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Working Paper 300 - Village Communities and Global Development


Theories of economic development should be based on a general understanding of how communities have been organized in traditional societies. For such a foundation, we consider some insightful observations about traditional autonomous villages and feudal manors by Henry Sumner Maine, a 19thcentury jurist who studied the history of Western law and the problems of India under British rule. Feudalism is the simplest way to integrate villagecommunities into a larger state system, but much of global poverty may be a legacy of feudal statebuilding. Economic development depends on political leadership to provide essential public goods and services, and trusted leaders may be found in local politics. Modern economic growth began in nations where local leadership was regularly integrated into national politics.

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