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Two Faces of Participation: The Story of Kerala


  • Patricia Justino

    () (Poverty Research Unit at Sussex, Department of Economics, University of Sussex)


This paper analysis the impact of collective action and political participation on the economic development of the south Indian state of Kerala over the last three decades. Despite its low economic basis, Kerala’s successive governments have implemented a large redistributive programme that resulted in impressive levels of social development. Kerala’s success has been largely attributed to the actions of organised collective movements, both in the formal and informal sectors, in the form of militant peasants associations and labour unions. Collective actions have, however, also contributed towards political instability, increase in the risk of investment and uncertainty in labour productivity. This paper examines the effects of collective actions on Kerala’s economic growth during the last three decades using time-series analysis techniques, considering in turn collective action and redistributive policies to be external and then endogenous variables to the process of economic growth in Kerala. The results show that while some forms of collective action can contribute towards the decrease of poverty and increase in state income, other forms harm economic growth. We compare these results with those obtained for a panel of 14 major Indian states.

Suggested Citation

  • Patricia Justino, 2003. "Two Faces of Participation: The Story of Kerala," PRUS Working Papers 19, Poverty Research Unit at Sussex, University of Sussex.
  • Handle: RePEc:pru:wpaper:19

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Alesina, Alberto & Perotti, Roberto, 1996. "Income distribution, political instability, and investment," European Economic Review, Elsevier, vol. 40(6), pages 1203-1228, June.
    2. M. H. Suryanarayana, 2001. "Economic reform versus food security: Kerala's Gordian knot," Journal of International Development, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 13(2), pages 239-253.
    3. Standing, Guy, 1992. "Do Unions Impede or Accelerate Structural Adjustment? Industrial versus Company Unions in an Industrialising Labour Market," Cambridge Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 16(3), pages 327-354, September.
    4. Alesina, Alberto & Özler, Sule & Roubini, Nouriel & Swagel, Phillip, 1996. "Political Instability and Economic Growth," Journal of Economic Growth, Springer, vol. 1(2), pages 189-211, June.
    5. Heller, Patrick, 1996. "Social capital as a product of class mobilization and state intervention: Industrial workers in Kerala, India," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 24(6), pages 1055-1071, June.
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    More about this item


    Redistribution; industrial disputes; collective action; participation; social development; economic growth; Kerala; India;

    JEL classification:

    • O1 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economic Development
    • O5 - Economic Development, Innovation, Technological Change, and Growth - - Economywide Country Studies

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