- Series: Norton Series in World Politics
- Paperback: 144 pages
- Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 2 edition (July 21, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0393933830
- ISBN-13: 978-0393933833
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.3 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #681,960 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Prosperity & Violence: The Political Economy of Development (Second Edition) (Norton Series in World Politics) 2nd Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
January PublicationsRobert H. Bates is Eaton Professor of the Science of Government and fellow of the Center for International Development at Harvard University. In Prosperity and Violence: The Political Economy of Development, a thoughtful and instructive book, he examines how underdeveloped societies progress from agrarian to industrial states by examining how governments foster investment and per capita growth and how they manage their political power and use of force. Drawing on the history of highly developed countries, such as those in Europe, Bates compares them with developing countries in Latin America and Africa. For example, he finds in Kenya a government and an economic organization working collaboratively toward prosperity, which he contrasts with the militaristic, economically destructive situation in Uganda.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Robert H. Bates is Eaton Professor of the Science of Government in the Department of Government and Fellow of the Center for International Development at Harvard University. He has written numerous books, most recently Open Economy Politics (1997) and Analytic Narratives (1998). He has conducted extensive field research in East and Central Africa and in Columbia and Brazil.
Top Customer Reviews
To understand development, Bates first explores what causes its failure. He begins by examining societies that are predominately agrarian, rural, and dominated by kinship. These kinship societies invest in migration and expansion to control new resources and overcome diminishing returns. They specialize in production, form markets, and engage in exchange. They manage the risks of nature by diversification and reliance on family support. They devise means to promote family welfare and to raise the expected level of income per capita. Economically, these societies have the ingredients for prosperity and development. However they are often characterized by poverty. So, why do they fail?
The answer, Bates claims, is in the penchant for violence and a particular formation of political institutions. Violence takes root in agrarian societies and instills fear amongst the people. Eventually this fear lends to the formation of a political system that survives on deterrence. To illustrate this point, Bates draws on the Nuer of Southern Sudan. The Nuer lacked formal institutions such as a court, a functioning police system, or any inkling of a central government. Although one might picture life as brutish and short in such a case, they actually maintained relative harmony. The reason was simple: everyone was so darned afraid of everyone else. They didn't steal from one another for fear of fierce retaliation. And because the Nuer were so inclined to act violently at the slightest provocation, violence rarely occurred. Peace was maintained, but it was fickle and came at a cost of prosperity. Those within such a society become so concerned with protecting themselves that they easily prefer being destitute over the risk of acquiring wealth. Inevitably, the system thwarts production and progress, and society becomes indolent. The result is stagnation and poverty. And thus, as Bates explains, these agrarian societies fail to develop and never make it to the great transformation.
In contrast, the second half of the book focuses on how these societies manage to overcome the obstacle of violence that blocks the path to development. Bates' answer is seemingly simple and yet strangely intuitive. He contends that violence (or more appropriately, coercion) needs to be tamed by the state and publicly provisioned rather than privately provided. Unlike agrarian societies that use coercion as a means of predation, industrial societies find a way to successfully distribute such force so as to promote economic growth. Specialists in violence emerge who learn to invest their power in those that efficiently produce capital. As in the case with medieval monarchies, rulers voluntarily delegated authority to citizens to govern their own affairs. Such liberties allowed people to build economic organizations as well as towns to expand and flourish. In agrarian societies, political force effectively suffocates economic prosperity, whereas in industrialized societies, political force works to promote economic prosperity. The point is clear, this alignment of politics and economics is essential to a society's development.
Bates supports his argument through a plethora of historical and modern applications. Each assumption seems to be supported by at least a tid-bit of evidence from the past. However, I cannot help but question the details. His argument is generalized to span across ages, but he seems to pick and choose the subject matter to stand up to his test. The theory appears robust, but I would have liked to have seen more evidence, data perhaps, that further called on cases of agrarian and industrial societies. Would the theory still hold?
Other than that, Robert Bates presents a tantalizing argument that departs from the usual approach for interpreting development. He effectively links economic prosperity with political violence in an analysis that should shake the field.