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Freedom As Development

Essays | Shahin Huseynzade | 23-02-2018, 12:45

Freedom As DevelopmentThe statement “Development as Freedom” was articulated by Nobel Peace Prize winner and famous economist Amartya Sen. He developed the idea of how freedom can be achieved not only by economic or technological development but from the freedom and the basic capabilities itself. In his book, he argues that freedom is part of our life which gives us strength “to have a reason to value it”. How can this reason be achieved? Sen says with the help of freedom which comes along with capabilities. Then we may ask how capabilities emerge? The answer is that capabilities are the function which can be understood the matrix of our “being” and “doing”. This function creates capability and this capability can happen when there is freedom.

He argues that there can be other capability depriving conditions that can also take our freedom to act, such as, illness and disability, environmental diversities (climate, the presence of infectious diseases, pollution etc.), variations in society (crime, violence, epidemiology, community relationships), differences in relational perspectives (e.g. being relatively poor in a rich country, being able to appear in public without shame (Adam Smith), distribution within the family (gender, age, perceived needs).

Another point is regulation of market where he says our dinner does not depend on the goodness of cooker but his or her interest and this interest can be regulated by institutions such as government. He also argues about the empowerment of women, famine problems, etc.

The main problem is the freedom of human being is highly valuable and valuing it differs from people to people. I would argue that the freedom is good when it is in the hand of a “mature” person. For example, you cannot give freedom to little children because they are not able to have full control over themselves. Therefore, their freedom can be taken who has other skills such as persuading, manipulating, etc. To make it more clear, you cannot give democracy who is not capable of controlling its own freedom.

Another thing is even people in the country are “mature”, the question is who is going to give them freedom? The one who has a power is not willing to share it with others. Marianne Hill argues in her article about the sharing power through democracy will be stuck in the node of triads knowledge, identity, and institution. The answer can be the one who feels the change and desires freedom or power needs to act boldly. Sometimes bold speaking can help but for that the communication tools needed. Nowadays communication is not a problem, however, the opposing the one who has power is the main problem. Sharing power is a hard thing to expect from the ruling elites.

Also, as I argued, in order to have the freedom, the society needs to be mature. When I say mature it means they should have deep thinking which comes from education. The one who has no idea what is a democracy, or the one who only thinks about its farm, or its crop and indifferent to such things, then democracy probably will not work and the ones who are more prone to power will subsequently create an autocracy.

Another point is, how some Western countries started to share the power with society? The answer, in my opinion, can be found in the relation to power by powerful elites. You need to give some social freedom in order to get some powerful inventions. If you have the ability to see the future, you need to act quickly. Otherwise, if you are late, it means you may deprive this opportunity for your people. Therefore it is more logical to think future of societies struggling for freedom not only waiting for it for to be given.

If we combine two ideas – maturity and freedom, they require a struggle. Hence, the development not only means the freedom but the freedom itself seeks for mental or inherent development. You should be developed in order to demand freedom from the authority. How may it happen? It may happen gradually which comes from the need. Need to change, need to acquire, need to construct, and need to adapt.



Sen, Amartya, 2000, Development as Freedom. Oxford University Press.

Hill, M. (2003) Development as Empowerment, Feminist Economics, 9(2-3), pp.117-135.


First published here.


About the author:

Shahin Huseynzade

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