Development as freedom: A virtuous circle?

Type Working Paper - Afrobarometer Working Paper no. 29
Title Development as freedom: A virtuous circle?
Issue 29
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2003
Page numbers 1-14
Using data from the 12 countries included in Round 1 of the Afrobarometer, this paper attempts to give empirical confirmation of Amartya Sen's thesis that development and freedom, and with them democracy, are intimately related. In his seminal work, "Development as Freedom," Sen describes five freedoms that should ideally work together in order to bring true development: 1) the ability to participate freely in the political process; 2) mechanisms and capacity to seek economic well-being; 3) networks and connections which make social integration possible; 4) free access to reliable information sources; and 5) structures that allow personal safety. The paper first creates an empirical measure - called the Sen Scale - that sums up Sen's freedoms using 15 core independent variables that relate to respondents' personal attributes and behavior. It then goes on to analyse the relation between this scale and attitudes toward democracy as measured by the Afrobarometer. The results confirm that people who are well off according to the Sen Scale are more likely to support democracy than those who are poor. But the relation between development and freedom must not be interpreted as one of simple causality. There is a virtuous circle implied by the desire of the better-off respondents for a democratic society. They are well-off, which leads them to want a democratic society because the freedom they experience in a democratic society gives rise to yet more development.

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