Review of Development as freedom.


Development as a Freedom is an amalgam of Amartys Sen’s work on development field, particularly, economics development and growth. This is a field in which i am majoring for my post graduate degree in economics at Gazi University, Ankara, Turkey.

Development as freedom is described as one of the greatest academic works for the last century. To mention the least, Amartya Sen was awarded a noble price in economics by 1980 due to his work on this book. Furthermore, this book is translated to more than 30 languages.

The 500+ pages book vehemently explores the correlation between development and freedom. The book centres its attention on freedom as a means to not only development but as a the enabling factor for many other aspects. I had the pleasure to have read the book from cover to cover as it happened to be one of my recommended work materials for the last semester. Once again, i was recommended to review the book as part of my thesis readings. As result, i have developed a broad perspective of the material; i would like to share with you that perspective.

The book covers wide range of issues related to development topics. Therefore, i recommend for every Ali, Omar and Ayan to read. I have no doubt it should have something for any one involved in development from employees working with international organizations to the aspiring development economics students.

Development as Freedom discusses five key areas in 12 chapters:

  1. Political freedom
  2. Economic facilities
  3. Social opportunities
  4. Transparency guarantees
  5. Security Apparatus.

According to opening phrases of the book, freedom is both constitutive to development and instrumental to it.

Chapter three of the book presents various international approaches to justice, namely Mill’s Utilitarianism, Rawls’s Justice as Fairness or Rawlsm, and Nozick’s libertarianism.

On chapter four, Amartya Sen considers a major discourse on the topic of poverty. According to main stream economics poverty is associated with low income. However, Sen argues capability deprivation is a better measure of poverty. He says, capability deprivation captures areas of poverty where income measures fail to capture.

Chapters five of the book reviews one of the most important topics in economics, the role of ‘free markets’ to development. Amartya Sen, systematically presents that free markets fail in many areas including but not limited to:

  • Provision of public goods and the existence of externalities.
  • Income distribution
  • monopoly.

However, Sen, praises free markets as both economically and allocatively efficient where they are relevant. He accepts areas where free market applies, the greatest amount of goods and services are produced by using least amount of resources.

On chapter 7, Amartya Sen introduces one of his all time greatest works, The causes and consequences of famine. According to Sen, famine is caused by lack of purchasing power not by actual food shortage. He suggests, famine struck areas sometimes export food. Then comes one of Amartya Sen’s most dramatic sentences in the book, ” Acute famines have never happened on democratic country and are unlikely to occur,” He continues and claims that, “famines occur where there is totalitarian and oppressive governments”. This simple fact can be reflected from many world examples. The latest of being 2011 famine in Southern Somalia, As result i agree with him.

On chapter 8, Amartya Sen, introduces his scholarship on role of women to development. He argues that, while improving women’s welfare and social status is the ultimate objective, however, any improvement on womens situation results in reduction on child mortality rate as well as fertility reduction. According to Sen, this can be considered as a form of automatic caps to population growth.

On further topics he briefly discusses population growth and food supply. He argues against Malthusian theories related to the subject. The Indian economist cleverly presents that increases in population numbers don’t precipitate on reduced food supplies. He mentions that improved productivity and the introduction of the green revolution refute the traditional theories of population growth and food supply. He blames China’s ‘one child policy’ as un-scientific and counter productive. He says, the army of

When it comes to human rights, Amartya Sen, counters criticisms of the concept’s legitimacy and coherence. He then treats at length the “Asian Values” according to numerous historical examples, he claims ” American and European values, norms and traditions can’t be trusted to prepare freedom-based approaches to social understanding to the rest of the world,” he encourages diversity and pluralism to be respected. In considering that scholarship, he somehow criticise’s European propagated values such as modernization, Westernisation, and their version of freedom as being superior to other people’s.

On the closing chapter, Amartya Sen, discuses the correlation between, justice, freedom and responsibility.


Herriot-Watt University, Edinburgh Business School, MBA. Gazi University, Department of Development Economics and Growth, Ankara, Turkey.