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When Does Community Conservatism Constrain Village Organizations?

Bernard, Tanguy, Alain de Janvry, and Elisabeth Sadoulet. 2009. “When Does Community Conservatism Constrain Village Organizations?” Economic Development and Cultural Change 58(4): 609-41.


Formal village organizations (VO) can be classified into market-oriented (MO) and communityoriented (CO) organizations, with the former aimed at raising members’ incomes and the latter at the provision of local public goods. This paper investigates the role of community conservatism in opposing economic differentiation and, thereby, constraining the emergence, configuration, and activities of MOs in West Africa. To do this, we develop a model where we show that, if these conservative forces are important, MOs need to be larger than would otherwise be optimal in order to gain acceptability and emerge. This, in turn, has an impact on their governance structure, as the needed extra members demand a more participatory decision-making process in order to secure the delivery of club goods, constraining the exercise of leadership. With very high resistance to economic differentiation, no MO can emerge. Using a dataset of 646 VOs in Burkina Faso, we identify a sharp contrast in initial size and governance structure between the first MO to emerge in a village and subsequent MOs. This is consistent with the results of the model assuming that first MOs encounter strong opposition to their emergence, while the social environment is more tolerant forsubsequent MOs..

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