Collective action and the traditional village

This article considers the dispute between moral economy and rational peasant theories of agrarian societies in application to problems of collective action. The moral-economy theory holds that traditional peasant society is organized cooperatively through shared moral values and communal institutions; while the rational-peasant theory maintains that peasant society shows the mark of rational individual calculation, leading to free-rider problems that undermine successful collective action. This article offers an abstract model of a traditional village and assesses the applicability of recent qualifications of the collective action argument to this model. It will emerge that the social characteristics of the traditional village embody features that facilitate collective action by rational peasants.
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