Serfdom and Social Capital in Bohemia and Russia

32 Pages Posted: 11 Jul 2007

See all articles by T. K. Dennison

T. K. Dennison

California Institute of Technology

Sheilagh Ogilvie

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics; CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Abstract

The 'horizontal' social capital generated by networks and communities is widely regarded as inherently antagonistic to 'vertical' hierarchies such as serfdom. This article examines this view using evidence from pre-Emancipation Bohemia and Russia. It finds that serf communes generated a substantial social capital of shared norms, common information, and collective sanctions. But communal 'social capital' was manipulated by village elites who collaborated with overlords in taxation, land regulation, and demographic control. This benefited communal oligarchies, but harmed ordinary serfs and the wider economy. Horizontal social capital and vertical hierarchies, the article demonstrates, can as easily collude as conflict.

Suggested Citation

Dennison, Tracy K. and Ogilvie, Sheilagh, Serfdom and Social Capital in Bohemia and Russia. Economic History Review, Vol. 60, No. 3, pp. 574-595, August 2007. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=999726 or http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-0289.2006.00373.x

Tracy K. Dennison

California Institute of Technology ( email )

Pasadena, CA 91125
United States

Sheilagh Ogilvie (Contact Author)

University of Cambridge - Faculty of Economics ( email )

Austin Robinson Building
Sidgwick Avenue
Cambridge, CB3 9DD
United Kingdom
44-1223-335200 (Phone)
44-1223-335475 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://www.econ.cam.ac.uk/people/faculty/sco2

CESifo (Center for Economic Studies and Ifo Institute)

Poschinger Str. 5
Munich, DE-81679
Germany

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