EduSpots’ Book of the Month Article – February 2024

Book Title: Development as Freedom

Author: Amartya Sen

Welcome to EduSpots’ Book of the Month! Over the next couple of months we will delve into literature that not only broadens and challenges our understanding of development, but also inspires action towards a more just and equitable world. Amartya Sen’s Development as Freedom stands as the inaugural selection, a seminal work that provides a framework for rethinking conventional development priorities.

At the heart of Sen’s argument is a simple but game-changing proposition: development cannot be reduced to economic growth and the accumulation of wealth; it must encompass the expansion of human freedoms and capabilities. Drawing upon extensive scholarship in economics, philosophy, and social theory, Sen consequently advocates for the capabilities approach. This approach frames capabilities as people’s freedom to achieve desired functionings, valued ways of ‘being or doing’. In other words, development must go beyond mere access to resources to consider one’s ability to use those resources in ways that lead to a life one values.

To further his case, Sen makes a crucial distinction between well-being and agency. He illustrates how providing the same resources, such as bicycles for students to commute to school, does not necessarily guarantee equal capabilities. Conversion factors such as the suitability of roads and knowing how to ride a bicycle can significantly influence students’ functionings. Sen’s insight thus warns against a one-size-fits-all approach, highlighting the importance of context and individual experiences in development.

Sen also emphasizes the importance of participatory approaches to development, stressing the importance of engaging with local stakeholders. Sustainable progress comes from within, he argues, grounded in communities’ aspirations and lived realities rather than imposed externally. This perspective resonates with the ethos of EduSpots, which is committed to empowering communities and fostering agency at the local level. Whether through education programs that expand opportunities or advocacy efforts that amplify individual voices, EduSpots is dedicated to fostering an environment where individuals can exercise their freedoms and realize their full potential.

Sen’s Development as Freedom is part of the texts mentioned in EduSpots’ Global Development Online Course, which aims to offer students an introduction to key themes and practices in global development, hoping to open their eyes to different perspectives and engage in critical and empathetic discussions.

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