Penn Calendar Penn A-Z School of Arts and Sciences University of Pennsylvania

Weapons of the Weak: The Violent Consequences of Biased Technological Change

in partnership with South Asia Center and Penn's Comparative Politics Workshop

Aditya Dasgupta
Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of California, Merced
Thursday, October 15, 2020 - 12:00
A Virtual CASI Seminar via Zoom — 12 Noon EDT | 9:30pm IST

About the Seminar:

Technological change is typically biased, benefiting some groups relatively more than others. What are the political consequences for the relative losers? This seminar draws lessons from a historical natural experiment: the spread of high-yielding variety (HYV) crops during the green revolution in India, which led to large improvements in agricultural productivity but also growing inequality between landowners and the rural poor. Analyses of panel household survey data indicate that the spread of HYV crops contributed to rising intra-village inequality. Using district-level panel data on HYV crop adoption linked to digitized electoral and crime data, this seminar provides evidence that growing rural inequality resulting from new crop technology resulted in an explosion of rural crime, especially banditry. Despite early fears of a "red revolution," growing rural inequality did not translate into support for left-wing parties at the ballot box. The findings highlight how biased technological change can spark a backlash from those who are left behind—through “weapons of the weak,” including crime and violence, if not through formal political mobilization.

About the Speaker:
Aditya Dasgupta is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of California, Merced. He earned his Ph.D. from Harvard University and has previously been a Postdoctoral Fellow at Stanford University. His research interests are in comparative politics, political economy, and economic history, with a focus on the rural sector, as well as organizations such as political parties and bureaucracy.