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The road to development: market access and varieties of clientelism in rural Punjab, Pakistan

Shami, Mahvish (2010) The road to development: market access and varieties of clientelism in rural Punjab, Pakistan. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Rural economies in developing countries are often characterised by high levels of inequality, particularly so in their distribution of land. This can lead to the establishment of patron-client relationships between peasants and their landlords with far-reaching social, political, and economic implications for both parties. This thesis investigates whether, and how, clientelist networks change, when connecting isolated villages become connected to the outside economy. It does so from three different perspectives. Firstly, it highlights the ability of resource rich landlords to interlink different markets in the rural economy in an effort to maximise surplus extraction. Yet, when peasants are provided credible exit options, the change in relative bargaining powers alters the character of such interlinkages in favour of the peasants. Secondly, it explores how clientelism enables landlords to use peasant votes as bargaining chips with politicians to appropriate public resources for their own private benefit. Yet, when peasants are given outside options, the landlord has to provide them with public goods in order to maintain his economic and social standing in the village. Lastly, it analyses peasants’ difficulty in engaging in community driven projects when residing under a strong patron. Yet, when landlords have to compete with markets outside the village, they no longer have the incentive or ability to block peasant collective action for self provision. In all three areas, it is argued that the patrons’ ability to control peasant activities stems from the interaction of inequality with isolation, which provides them with monopoly/monopsony powers. Hence while policy solutions to exploitative forms of clientelism have typically focused on land redistribution, I argue that similar results are attainable by increasing peasants’ outside options. In order to test the validity of this hypothesis I make use of a natural experiment found in the construction of a motorway in rural Punjab, Pakistan. The research design compares connected villages dominated by large landlords to isolated ones and uses villages with relatively egalitarian distribution of land as a control group. Making use of field interviews and quantitative survey data the thesis finds that connectivity results in converging outcomes between connected villages dominated by large landlords and those with more egalitarian distribution of land. The results suggest that connecting villages previously isolated from the outside economy can go a long way to help the rural poor.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2010 Mahvish Shami
Library of Congress subject classification: H Social Sciences > HC Economic History and Conditions
H Social Sciences > HF Commerce
Sets: Departments > International Development
Supervisor: Faguet, Jean-Paul

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