedom is both the main object and the primary means of development." However, the empirical evidence he musters to support his case is often weak and disappointing.

I read "Development as Freedom" while traveling around South Asia with a contingent from a large American-based economic development foundation. A few of us gathered at the bar one night in Colombo, Sri Lanka to discuss the current state of affairs in that country, which we had just toured from north to south. After three decades of civil war, prospects in Sri Lanka are really looking up, at least superficially (that is, economically). We arrived to an expansive new airport, traveled into downtown on a brand new super highway (funded by the Chinese), and stayed at a plush Western style resort, which was encircled by high rise cranes constructing new office buildings, hotels and casinos. The sense of economic growth and future prosperity was palpable everywhere, even in the far northern city of Jaffna, the Tamil heartland, where the streets were new and clean, the library reconstructed and a new municipal council building with computerized record keeping open for business.

Yet, all is not well in Sri Lanka, certainly not from a political or human rights perspective. The Rajapaksa family is tightening their grip on power, recently overturning a constitutional requirement of term limits. Freedom of the press is non-existent. The judiciary is cowed. Minorities - Tamil Hindus, evangelical Christians, and Muslims - are threatened and attacked with alarming frequency. In short, behind the patina of economic prosperity across the island, Sri Lanka is bleeding. And things are only going to get worse.

As we discussed the disturbing prospects for the island one of my traveling companions asked a basic question: "Why should people care if their freedoms are abridged, especially the majority Sinhalese Buddhists, so long as there are jobs and standards of living are rising?" It was a question that hit right at the heart of the thesis of "Development as Freedom." Sen writes: "Capability deprivation is more important as a criterion of disadvantage than is the lowness of income, since income is only instrumentally important and its derivative value is contingent on many social and economic circumstances." And he takes a rather expansive view of these capabilities, which he calls "substantive freedoms" that include "elementary capabilities like being able to avoid such deprivations as starvation, undernourishment, escapable morbidity and premature mortality, as well as freedoms that are associated with being literate and numerate, enjoying political participation and uncensored speech and so on." From that perspective, the Rajapaksa regime has a spotty record at best. Literacy on the island is well over 90%, far better than the 50% often seen just twenty miles across the Palk Strait in southern India. Healthcare is modernized, as are other components of the economy. But the political side of the equation is decidedly stunted. And that, for me, is the rub with this book.

Sen takes issue with the Singaporean Lee Kwan Yew school of thought that political freedoms are a luxury that developing economies can ill afford and more often than not are detrimental to economic prosperity. My traveling companion challenged me to defend the notion that democracy and core political freedoms support economic growth, citing China, South Korea, Singapore, Taiwan and more recently Vietnam and even Sri Lanka as counter examples. "Development as Freedom" was in my travel bag and the arguments of its author still fresh in my head, yet I couldn't mount a very effective defense. "No multi-party, democratically elected government has ever experienced a famine," I replied, a fun fact that I picked up from reading "Development as Freedom." That was the best (indeed, only) argument that I could draw from reading this book. Not terrible, but hardly a slam dunk. I went to bed that night a bit gloomy, rather certain that while things would get decidedly better in Sri Lanka in the coming years economically speaking, it would also abet the serious decline in political freedoms and minority human rights across the island. And the vast majority of its citizens would simply not care. Why should they?

In fairness, Sen does not claim that his thesis is easy or foolproof. In fact, he concedes that his argument "cannot yield a view of development that translates readily into some simple `formula' of accumulation of capital, or opening up of markets, or having efficient economic planning. The organizing principle that places all the different bits and pieces into an integrated whole is the overarching concern with the process of enhancing individual freedoms and the social commitment to help bring it about."

Perhaps a better way to win the argument, he suggests, is to reframe the debate. "We must see a frequently asked question in the development literature to be fundamentally misdirected: Do democracy and basic political and civil rights help to promote the process of development? Rather, the emergence and consolidation of these rights can be seen as being constitutive of the process of development." Fair enough, I suppose. But that's pretty watered down and not going to win many converts, especially those from a cultural tradition that places less importance on individual freedoms and political participation.

To make matters worse, much of this book is difficult read. The chapters are relatively short and broken up into thematic parts, but Sen's writing is often as impenetrable as Karl Popper, although I don't believe that his arguments are particularly sophisticated.

In the end, I'm incredibly sympathetic to the core argument of "Development as Freedom" and wanted desperately to love it and walk away armed with a strong defense of the importance of freedom in my future debates in the development community. Alas, that is not the case, much to my disappointment.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 11, 2013
I was required to read this in a college economics class and it honestly changed my life. There is a very human side to economics and Amartya Sen is brilliant. I've read this book multiple times since and I will continue to read it and recommend it frequently.
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