Development as freedom: Taking economics beyond commodities-the cautious boldness of Amartya Sen

Des Gasper*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


Amartya Sen's 1998 Nobel Prize and his recent synthesis of his views in Development as Freedom provide an opportunity to assess his intellectual contribution and style. The paper identifies entitlements analysis and capabilities analysis as the areas which make him stand out for wider audiences from the economists of his generation; and considers the integrative development philosophy which he has constructed around those two areas, centring on the direct and instrumental values of freedom and democracy. Three aspects of Sen's intellectual style are discussed: first, his multi-disciplinarity and fruitful balance between vivid cases, formal theorizing, and policy relevance; second, a preference for gentle persuasion, seen in adoption of evocative but ambiguous, politically safe labels and an avoidance of seeking debate on all fronts (e.g. concerning hyper affluence); third, a continuing project to debate with and influence economists, and hence, while upgrading parts of their inadequate picture of persons, retention of other parts. His capability approach lends itself however to enrichment by deeper analyses of human agency. Copyright (C) 2000 John Wiley and Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)989-1001
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of International Development
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2 Nov 2000


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