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Why droughts started to turn into famines in the Late Victorian periods? A complex system approach

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    Abstract

    In this article complex system theories are used as interpretation framework for analyzing the strong famines which occurred in the Late Victorian age in many tropical countries. One leading explanation in the literature regarding these famines is that the so-called New Imperialism at the end of the nineteenth century together with the integration of the rural areas of tropical countries into the interconnected world economy led to an increase of the vulnerability of the population in these areas to climatic and economic shocks. This vulnerability converted rapidly the droughts between 1876 and 1902 into massive famines, diseases and starvations. The following questions are posed. Which contribution can complexity theory give to the understanding of these phenomena? If it is easy to conceive the process that leads to famines as complex, I wonder if a complexity approach is appropriate for representing and explaining the causal relations within the system that led to the emergence of famines. The complex system approach is extremely useful for analysing in detail the high degree of unpredictability of the system created by the interaction of phenomena which are very different among them, in nature, time and scale. Moreover, it is effective in analyzing the diversities in scale among causes and effects. However, I find the approach less useful when it is necessary to identify power relations and decision nodes among the elements of the system

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    File URL: http://www.unito.it/unitoWAR/ShowBinary/FSRepo/D031/Allegati/WP2013Dip/WP_17_2013.pdf
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    Paper provided by University of Turin in its series Department of Economics and Statistics Cognetti de Martiis. Working Papers with number 201317.

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    Length: 40 pages
    Date of creation: May 2013
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    Handle: RePEc:uto:dipeco:201317

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    1. Fontana, Magda, 2010. "Can neoclassical economics handle complexity? The fallacy of the oil spot dynamic," Journal of Economic Behavior & Organization, Elsevier, vol. 76(3), pages 584-596, December.
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    8. Bebbington, Anthony, 1999. "Capitals and Capabilities: A Framework for Analyzing Peasant Viability, Rural Livelihoods and Poverty," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 27(12), pages 2021-2044, December.
    9. Steven N. Durlauf, 2005. "Complexity and Empirical Economics," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 115(504), pages F225-F243, 06.
    10. Lewis L. Smith, 2007. "Complexity meets development - a felicitous encounter on the road of life," Interdisciplinary Description of Complex Systems - scientific journal, Croatian Interdisciplinary Society Provider Homepage: http://indecs.eu, vol. 5(2), pages 151-160.
    11. Xiaojun Wang & Kiyoshi Taniguchi, 2002. "Does Better Nutrition Cause Economic Growth? The efficiency cost of hunger revisited," Working Papers 02-11, Agricultural and Development Economics Division of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO - ESA).
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