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Irrigation as a Historical Determinant of Social Capital in India? A Large-Scale Survey Analysis

Tillmann von Carnap

World Development, 2017, vol. 95, issue C, 316-333

Abstract: It is widely understood that the same policy interventions can have different outcomes depending on the social structures they are implemented in. Much less clear though is what fundamentally determines communities’ social capital, or the way individuals in a society interact. This study analyzes how irrigation practices, a key feature of agricultural organization in India, affect different indicators of social capital. To this end, an informative household survey is combined with detailed historical agricultural statistics on irrigation and grain cultivation. The depth of the datasets allows for fine-grained analysis of effects of different kinds of irrigation on groups with varying degrees of involvement in the agricultural production process. I show a significant negative influence of specific types of irrigation on the prevalence of conflict and an increased likelihood for attendance of public meetings, yet it is not possible to establish a broad and consistent relationship between agricultural indicators and social capital, which contradicts previous research. Furthermore, specific groups with varying incentive structures based on their land-holding status and agricultural engagement appear to be affected by different kinds of irrigation. The results underline the need for a multidimensional analysis of both social capital and agricultural organization, as well as their interaction. I do not find evidence supporting the rice theory of culture.

Keywords: determinants of social capital; agricultural organization; irrigation; India (search for similar items in EconPapers)
Date: 2017
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DOI: 10.1016/j.worlddev.2017.02.035

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