Development Theory and Actors

Of all the development theories we covered for the capstone class and any other development class I have had over the past four years, I think that the most accurate framework for understanding what development means is the version of development presented by Amartya Sen. Essentially, Sen writes that to bring “development” to a population is to expand the freedoms population of that population. Sen argues for his framework with two reasons: the “evaluative reason” and the “effectiveness reason”. The evaluative reason claims that assessment of the progress of any development policy must be done primarily by whether or not freedoms are enhanced. For example, if a policy rises the average income of an area by increasing the income of the richest members of that community, then the freedoms of the average person have not been effected. While an economically-oriented analysis may make this policy look like a good one, it clearly does not help those in need of development programs. Sen’s analysis reveals this to be the case. We know a development plan is only as good as the degree of freedom it brings to the average individual. The second reason is the effectiveness reason: effective development is completely dependent on the lasting freedom of people. If a policy allows increases the freedoms of a group of people substantively but in an unsustainable or temporary way, then the policy has not effectively developed the area in any meaningful way. Through this metric, the major impediments to development are poverty and tyranny and their effects are inextricable.

Another use for Sen’s framework is the examination of national policies that are advertised as effective means of developing a country. Some industrializing countries have suspended freedoms such as workers’ rights in the short term to develop more opportunity for freedom. By some economically oriented frameworks, this would seem like a reasonable if unpleasant strategy. Sen’s framework shows that sacrificing freedom for wealth is illogical because the country is pursuing freedom by giving up freedom. Sen recognizes wealth as an intermediary to freedom and this reveals many overly-simplistic, utilitarian policies to be what they are. Sen cites “unfreedoms” as those issues that impede development. These unfreedoms are actually the exact issues that many of the sustainable development goals look to resolve. Some of these unfreedoms are a lack of food and food security, lack of health services, and a lack of gender equality.