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Demographic Change and Long-Run Development$
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Matteo Cervellati and Uwe Sunde

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262036627

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262036627.001.0001

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Caste Systems and Technology in Premodern Societies

Caste Systems and Technology in Premodern Societies

(p.293) 11 Caste Systems and Technology in Premodern Societies
Demographic Change and Long-Run Development

Elena Esposito

, Matteo Cervellati, Uwe Sunde
The MIT Press

This chapter sheds new light on the effects of social institutions on long-run development. In particular, it explores the impact of caste systems during the early phases of economic and demographic development through how the systems influenced the possibilities for labor specialization. Based on data for precolonial social organization across different ethnicities, the chapter provides novel evidence that supports the hypothesis that caste systems were indeed conducive to specialization and technological sophistication. The hypothesis builds on the idea that caste systems, by promoting strong ties of solidarity and cooperation within groups, might have facilitated and accelerated the process of labor specialization and technological advancement. Moreover, the endogamous group might have represented the natural basin from which to recruit labor for extending production beyond the family unit.

Keywords:   social institutions, caste systems, labor specialization, technological advancement, demographic development, solidarity, endogamous groups

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