Development as Freedom

Development as Freedom is a book focused on international development written by economist Amartya Sen.


Amartya Sen posits that all individuals are endowed with a certain set of capabilities while it is simply a matter of realising these capabilities that will allow a person to escape from poverty and their state of 'unfreedom'. Sen questions the status quo of development economics and argues that income poverty should not be the single most important factor in determining development. Sen argues that in spite of a world of sheer abundance, there simultaneously exist populations living in a state of 'unfreedom', unable to realise their capabilities.

Sen attempts to expand the basic interpretations of freedom by examining five elemental forms of instrumental freedoms: political freedoms, economic facilities, social opportunities, transparency guarantees, and protective security. Each form of freedom is complementary to each other, remaining interrelated and inextricable. These freedoms constitute not only the means, but also the ends in development. Poverty, Sen asserts, should be seen "as a deprivation of basic capabilities, rather than merely as low income" (Sen, 1999), contesting the general belief amongst economists who view income as the be all and end all of development.

He was praised by the Prize Committee for bringing an "ethical dimension" to a field recently dominated by technical specialists. Based on the example of the former Soviet Union, Sen argued that political liberties are necessary for sustainable development. He also compared the development strategies of India and China, arguing that Indian democratic processes provide a firmer guarantee of long term stable growth. Sen argued against the notion that a specific set of "Asian values" exists that might provide a justification for authoritarian regimes.

See also


  • Sen, Amartya. Development as Freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1999.