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Development as Freedom

by Amartya Sen (Nobel Prize in Economic Science, 1998)

Development as Freedom (Book Cover)Amartya Sen shows in this book that the quality of our lives should be measured not by our wealth, but by our freedoms.  He takes the liberal stance and agrees that "It is hard to think that any process of substantial development can do without very extensive use of markets" but he is not impervious to the need of State intervention, because "that does not preclude the role of social support, public regulation, or statecraft when they can enrich -rather than impoverish- human lives".

"To be generically against markets would be almost as odd as being generically against conversations between people", he adds, because "they are part of the way human beings in society live and interact with each other".  However, he finds that there is a more profound argument in favor of freedom as a means of development, considering that the "exercise of freedom is mediated by values, but the values in turn are influenced by public discussions and social interactions, which are themselves influenced by participatory freedoms."

Therefore, this book is a landmark work that places individual freedom at the center of a comprehensive analysis of today's global economy.  The role of different institutions -including the market, the State, the media, opposition groups, and non-government organizations- are seen within a broad, integrated framework.

The focus of this work is on freedom both as the basic end and as the most effective means of sustaining economic life and countering poverty and insecurity in the contemporary world.  It has to do with fundamental liberties in a partcipatory framework of democratic values and processes.

[Available at major book stores for US$15.00. Anchor Books, a Division of Random House, Inc., New York, USA.  August 2000.]

Note: Amartya Sen is an Indian-born Cambridge economist who won the Nobel Prize in Economics in 1998. 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.