Defining Development

According to Sen, development is the expansion of what he calls freedoms to all people. This contrasts with more traditional views of development, which consider increases in income and GNP as clear indicators of effective development policies. These two different approaches to development highlight which indicators are given preference when it comes to designing policies. Sen’s approach is to focus on freedoms and unfreedoms. That is removing barriers so that development can be achieved. Examples of unfreedoms are poverty, tyranny, limited economic and educational opportunities and social deprivation. Sen argues that in the process of reducing the unfreedoms, inputs like increasing income or GNP becomes more valuable. This alternative approach to development stresses that traditional methods take on a new role as a means to expanding freedoms instead of being their own separate solutions for achieving development.

There are three inter-related views of development that these two different approaches can use for their framework: long-term, short to medium-term, and development as discourse. These three different views are all different approaches to development policy. Sen’s approach fits into two of the three categories: long-term and development as discourse. The alternative approach challenges the standard perceptions of development and pushes the development community as a whole to consider different methods. By thinking of development in terms of Sen’s freedoms and unfreedoms, policy makers are able to create more innovative solutions to development challenges.

The level of development can different between countries in a specific region and even within a country itself. Cities often receive most of the development, industrialization and innovation in the developing world, and it is then hoped that the benefits of the urban development will then spread out into the rural areas. The wide range of development makes it difficult to enact any one-blanket policy and hope all aspects of the issue will be solved. Different regions of a country have different development challenges that need their own nuanced solutions. The same is true for similar areas in different parts of the world. The communities might earn the same amount of income and perform similar work, but what works in one area might not work in another. This could also be another challenge of thinking of development policy in terms of income or GDP. While Sen’s idea of unfreedoms and capabilities might not be a traditional approach, it could allow for policy makers and other actors to find more realistic solutions to solving development problems.