Economic Entitlements and Economic Capabilities.

Amartya Sen’s concept of development looks back on core values. Sen defined development in 1983 and in 1984 in t terms of the expansion of entitlements and capabilities, the former giving life-sustenance and self-esteem and the latter giving freedom. For most people, entitlements depend on their ability to sell their labor and on the price of goods. Entitlements are not, however, determined by the market mechanism alone; also of influence are factors such as power relations in society, distribution in society of such resources as schools and health care, and what individuals can get out of the state. Thus one may say development has occurred “when there has been an improvement in basic needs, when economic progress has contributed to a greater sense of self-esteem for the country and the individuals within it, and when material advancement has expanded people’s entitlements and capabilities.

Development embraces both growth and decline. An economy can grow but it may not develop because poverty, unemployment and inequalities may continue to persist due to the absence of technological and structural changes. This is true in case of India. Though India has achieved economic growth since the launch of reforms in the early 1990s, it still has a long way to go as far as development is concerned.


The objectives of development may be briefly put as:

  1. To increase the availability and widen the distribution of basic life-sustaining goods such as food, shelter, and health;
  2. To raise levels of living including, in addition to higher incomes, the provision of more jobs, better education, and greater attention to cultural and humanistic values, all of which not only serve to enhance material well-being but also generate greater individual and national self-esteem;
  3. To expand the range of economic and social choices available to individuals and nations by freeing them from dependence on other nations.

The term underdevelopment does not easily lend itself to a fixed definition. This is because underdevelopment is viewed in different ways. For instance, western economists generally take it to mean absence of development and thus pool a s large majority of countries from Asia, Africa, and South America under this head. For others, underdevelopment is something more than lack of development.
Some has a logical approach where an underdeveloped economy is viewed as that which has good potential prospects for utilizing greater capital or labor or natural resources or all of them, to support higher standards of living or “if it’s per capita income level is already fairly high, to support a larger population on a not lower level of living”.

The term ‘developing economies’ signifies that though still underdeveloped, the process of development has been initiated in these countries.


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