Gemechu Mesay Berhanu
ome Ballet, Damien Bazin, Jean-Luc Dubois and FranScois-R
egis Mahieu (2014), Freedom, Responsibility and Economics of
the Person, Routledge, Abingdon.
The book, Freedom, Responsibility and Economics of the Person, approaches the concept of the person in economics differently
from the traditional economic analysis based on the notions of rights and freedoms in Amartya Sen’s (1999) Capability
Approach. The authors employ Methodological Individualism, which is understood as a universal approach that is also context
speciﬁc and meant to be upholding neutrality of judgment.
The authors indicate that the illustration of the economics of the person in the book is not a full and ﬁnal analysis but can still
help explain some of the paradoxes that are not explained in the standard economic analysis. For example, they employ this
approach to show how practical identities of persons and their moral responsibility constrain their allocation of time and their
relationship to interest rates.
The authors suggest that the establishment of ethical codes of conduct as social precautionary measures in political and
economic decision-making processes would help avoid or at least alleviate the suffering of the victims. Such attempts to explain
economic behaviour from the perspectives of moral dimensions would indeed seem to provide a fresh perspective on the
traditional economic analysis of the human behaviour.
The authors of the book, who are all well-established scholars in the area of economics and development, are from three
different academic and research institutions in France. Their research experience and professional convergence in the ﬁelds of
economics and development give them a unique vantage point to critically analyse the dominant economic approach that is
widely promoted by international institutions and governments in the West. The book is intended mainly for policymakers and
scholars from a wide range of background including economics, philosophy, development studies and sociology.
The book is divided into nine different chapters dealing with different aspects of its central proposition to lay a strong
theoretical and empirical foundation for the concept of the person in economics. This approach differs from the traditional
economic analysis which emphasizes the amoral concept of a person that is predictable. In doing so, the book critically examines
the relationship between rationality and freedom which also takes in to account the capacity of persons to constrain themselves to
act according to their moral standards and individual choices. This approach leads to rethinking the relationship between
freedom and responsibility as responsibility, according to the authors, is no longer considered as the consequences of freedom
but constitutes its foundation.
Following the introductory chapter which lays the general outline of the book, the second chapter discusses the concept of
freedom mainly on the basis of Amartya Sen’s (1999) Capability Approach. Highlighting the distinctions and
interconnectedness between his conception of functionings and capabilities, the authors commend the Capability Approach
for taking into account the notions of rights and freedoms which are generally missing in traditional measurement of well-being.
The approach also moves from the conception of freedom as value to freedom as a norm which, as the authors highlight, indicates
a signiﬁcant methodological shift in measuring well-being in different countries. However, the authors also point out what they
call the major defect in the Capability Approach — the lack of emphasis on social interactions as an important factor to
understand the role of freedom as power with regard to others in a given social context.
The third chapter tries to formulate a different conception of responsibility which also takes into account the relations between
social theories of justice and that of responsibility. The distinction Dworkin (1981a, 1981b) made to distinguish between
inequalities linked to circumstances and those which the individual is responsible for helps the authors to clarify what constitutes
Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, Graduate School of International and Area Studies, Department of International Development Studies, Seoul,
Republic of Korea; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
African Development Review, Vol. 30, No. 2, 2018, 233–235
© 2018 The Authors. African Development Review © 2018 African Development Bank. Published by Blackwell Publishing Ltd,
9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK and 350 Main Street, Malden, MA 02148, USA.