Solidarity Norms and Institutions in Agrarian Societies: Static and Dynamic Considerations

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The purpose of this essay is to argue that process-regarding preferences or social norms are pervasive in traditional village communities, yet are subject to gradual erosion under the influence of new forces, particularly population growth and market penetration. This is illustrated with respect to norms regarding the allocation of locally controlled natural resources, such as land, forest, pastures and water spaces. As a matter of fact, a communal system of land rights, together with the accompanying set of norms and preferences, is conceivable only under conditions of high land-man ratios resulting in extensive land use patterns. When land becomes intensively exploited, the efficiency costs of equity-oriented arrangements increase significantly. On the other hand, informal insurance arrangements relying on voluntary state-contingent transfers tend to be less effective under the pressure of market integration and the emergence of alternative income-earning opportunities accessible to at least a segment of rural populations.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook on Gift-Giving, Reciprocity and Altruism,
EditorsS Kolm, J Mercier-Ythier, G Varet
Place of PublicationAmsterdam
PublisherNorth-Holland and Elsevier
Number of pages68
Publication statusPublished - 2006

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