Development as Freedom, by Amartya Sen

Amartya Sen's book answers a question that current development practices beg: Development for the sake of what? He provides grounding for his claim that freedom is both the process to vibrant development, and the goal.

Sen distinguishes his speculative new approach on economic development, from the most traditional:
  • Approaches that focus their attention in achieving some levels in development's proxy variables - per capita income; income distribution and poverty levels or health, education, and safety indexes-
  • Approaches based in levels of social satisfaction (levels of utility) based in individual/subjective "maps" of preferences.
  • And finally, others approaches focused in the capacity of a particular community to achieve what Sen calls substantive freedom -centralized welfare approach- or procedural freedom -libertarian approach-.

Sen speculation seems to be relevant in many ways:
  1. First, there is no doubt we are in a moment of enormous changes and mayor crisis. Our mass production, oil based civilization is coming to an end with all the resistance, violence and waste it implies. Our national democracies -and its institutions such as legislation, justice, presidency and other more decentralized as media, lobbyist networks, or intelligence- have showed significant weaknesses in addressing global issues, and a systematic tendency to favor elites' games. There are mayor power shift opening the space for extended cultural re-valuations of values based in the emerging preeminence of China and India.
  2. Second, there is an emerging new universe hold together by the internet and it capacity to sustain digital communities and digital worlds that have proved that is possible to create massive and sophisticated non-market value. These emerging universes embody a new culture of collaboration that is influencing and been influenced by the traditional forces of the molecular world. The technological force nurturing these changes has many resemblances with the historical opening produce by Gutenberg print press in 1450.
  3. Third, there is some resignation with the current technocratic approaches to development as those represented by Jeffrey Sachs.
  4. Fourth, the collapse of the old order and the emergence of a new order may damage the possibilities to express the ethical ideals of the modern civilization -individual freedom- by enforcing control with new technologies and old institutions, or it may contribute to create a new Digital Renascence, or it may bring something new we are no able to see yet. A new understanding of freedom and human agency.
  5. Putting at the center of the economic development conversation -as Sen does- the notion of development as expanding freedom, the notion of freedom itself, and the expansion of freedom to non-human life it seems to be a powerful tribute from the best of the past to the emerging and unbirth future. Sen is bringing a new invigorating perspective to an old conversation.